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While it certainly looks like it’s going to take a while for Microsoft Surface to make its entry into the Indian market, OEMs are surely not going to wait that long. We got our hands on the latest Windows 8 Pro sporting tablet from Dell called the Latitude 10. This is probably the first Windows 8 Pro tablet that you shall see in the Indian market.
Last month we had seen the Samsung Ativ S tablet which comes with a keyboard and battery dock. But the major difference between these two devices is what’s under the hood. While the Samsung Ativ S can easily be a laptop or desktop replacement with an Intel Core i5 processor housed within it, the Dell Latitude 10 has taken a different approach in the tablet segment.
The Latitude 10 houses an Intel Atom Z2760 which you may have realised from the Atom moniker, is not meant to be a performance powerhouse. With the Latitude, Dell is targetting corporate users who want to experience the best of both worlds - modern UI for media consumption and the Desktop UI for work. But before we see how well it performs and if it fulfils what it set out to do in the first place, let us take a look at the build of this beautiful-looking device.
Build and Design
The Latitude 10 comes in an all-black body with a glossy front-finish and a matte-finish on the rear side. A 2.5 cm thick bezel surrounds the actual 10.1-inch display, which may seem like a waste of screen real-estate at first, but makes sense if you take into consideration the gestures on all sides involving you to do a lot of swiping in and out of the screen. There is a single Windows logo button sitting at the bottom-centre of the bezel and a decent 2.0 MP front-facing camera at the top. The Corning glass used for the display is scratch-resistant.
The body is made of magnesium alloy thereby adding a bit of sturdiness to the tablet. All the edges on the Latitude 10 have something or the other: the microUSB port and proprietary charging port on the bottom edge; a volume rocker on the top left-hand edge with the facility to add in a Kensington lock below; on the top edge, you have the SD card slot, followed by the power/stand-by button and an auto-rotation lock key and finally coming to the right hand edge, you have a 3.5-mm audio jack, the USB port and a mini HDMI port. When you look at the front face of the tablet, the only non-glossy element is the thin strip of the protruding edge.
The edges and the rear side of the tablet have a matte-black finish and thanks to the rubbery-feel the grip on the Latitude 10 is quite good. It weighs around 658 grams, almost matching the iPad 4th gen in terms of weight (652 grams for the Wi-Fi version and 662 grams for the Wi-Fi Cellular version). The rear side has a clean design for majority of its area, except for the top and bottom left and right edges. The 8.0MP camera is housed at the top edge and it also comes with a flash unit beside it. The 2-cell battery on its rear side is swappable thanks to a notch just below it. This is quite thoughtful specially considering this device is targetted at people who are constantly on the move.
The speaker section of the Dell Latitude 10 is located on the left and right hand bottom edges on the rear side. When you hold the tablet in the landscape orientation, your palm completely covers the speakers. This may make one think that the audio coming out of the speaker will be slightly muffled, but that isn’t entirely true. There is a slight gap between where the fingers touch the rear side and your palm touch the edge of the tablet - provided you are holding the tablet with the thumbs pressing onto the front bezel. This tends to form a cup around the speaker grilles thereby giving a slight boost to the volume.
Features and Performance
The Latitude 10 houses an Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz and has 2 GB of RAM. The unit we got had an SSD of 64GB capacity, but this can be upgraded to upto 256 GB. Looking at the specifications, it is understood that this device is not meant to run heavy applications such as Photoshop. Cinebench R11.5 was crawling when we were running the benchmark which is understandable as the processor is no match for the more mainstream Intel Core i-series processors.
The audio on the device isn’t as loud as we would have liked. You will most definitely be using headphones with the Latitude 10. When we tried playing MKV files on the native video player we faced some issues, but on downloading and installing the K-lite codec pack, things ran quite smoothly. This is the best part about the Windows 8 Pro tablet. You don’t have to always go to the Windows Store to download apps, in case some file is incompatible with your native applications. Just like your desktop, you just go to the browser and download the relevant software.
The USB port on the Latitude 10 allows you to connect your keyboard or mouse and use it as a regular laptop/desktop. We connected a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to it and it worked fine. The finest example of how lag-free the response is the fact that you can play Quake III on this tablet without any lag. But do not be ambitious and install heavy games on the Latitude 10 as its Atom processor will not be able to handle the graphics.
It also comes with a stylus for those planning to use the touch interface on the desktop mode. The pen has a capacitive tip and a button on its side for emulating right click.
The HDMI out port is a boon for corporate users who have to give presentations. The Latitude 10 can be connected to any HDTV which takes in an HDMI port and you can duplicate your tablet’s screen onto a bigger display.
