Dell Business Laptops: Intel Broadwell Inside - InformationWeek

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Dell Business Laptops: Intel Broadwell Inside

Dell refreshes its business laptop line, trying to cater to the widening spectrum of user needs. Devices are among the first using Intel's next-gen "Broadwell" processors.

Dell on Thursday refreshed its commercial laptop portfolio, offering not only its typically exhaustive array of customization options, but also some of the first devices that will run Intel's next-gen "Broadwell" processors. After taking a beating as the PC market slumped over the last few years, Dell has recently been on the rebound. With this week's product reveals, the company showed how it hopes to maintain its momentum: Cater to the fact that "computer" now means different things for different jobs.

"We're not a one-size-fits-all company," Kirk Schell, VP and GM for Dell Commercial Client Solutions, told InformationWeek at the products' launch event in San Francisco. He stressed to reporters that "designing around use cases is critical" to Dell's strategy.

The new flagship of that strategy is the Latitude 13 7000 Series laptop-tablet hybrid. Unlike today's 2-in-1s, the 7000 series doesn't need a fan to keep the device from overheating. The new design is enabled by Broadwell-generation Core M chips, which are finally starting to show up after months of delays as Intel hit snags moving to a new 14-nm manufacturing process.

Dell's Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 will feature Intel's new Broadwell-generation Core M chips.
Dell's Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 will feature Intel's new Broadwell-generation Core M chips.

The device offers a 13.3-inch 1920x1080-pixel IPS display, up to 8 GB of RAM, and up to 512 GB of SSD storage. Without a fan taking up space inside, the device is thinner than previous Latitudes; with the keyboard attached, it's under an inch thick. At 3.67 pounds, it's not the lightest computer available, but it should still offer portability to people who want to be productive while on the move.

Schell described the device as an "Ultrabook-first design," noting that even though the Latitude 13 can be used as a tablet, it offers the "lapability" of a traditional clamshell design when it is connected to its sturdy keyboard. If that sounds like a veiled shot at Microsoft's Surface (whose initial shortcomings inspired the word "lapability"), it might well have been; Dell reps at the event certainly welcomed the comparison.

In demos, the new Latitude, which will come loaded with Windows 8.1, seemed sturdier than competing models, though others offer more screen resolution. The 7000 Series 2-in-1 also supports Wacom pen input, uses Intel's integrated graphics, and can be configured to include NFC, fingerprint readers, and a variety of other features.

So far, 2-in-1 devices have carved out only a niche in the overall PC market -- which partially explains why Dell continues to produce so many other kinds of computers. Windows 8 and 8.1, the OSes that drive the 2-in-1 concept, also remain unpopular. Schell said these negative trends are beginning to reverse.

He said enterprises will naturally take time to transition to new interaction models because they have so much legacy investment. "But trust me," he continued, "all of my peers know they have to be on a modern OS with touch applications and multiple devices within three or four years."

He said that touch devices with Windows 8 and 8.1 have sold modestly because enterprises have deployed the devices primarily in small pilot programs, holding off on bigger changes until they determine how to modernize their key apps. He added that as more line-of-businesses apps have become optimized for touch, larger deployments have begun to pick up.

Schell said that to highlight ways in which new form factors provide new use cases, Dell designs with an eye toward product ecosystems, not just individual devices. For the new Latitude, that ecosystem includes a docking station, something offered by both the Surface Pro 3 and Dell's earlier 2-in-1, the Venue 11 Pro. Dell introduced some unique accessories, too, such as a carrying bag designed to keep the Latitude 13 charged while the user is traveling and that packages the device so that it's easier to move quickly through security lines at the airport.

Dell also released a dongle to supplement the device's relative dearth of ports. To maintain its slim profile, it has only two USB 3.0 slots, but with the dongle, the device can connect to Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0, and VGA.

Dell also refreshed its Latitude 14 3000 Series laptops, which are positioned as a budget-friendly option for SMBs and enterprises. In keeping with Schell's statement that Dell needs devices that fit customers' differing needs, the Latitude 14 is available in an almost dizzying array of configurations.

Dell's Latitude 14 3000 Series
Dell's Latitude 14 3000 Series

Dell offers the device in three OS options -- Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Ubuntu. For the near term, customers will be able to choose

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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