Look and feel
"Inoffensive" is the word we'd use to describe the Latitude 10's design -- and we imagine that's exactly what many corporate customers will want. Though we have no qualms with the straightforward, black-rectangle aesthetic, we do take issue with the extremely wide bezel surrounding the 1,366 x 768 display. This cheapens the device's feel, and it makes the 10.1-inch panel seem smaller.
"Inoffensive" is the word we'd use to describe the Latitude 10's design -- and we imagine that's exactly what many corporate customers will want.
At 1.45 pounds and 0.4 inch thick with a 30Wh battery, this isn't anywhere near the wispiest 10.1-incher around, but it does feel plenty sturdy in the hand. This is thanks to a reinforced magnesium-alloy frame, and the coating of Gorilla Glass doesn't hurt either. The back sports a soft-touch finish that makes for a comfortable grip -- you shouldn't have to put this tablet's solid build to the test with any accidental drops.
By and large, button and port placement makes perfect sense on the Latitude 10 -- and there is no shortage of connections on board. The physical Windows 8 Start button sits in its typical spot underneath the screen. Oddly, though, the button is slightly recessed rather than raised, and as a result it's a bit tricky to press. We had to apply more pressure than we're used to, and it was especially difficult to register a press when the tablet was angled upright in the bundled dock. The only other feature you'll notice on the front is the 2-megapixel, front-facing camera.
The top edge of the Latitude 10 is home to a full-size SD card slot, the power button and a toggle for auto-rotate. The Enhanced Security model, which we got a chance to play with, includes a smart card reader along the top. The combo headphone / mic jack, USB 2.0 port and mini-HDMI connection sit on the right edge, while you'll find the volume rocker and Kensington lock slot on the left. Finally, the power connector and a micro-USB port line the bottom side. Turn the device over, and you'll find plenty going on. In addition to the 8MP rear shooter with LED flash, the Dell logo and two small sets of speakers, the swappable 30Wh battery sits prominently on the backside, with a slide lock allowing for its removal. (A larger 60Wh battery was included with our review unit -- more on that later.)
Our unit offers 3G connectivity, and the micro-SIM slot is located under the removable power pack. The battery takes up a good half of the surface, and while this interrupts the otherwise clean lines, the promise of longer battery life trumps any superficial design concerns. We had to wiggle both the two- and four-cell batteries loose when switching them out, as the latch system got stuck halfway when we tried to move it.
The variety of configuration options for the Latitude 10 verges on confusing. Not only are there Essential, Standard and Enhanced Security models, but there are a slew of optional accessories as well. We checked out a Latitude 10 bundled with the productivity dock, a $100 add-on. This 1.8-pound peripheral adds to an already impressive number of ports, with four USB 2.0 connections, a headphone jack and a full-size HDMI for hooking up an external monitor. There's also a power connector for charging the tablet while it's docked.
It was easy to attach the Latitude 10 to the stand, but it felt rather wobbly; lifting up on the slate detached it from the base -- and that was without applying much pressure. We imagine the dock won't move far from users' desks, though, and it offers a comfortable -- though non-adjustable -- viewing angle for both watching movies and composing emails and documents. Other accessories include a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo (ranging from $40 to $86, depending on which of the three bundles options you choose) and a $40 soft-touch case that can act as a stand. Our review unit also came with the $40 Dell KM632 keyboard and mouse package, along with the case.
Speaking of the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, we had to force ourselves to use the device in tablet mode after enjoying this setup. You'll definitely want a set of hardware keys if you plan to do any real work, and both the chiclets and the mouse were responsive and comfortable for navigating Windows 8. That said, the Bluetooth keyboard is desktop-size, meaning the slate's 10.1-inch screen feels small in comparison. One other nitpick: the top of the mouse is removable, allowing you to insert the two AA batteries, and it comes off far too easily. We had to reattach it on several occasions during our hands-on time. Dell doesn't offer its own keyboard case; rather, it sells the Kensington KeyFolio Expert through its website.
Display, pen input and sound
The Latitude 10's 10.1-inch screen sports a 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is par for the course when it comes to Atom-based tablets. More impressive than the pixel count is the 450-nit brightness rating; images really pop on this panel. When we watched Netflix, played a few games and surfed the web, all content appeared crisp, and colors looked accurate. Like the screens on the ASUS VivoTab Smart and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, this display uses IPS technology, so you can expect wide viewing angles. We had no trouble making out a video from both the far left and right. Visibility would be even better if the display didn't have such a glossy finish, but that should only be an issue in settings with bright overhead lighting.
An active Wacom digitizer is available for about $34, and it's only compatible with the higher-end configurations of the Latitude 10. (The lower-end Essentials version will only work with a passive stylus.) We used the pen in programs such as Windows Journal, which includes handwriting recognition, and Paint. The stylus itself feels cheaply made; it doesn't provide as good of a grip as Samsung's S Pen, for instance. Still, it works well for selecting small objects on screen, and the capacitive display offers very good palm rejection. Only once or twice did the panel detect accidental input when we were writing with the digitizer. The Latitude 10 itself doesn't have a built-in slot for storing Wacom's device, but the soft-touch case that came with our review unit sports a penholder.
Audio doesn't get very loud on the Latitude 10. The two small stereo speakers are located on the back of the device, which means music and dialogue come through muffled when the tablet is on your desk (or your lap). Songs streamed via the Slacker app don't pack much punch at all, though -- as we always say with slates -- donning a pair of headphones allows for louder, slightly richer sound.
Performance and battery life
As we mentioned in our review of the ASUS VivoTab Smart, lower-powered Windows tablets are pretty much uniform when it comes to specs. Like that product and literally every other competing model we've tested, the Latitude 10 runs an Intel Atom Z2760 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, with 2GB of RAM and the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator. It's no surprise, then, that Dell's slate turns in virtually identical benchmark scores to its competitors. In ATTO, the Latitude 10 notched max read and write speeds of 82 MB/s and 35 MB/s, respectively, and a cold boot takes about 15 seconds.
Unsurprisingly for an Atom-powered device, the Latitude 10 wasn't able to run the 3DMark 11 graphics benchmark, which requires DirectX 11 support. That's a good indicator of what kind of gaming performance to expect -- you'll be fine playing Angry Birds, Solitaire and the like, but serious titles are out of the question. We experienced a few glitches, such as app crashes and force quits throughout our hands-on time with the Latitude 10, but these moments were few and far between. Switching between apps didn't cause the system to stutter, and we never found ourselves tapping our fingers waiting for programs to load.
When we ran our battery test, which involves running a locally stored video on loop with WiFi on and brightness set to 65 percent, the Latitude's 30Wh battery lasted nine hours and three minutes. That compares favorably to other Atom-powered machines, such as the Acer Iconia W510 (eight hours and 19 minutes) and the HP Envy x2 (seven hours and 53 minutes). While that's fairly average for an Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet, it trumps them all when you add in the optional 60Wh power pack: with that attached, we got a jaw-dropping 16 hours of runtime.
The Latitude 10 sports a 2-megapixel, 720p, front-facing camera for video chats along with an 8MP rear shooter with flash. When we took a few selfies in our brightly lit office, our images appeared grainy with a strong yellowish overcast. This is sadly the status quo for most tablet webcams, but moving to an area with natural light should help if you have to take a Skype meeting in a pinch.