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Dell ATG D620
As the popularity of laptops has grown over the years, it has also lead to an increase in accidental breakage and damage. Users spill coffee and water on their laptops, drop them off their tables, bump the laptop bags into walls that leads to a dramatically shortened life. Apart from these obvious scenarios, one has to consider other factors too. Most laptops are made from plastic, which over time is prone to wear and tear. It is common place to find all kind of scratches, dents and other dis-figurations on laptops over a year old.
Keeping all this in mind, Panasonic has introduced a new range simply called tough or rugged laptops. The laptops are made from tough materials such as reinforced steel, magnesium alloy and in some extreme cases even titanium. These laptops maybe tough but suffer from some crucial problems. Due to the nature of their reinforcement these laptops weigh a lot, suffer from outdated system specifications and are near impossible to upgrade. If that was not bad enough, these laptops also cost a lot and this puts them out of touch of most average consumers. Recognizing the potential of the tough laptop market, quite a few manufacturers have started scaling down their tough notebooks in favor of making them available to a broader set of customers. These new laptops are referred to as semi-rugged notebooks, sport toughened exteriors (but not to the degree as tough laptops) and come with a choice of the fastest processors and hardware.
One such laptop we are reviewing today is the Dell ATG (All Terrain Grade) D620, a semi-rugged version of Dell’s earlier best seller the Dell Latitude 620. It is Dell’s first attempt at a tough laptop and does it deliver on its promise of being able to survive a hard bump… Read on to find out.
The ATG D620 at first glance caught us off-guard. It looks pretty much like an armored vehicle. Dell has used a magnesium-alloy body which can survive a fair degree of shock. The exterior of the laptop is coated with a thick durable "gritty" paint, which comes in a two-tone silver/black shade and gives the laptop a textured finish. This paint also serves another purpose. Due to its "grittiness" it does not scratch that easily. This is a rather welcome change, as it assures that over time the laptop will not develop scratches and discolorations that are often found on laptops after some time.
The hinges and LCD panel area of the laptop is another area that Dell has beefed up. As compared to the standard set of hinges that are found on the Inspiron and Latitude range, the hinges on the D620 have been reinforced to take more wear and tear. Similarly the LCD itself has been reinforced with a tough sheet of glass that like the body can withstand a lot of stress and in case of an accident will ensure that the LCD panel keeps working.
The keyboard of the D620 has designed been to be spill-proof. This is achieved by means of a tray, which is present directly under the keyboard area. In case of a spill, it will prevent the liquid from flowing into the sensitive components present just underneath. This is another great point as we feel spill-proof designs, such as this should be incorporated into standard laptops too. In a standard laptop, a 2.5 inch drive is used and has just a shock proof enclosure. Dell has taken it a step further. Not only has Dell included the standard 2.5 shock-proof enclosure, it has toughened it up further by putting in an extra layer of the magnesium alloy that has been used on the exterior of the body. However this has forced Dell into using a slower and smaller 1.8 inch laptop drive, instead of the standard 2.5 inch affair simply due to the fact that the extra "padding" takes up that much space.
Finally the back area of the laptop, which houses all the communication and connectivity ports too, has been worked upon. For protecting them, Dell has enclosed them inside a thick black plastic cover.
The D620 sports a fast and powerful Core2Duo 7200 processor, has 80 GB of HDD space on a 1.8 inch 4200 RPM drive, 2 GB of system memory and a decent 14.1 widescreen LCD panel with a native resolution of 1280 x 800. The LCD panel has higher than standard screen brightness of 500 nits. The result is that the screen can get very bright, uncomfortably so at times. In terms of graphics the laptop suffers with its Intel GMA950 chip. Dell has really dropped the ball here. An Nvidia GeForce 7400 Go solution, would have been more preferable.
For peripheral connectivity and expandability, the D620, has 4 USB slots, 1 Ethernet Slot, one Express card slot, VGA, headphone/speaker out, integrated microphone and infra-red ports apart from the standard 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth options. While far from being a comprehensive list, this is not a bad deal, with the only curious omission being Firewire.
As we have mentioned before, the keyboard of the D620 has been designed to be spill-proof. This has resulted in the laptop having slightly elevated keys. This factor works out well in Dell’s favor, as the raised keys makes typing a lot easier and reduces user fatigue. Another surprising move that Dell has made, for the D620 is the fact they have included both a touchpad and an IBM-style track- point. Both the track-point and touchpad are very comfortable to use and posed no problems.
To check out the performance of the Dell ATG D620, we divided our tests into two parts. In our first part we checked out its system performance, of the laptop using Futuremark products such as PCMark and 3Dmark. Due to the poor nature of the graphics subsystem, both the benchmark programs were unable to complete their full cycles. So what we did instead was to focus on the relative strength of the CPU and the fast RAM. To achieve this we simply used the tests, in the benchmark programs that have been specifically written to stress these parts. Here the laptop easily kept up with other machines such as the Asus VX1, which comes with a similar configuration. The test scores we received were fairly comparable.
The Dell ATG D620 is specified for military conditions and has been designed towards achieving that claim. Therefore for our second test, we did a simple drop test from a height of about 2 ½ feet onto a thickly carpeted area. The results were surprising. The screen bezel and LCD protective glass cracked. However despite this setback, the laptop kept on working fine. There was no damage whatsoever to any of the internal components.
The ATG D620 overall is a mixed bag. While it is a tough laptop having survived a drop that would have probably shattered other laptops, it is prohibitively priced at Rs. 2,00,000. On top of that it offers less HDD space as compared to other laptops and has no 3D chipset available as an option. Despite its drawbacks, we recommend this product cautiously. It is a perfect laptop for architects and outdoor surveyors.