After an initial wave of Windows 8 laptops with sliding, twisting, folding, or detachable screens, we're now seeing a small flood of pure standalone slate-style tablets with Microsoft's new operating system. These systems often include a keyboard and touch pad/mouse component, but it's secondary to the tablet experience.
Most prominent of these new Windows 8 tablets is the Core i5 Microsoft Surface Pro, which is more than $1,100 with a full 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) and its cool, clever keyboard cover. Other Intel Core i5 models include the Acer W700 and the Samsung Series 7 Slate 700T; all of these perform much like a current-gen ultrabook.
The other major fork in the tablet road uses Intel's low-power Atom CPU for a thinner, lighter, less expensive system, and one that in most cases has far better battery life than Core i-series tablets or laptops. The Acer W510, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, and Dell Latitude 10 all fall into this category.
For as little as $500, these Atom tablets offer a very similar experience to the more expensive models, with some serious limitations to keep in mind. First, as in the case of the Dell Latitude 10 reviewed here, the starting price may be nowhere near what you end up once you've added the features you need. For the Latitude 10, $499 gets you the Essentials version of the system, with a nonremovable battery and only a 32GB SSD, and lacking corporate extras such as a TPM chip. Our review unit was the $649 base model, with the 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2670 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a still-small 64GB SSD.
For an extra $100, we also received the Dell Latitude 10 dock, a solid metal docking station that adds four more USB ports, an Ethernet jack, and HDMI and audio outputs. Missing, however, was any tablet-sized Dell keyboard or keyboard case. Your only options are a clunky full-size wireless keyboard and mouse set, or a third-party keyboard case from Kensington. There's nothing along the lines of the excellent Microsoft keyboard cover that works with the Surface Pro.
While Intel's Atom carries a lot of historical baggage from the best-forgotten Netbook era, the Windows 8 UI feels smooth and responsive on the Latitude 10. In general, official Microsoft Windows 8 apps, such as IE10, were clearly optimized for the Atom, but third-party apps, including the Chrome Web browser, were stuttery, revealing the limitations of the Atom.
The Latitude 10 is targeted at business users (although the basic $499 model aims more at budget consumers). With that in mind, it may be a good match for your corporate tablet needs, especially if they don't involve running high-stress apps or storing a lot of large files locally. But at prices that aren't far off from midrange Core i-series ultrabooks with 500GB hard drives or 128GB SSDs, the combination of the Latitude 10 plus a dock and a keyboard feels expensive for the Atom experience.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$649 / $499|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Atom z2760|
|Memory||2GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||64GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.8x6.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.2 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||1.6 pounds / 2.1 pounds|
Design and features
In its black, slate-style design, the Dell Latitude 10 is very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, and other Windows 8 tablets. All have black bodies, with edge-to-edge glass over a touch-sensitive display, with a handful of ports along the outer edge.
But even though they're largely indistinguishable from a few feet away, there are differences in industrial design. The Surface, for example, has edges that angle back, making the back panel slightly smaller than the front. The ThinkPad is the most squared-off, and the Latitude 10 has gently rounded corners, giving it a consumer-friendly feel, even though this is part of Dell's business-targeted Latitude line.
The Latitude 10, like the other Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets we've seen, is thinner and lighter than its Core i5 counterparts (such as the Surface Pro). That makes it easier to carry in one hand, and less of a drag to haul around in a small shoulder bag.
While it lacks the custom-made keyboard cover that makes the Surface Pro shine, or the dockable keyboard base found in many hybrid laptops, such as the HP Envy x2, Dell does offer a solid little docking station for the Latitude 10. And by little, I mean it has a very small desktop footprint. Unlike some docks that lie flat, or fold up, this $100 accessory is permanently anchored as a small plastic base with a metal support plate sticking up at an angle to hold the tablet in place.
Built into the dock are four USB ports (2.0 only), an HDMI output, an audio-out jack, and an Ethernet connection. The dock connects via the same proprietary power connection found on the bottom edge of the tablet, but that means it can only dock in landscape mode, not portrait. The actual dock connector is hinged to give you some play while attaching and detaching the Latitude 10, but unfortunately the actual angle it holds the screen at is not adjustable. (Despite the hinged connector, I was unable to make the tablet fit while it was wrapped up in Dell's folio case, a plastic wraparound cover for the Latitude 10 that feels cheap, even for $27.)
The 10.1-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is fine for less expensive tablets, and probably a good match for the lower power of the Intel Atom CPU. The IPS display has a Gorilla Glass top layer and looks good from nearly any angle. But note that with upgrades and accessories, the Latitude 10's price can rise to $1,000 or more, and in that price range, you can get tablets with 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution displays.
|Dell Latitude 10||Average for category [tablet]|
|Video||Micro-HDMI||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 2.0, SD card reader, 1 Micro-USB charging port||1 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections, performance, and battery life
By itself, the Latitude 10 doesn't have much in the way of ports and connections, with only one USB port, a Mini-HDMI jack, an SD card slot, and a separate Micro-USB port for charging accessories.
Adding the optional dock gives you four additional USB ports, plus HDMI and Ethernet, making it pretty handy for converting the Latitude 10 for desktop use. But, as we're dealing with the Intel Atom platform here, all the USB ports are the slower 2.0 variety, not the faster 3.0 version found in Intel Core i-series devices.
While the Latitude 10 looks and feel a lot like other Windows 8 tablets, even ones with faster Core i5 processors, when we ran our standard PC benchmark tests the difference was obvious. Atom-powered systems, such as the Latitude 10, Acer W510, or HP Envy X2, were much slower, with the Dell taking nearly five times as long as the Surface Pro to run our multitasking benchmark.