A Dell in the Dock is No iceBook


Ten years after Apple pioneered the Duo Dock, Dell has rediscovered the concept - albeit with a twist.

Instead of a hefty docking device, the Latitude X200 employs a slim device, which can contain floppy, CD-ROM or combo DVD/CDRW drive. It mounts underneath the notebook.

But as usual, comparison with the current iBook - amply shows up the Dell's shortcomings.

Lke the base and mid-range iBooks, the X200 ships with a 12.1" TFT display. But, unlike the iBook, it also costs a whopping $1,999 - sans any dock gadgets.

Add all the docking fruit and your wallet/purse will burn to the tune of $2,557. And, for that price you could have a new TiBook 667MHz, with the Mobile Radeon 7500, L3 cache on the G4, combo CDRW/DVD drive, DVI out, huge screen.

By comparison, it is impossible to pay more than $1,499 for the not-ultralight, but fully-featured iBook 12.1".

Ultralight the X200 is, yes - at less than an inch thick and 2.8lbs - but, aye, there's the rub.

I've always been of the opinion that notebooks - or any PC - without any form of storage beyond its own hard drive is a danger to shipping. And your work.

And you'd be hard pressed to believe its 2002 when you learn the Dell comes with an Intel 830MG, which shares video memory (i.e. steals it from main memory). It uses up to 8MB of system RAM for graphics. Does anyone remember the RAM-thieving antics of the IIci and IIsi? And that was in 1989-90. Shared video memory is, not to put too fine a point on it, simply not up to snuff.

Then there's the processor. An 800MHz Mobility PIII is hardly cutting edge in the PC notebook world. And hasn't been for a long time. It would barely edge out a 600MHz G3 and, if my experience is anything to go by, wouldn't cut the mustard in intensive apps like Cleaner and Photoshop.

Better stock up on ($200) batteries: the X200 will suck the juice out of one in two hours, which really means 114 minutes according to one test. (While you're there, check out that photo: can you say "Lombard press pic"?

The X200's equipment levels have their good points: a single FireWire port; dual USB. Oh, and a floppy drive (optional).

Yes, you can accept it's an ultralight, and that they necessarily come with compromises. But you can buy a compromised notebook and a hobbled notebook. Or you can buy a fully-featured notebook.

Better still, follow the sage advice of one comment maker at c|net:

"Get an iBook".