It's not every day you see something thoroughly distinct in the laptop scene -- or even barely off the beaten path -- so we were quite happy to behold Dell's new Latitude Z 600 outside of the narrow confines of the FCC. The machine combines a 16-inch 1600 x 900 display with a Core 2 Duo processor and a thin (0.57-inch) and light (4.5 pounds) chassis -- a rather rare trifecta. Dell's gone with premium soft touch materials, a large multitouch touchpad, a 2 megapixel webcam with included security and document scanning (like business cards) software, and a rather novel capacitive "EdgeTouch" sensor on the side that can be tapped for a quick launch bar of apps. Remember that 802.11g radio that had us scratching our heads in the FCC docs? Well it's actually one of two WiFi radios in the machine (the main radio is 802.11n, just like mother used to make), and belongs to Latitude ON, that instant-boot ARM-based Linux system that co-exists inside the computer (which first made an appearance in the Latitude E series). For security reasons it doesn't share a lick of data with the main OS, but it can hook up to Exchange and handle basic browsing tasks. In addition to its quick-booting properties, the low-power nature of the ARM chipset means you can get "days" of computing out of the machine, despite the 16-inch screen the battery is up against. But that's not all! Dell has built in a UWB radio for communicating with an optional wireless base dock (out in November) that pumps out DVI and USB, and there are also induction charging contacts on the bottom of the laptop for use with an optional induction charging stand. Other features include a built-in Smart Card reader and room for dual SSD drives.
We got to play around with the laptop briefly, and it doesn't just pile on the features -- it's really a pretty tight design from Dell, and oozes quality. Some of the features make a bit less sense, like the EdgeTouch sensor, but if you're going to go all out on a laptop for executives, you might as well really go all out, right? The keyboard is one of the best laptop keyboards we've played with in a while, the touchpad is expansive, and the machine doesn't seem brittle despite its wild surface-area-to-thickness ratio. The screen did seem a little dim to our eyes, but it was mercifully matte, and that 2 megapixel camera up top really comes in handy with Dell's bundled software, reading and deciphering a business card of ours without a problem. It's a three way tie for neatest feature between UWB, Latitude ON and induction charging, but we'd probably have to go with UWB -- unlike Toshiba's similar solution, which relies on a dongle, Dell's built-in implementation actually makes a lot of sense for a premium laptop. It was also surprisingly quick at pairing with the wireless dock, and there's no harm done by pulling the laptop out of range of UWB -- a quick screen flicker and it's back to regular. Our biggest downers about the laptop probably have to do with the odd color choice (a bit too personal of a preference to be made a default) and the understandable but painfully sky-high $2,000+ pricetag.
Update: Smarmy infomercial and in-depth look at Latitude ON now posted after the break.