The IE10 browser looks different in the modern UI mode and the desktop mode. While in the desktop mode you have a regular IE10 browser with the address bar on the top, in the modern UI mode, the address bar is at the base. We did not really like the tabs implementation in the modern UI as you need to slide from the top to see open tabs or to add more tabs. It takes more time than a normal IE10 browser where you don’t need an additional slide or click to view open tabs or add more tabs.
We were surprised to find a brick-like charger port as is generally seen on laptops. But thankfully you will not need to carry that all the time, as just beside the charging port, you have the microUSB port which can charge your Latitude 10. This is a thoughtful addition.
The battery life on the Latitude 10 is quite impressive. While performing our video-on-loop stress test we noticed that the tablet lasted for a good 5 hours. On normal usage, you can easily extract over 8 hours from the Latitude 10. This is again a plus point for corporate users on the move.
Considering this is a tablet, selling at a Rs. 40,000 price-point, comparisons with the Apple iPad are a given. But let us understand one thing - the Dell Latitude 10 cannot be slotted in the same category as Apple’s iPad and the Android tablets out there. Apart from the obvious difference in architecture (ARM for Apple and Android and x86 for Latitude) one needs to understand that with the Latitude you are getting the full Windows 8 Pro edition. Connect a USB hub in the USB port on the tablet and connect your keyboard and mouse to it and you can use this system as you would use your Windows PC. Of course the low-power Atom processor does not put it in the same bracket as a traditional laptop or an ultrabook which are much powerful.
So, in a way, the Dell Latitude is offering you something more than the Apple and Android tablets in the sense that you have the tablet-specific UI for your entertainment and media consumption needs and you have the desktop mode on which you can do your office work. Sure there are apps available on the App Store and Google Play store specific to your needs, but with the Windows desktop mode, the philosophy is different.
Products such as these are middle-of-the-road products. We cannot really benchmark the Dell Latitude as there are no common apps for doing that which will compare it with Apple or Android tablets. Desktop and laptop related benchmarks do run, but then again, you cannot really compare it with anything other than another Windows 8 Pro device sporting an Atom processor and these benchmarks will be merely indicative and not really prove any point so to speak.
We are not saying that the device is without any flaws. Far from it. While the hardware has no issues as such, the Windows 8 pro modern UI mode leaves a lot to be desired. We found a lot of inconsistencies with apps. With an Apple app you just know it will work well and scale according to the Apple device being used, Android is slowly getting there. But with the Windows 8 apps, a lot of them look as if they were put out too soon.
For instance, while checking out a photo-essay in one app, the photographs would stretch ruining the aspect ratio irrespective of whether you held the tablet in the landscape or portrait mode. Only while using the screen in the 2/3rds mode, did we notice that issue being resolved as the photo has lesser area to keep the aspect ratio proper. Another app showed a huge delay between switching from full-screen video mode to normal screen video mode. Facebook Touch had a horrendous layout. Messaging app would randomly stop working from the app environment, but would run smoothly in the IE10 browser. Barring the native apps, it is not really fair to blame Microsoft, but the end-user is least bothered about whether the app is native or third party. If it’s there on the Windows Store, Microsoft owes it to its users to ensure that the app is optimised.
Dell offers a dedicated productivity dock for power users, which holds up the tablet in the vertical position and it has dedicated USB ports and display ports and so on, for which you will have to pay separately. We would have ideally liked if the Dell Latitude 10 had a simpler dock bundled with the tablet or a protrusion from the rear side that would allow one to rest the tablet upright on a desk.
So, the bottom line is who is the tablet meant for? Well, according to the Dell website, it is clearly targetted at business users or corporates who are always on the move. It makes perfect sense for them. But the tablet is also great for someone who wants a device for media consumption as well as to do work. We personally found this useful only in the desktop mode as the modern UI and the apps on Windows 8 are no match for the UI on Apple and Android tablets. The USB port makes things so hassle-free. This is probably the only time that we did not bother using the micro-USB port on the tablet, as all copy-pasting work was done directly via the USB port. It is a boon for those who dread and downright hate the hurdles Apple iTunes makes you go through, or for that matter Windows Zune interface makes you go through. With the Latitude it is simple plug and play. Nothing can get any simpler.
So yes, the tablet does have its advantages for the discerning users. But with a handicapped experience on the modern UI, you can really have a smoother experience on your smartphones than bother with the un-optimised apps on the Windows Store. The desktop experience is brilliant and as far as tablets go, you can rest assured that this will help you with your productive tasks and office work brilliantly. Again, this makes sense for a business user whose main task involves a lot of work with the Office suite. But for a regular Joe, unless he is looking for a productivity only tablet, it is better to wait it out till the Windows 8 apps really take care of the niggles.