Here we are just a couple months into 2013, and, as we predicted, this year has started with an explosion of Windows 8 tablets, hybrids, and convertibles. Some tablet makers, such as Acer, with its recent debut of its 11-inch Iconia W700, have come up with some rather creative designs, especially when it comes to accessories. While we aren’t always impressed with the results (see the W700 and its ungainly three-piece docking station/keyboard/carrying case), we do appreciate it when a manufacturer ventures out and tries something unconventional.
Unconventional—that’s also an apt description of Dell’s recently released Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet (which, depending on the configuration, sells on Dell’s Web site for between $499 and $849). Like the W700, the Latitude 10’s docking station and keyboard accessories are departures from the norm. Instead of the traditional attachable keyboard dock, which folds over the tablet’s screen, mimicking a laptop, this slate’s docking station is… well, merely a stand for holding the tablet upright and expanding connectivity options.
In fact, as we wrote this (mid-February 2013), Dell wasn’t even offering a keyboard accessory specific to the Latitude 10. Instead, the company suggests that you purchase one of its PC-geared wireless keyboard and mouse accessory kits. (We’ll discuss the keyboard or lack thereof, the docking station, and other accessories in the Design & Features section on the next page.)
Dell’s docking- and input-accessory design choices, though, are not the only ways in which the Latitude 10 breaks the conventional tablet mold. Designed as a business-oriented slate, it’s one of very few we’ve seen with a swappable battery. This feature—the ability to simply change the battery when it’s low—can greatly increase runtime in environments without ready AC power sources. In addition, Dell offers an oversize battery that doubles your unplugged runtime. (We’ll discuss battery life and optional power solutions in detail in the Battery Test & Conclusion section at the end of this review.)
Some of the Latitude 10’s other somewhat uncommon business-oriented options include a SIM-card slot for connecting 3G and 4G cellular networks, support for full-size SD memory cards, a full-size USB port for connecting flash drives and peripherals, and support for an optional stylus. (We’ll look at all of these features and more on the next page.)
As to performance, our Dell test unit did about average for a slate running on Intel’s low-power Atom processor. As we’ve discussed in several reviews of Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets, such as Acer’s Iconia W510 and HP’s Envy X2, the trade-offs, compared to slates built around Intel’s laptop-grade Core i5 chips, are raw processing power and capabilities. Tablets running on Core i5 chips, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Acer’s Iconia W700, are faster, more capable, and more expensive, than Atom-based slates. On the other hand—and the Latitude 10 is no exception—Atom-powered tablets deliver much greater battery life.
Overall, we liked the Latitude 10. It performed well for a device in this class, and it outlasted a few of its competitors on our demanding battery-rundown test. However, its lack of a suitable, easy-to-carry keyboard/docking station solution makes it less than practical for road warriors. Between the docking station itself, and the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you’ll wind up with far too many parts and pieces to pack, unpack, set up, and pack again.
Most users, we suspect, will opt to travel with just the slate itself, leaving the keyboard and docking station behind. As we see it, the Latitude 10’s accessories feel designed primarily for desktop use, which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for. But then, too, there’s the swappable battery (and the optional oversize battery’s long life), which makes the Latitude 10 ideal for toting around your company’s construction yard, warehouse, or factory floor. A tailor-made detachable keyboard might have made this a mighty appealing hybrid machine for business use rather than just a good Windows tablet.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.