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Dell refreshed its line of business-oriented Latitude laptops and Ultrabooks on Monday. The new PCs offer not only top-shelf components, but also a bundle of software designed to make the device more secure and easier for IT to manage. The company hopes the package can address two of its ongoing concerns: a rough PC market, and a fledgling software and services business that hasn't grown fast enough to offset falling computer sales.
The Latitude 7000 Series headlines the new products. The high-end Ultrabooks will come in 12.5- and 14-inch options, with the smaller model pitched particularly at users who value mobility. At just 20 mm thick and weighing in at just under three pounds, it's comparable in size to Apple's svelte 13-inch MacBook Air.
The devices are built from sturdy aluminum, and both feature Intel's fourth-generation Haswell core processors. The chips have been slowly showing up in new computers throughout the summer and have typically delivered superior battery life and graphics processing relative to earlier editions. The processors are available in Core i3, i5 or i7 varieties, and both machines include Intel's 4400 integrated graphics.
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The 7000 Series Ultrabooks can be configured with either a 1920 x 1080-pixel touch display that features a woven carbon fiber shell and Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, or a non-touch 1366 x 768-pixel display. Dell is offering options for both Windows 7 and Windows 8. The smaller model is available only with a 256-GB SSD that is rubber-isolated to protect against shocks. The 14-inch model offers either a traditional drive or the SSD option. Both computers can support up to 16 GB of RAM. Features are rounded out by support for both 802. 11g/n Wi-Fi and WiGig, three USB 3.0 slots and an HDMI output.
At an event last week in San Francisco, Dell officials emphasized that the device balances sleek design with durability. "End users have to want to use the device," said Kirk Schell, Dell's VP of commercial computing, during the presentation.
Schell also said Dell must provide a differentiated experience for businesses and consumers, and emphasized that the Latitude Ultrabooks are designed to be IT-friendly. Management and security features include support for Intel's vPro technology, which allows devices to be remotely wiped even when powered off; hooks for Microsoft System Center and Dell KACE; Dell Pro Support, which Dell officials said resolves 99% of all technical problems; Dell Data Protection Protected Workspace, which uses sandboxed environments to protect against malware; and military-grade data encryption, among others. The Protected Workspace feature is a new technology that Dell will offer for free for a year; it will require a subscription thereafter.
With Windows XP losing service in April, Dell knows many enterprises are beginning to eye new hardware, and it hopes that the Latitude's combination of security, manageability and build quality will help it to stand out. At the San Francisco event, Dell presenters repeatedly claimed the new Latitudes offer IT tools that competing products from HP, Lenovo and especially Apple cannot match.
Dell also announced new 14- and 15-inch models in the budget-oriented Series 3000. Hewing closer to traditional laptop form factors, these devices are heftier than the 7000 Series models, with the 15-inch version weighing up to five pounds, depending on battery and screen options. The 14-inch model will be offered with up to a 1600 x 900-pixel display, whereas the 15-inch will offer up to full HD resolution. Both include Intel's new processors and can be ordered in both touch-equipped and non-touch configurations.
The Latitude Series 7000 Ultrabooks are available immediately, starting at $1049, though touch-enabled models will not ship until September. The Latitude Series 3000 laptops will be available September 12, starting at $599. Dell plans to release Series 5000 models in October, though prices and specifications have yet to be announced.