April 2011


Someone once told me that you buy a Mac if you don’t know where the power on switch is. For years I’ve always wanted to own an Apple Mac computer but couldn’t because my company has standardized on the Windows platform so all our applications were wired for the Microsoft operating system. Then came the decision by Apple to get out of the PowerPC platform and joined the Intel X86 bandwagon. I was ecstatic as I now thought I could finally use the much desired Apple operating system on an x86 computer – my PC. Alas, I soon realise things were not as simple as it seemed. Yes there were a few geniuses out in the world that tried to hack the Mac OS to run on an Intel PC but to my dismay you can’t expect to reap the benefits of the Apple operating system when you hack it into your standard Intel PC hardware.

To test the waters I borrowed a friend’s Apple Macbook. He’d been using Boot Camp for some time and swears by it. He was going away for a couple of weeks and said he didn’t plan on bringing his workhorse for the ride.

I tried Boot Camp and quickly realized a few things: (1) I have to reboot to shift from one platform to another; (2) it’s not easy sharing data between the two platforms; and (3) Boot Camp, while easy to install, took up what limited space was available on the MacBook (250GB configuration). Sure they say Boot Camp is faster because it runs native on the Mac hardware but cutting 250GB storage capacity cripples my ability to have my favourite programs and data with me when I need it.

A friend of mine loaned me an evaluation copy of Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac. With the new PD6 I get around the single biggest complaint about running Windows on a virtual machine – which it doesn’t run as fast as Boot Camp.

With PD6, I can install Boot Camp inside a PD6 instance and get the same experience as if I were running Windows 7 in native mode. And because I was using Parallels I could run both Mac OSX and Windows 7 at the same time with no rebooting.

Best of all I can now check my Outlook email and run Microsoft Word and Power Point on the VM window and be able to quickly cut and paste data from Windows 7 apps to the Mac OS X apps. It was an awesome experience!

For those of who have been following my typical reviews, you will discover this to be a totally different approach. Its largely because I’m still fiddling with this platform. If you want more info on a more details review, watch the video below. I didn’t get to try all the features highlighted in the video.

One other thing I found quite interesting with PD6 is the available of an app for the iPad (I happen to own one) meaning I can boot Windows on the Macbook using the iPad. The caveat is the Macbook has to be powered up, I have the Macbook’s IP address, and it only works on Windows running inside Mac OS X.

How cool is that?

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What defines a good burger? In my opinion – taken from years of munching burgers from certified fast food chains like McDonalds, In and Out, and Wendys to even high society burgers found at hotel restaurants like Felix at the Peninsula, and everything else in between – a burger is a piece of finely ground beef roasted over hot charcoal and served in toasted sesame seed bun preferably with a reasonable selection of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, some onions and a dressing of your choice – in my case thousand island or honey mustard. You can keep your pickle. The burger patty has to be done just enough so it retains its juiciest flavour without any hint of burnt meat – a common occurrence when the cook is paying attention to anything else but the patty itself. Mind you some people like their burgers burned to the point where half the meat resembles a roasted corpse after a fire engulf an entire shopping mall. The worst burgers are from the likes of McDonalds where you can never be sure if what you are eating is beef or something  that resembles synthetic meat.

I took my daughter for a quick bite at Gourmet Burger Union (GBU) on 21 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong one hot Saturday noon. I bought a couple of coupons with me that I got from uBuyibuy. Each coupon was valued at HK$60 and says I can buy any food I want from the joint.

The menu was impressive (a.k.a. priced on the upmarket side). The service was questionable as the kitchen was tiny (I saw a frier, oven toaster, a small fridge and storage). For the prices they offer, you’d expect a comparable location like those of Outback restaurants. In fact their cheapest burger – the Kick Ass – was priced at HK$48. What was surprising is that their selection of drinks is expensive. I ordered a Pepsi (my mistake) and paid HK$20 for what is arguably a HK$3.80 can of drink of the local grocer.

As you come through the main door, you will see a sign welcoming you with an offer for a set burger meal – Kick Ass with fries and softdrink – for HK$58. I was told by the ‘host’ – Mariella – no set meals! I didn’t complain and proceeded to order.

A young dishevelled youth wearing a t-shirt toasted the buns, put together the burger, iceberg lettuce, tomato slice (it was pathetic slice – I love my tomatoes) and added thousand island dressing – without asking me what I wanted. Twelve minutes later the burger was served. I have to admit my daughter’s chocolate shake was good but I’d expect that for HK$38. It wasn’t ground-breaking but it was ok.

The Kick Ass burger itself was a dry beef patty with a hint of oil dripping on the side. Nothing special and again I’d take an Outback regular burger anytime. I’d get a large serving of fries, soup, vege salad and cold drink to go with the burger for about HK$80 (which was what I paid for my GBU burger and can of Pepsi). And none of these plastic cutlery. What more can I ask?

Would I recommend GBU? I’d say ‘hell yes stay away’ unless you are craving for just any burger and have money to burn. It’s a few notches better than Wendys but definitely a little lower than another burger joint – Monster Burger or Triple O. I’d say GBU is comparable to another gourmet burger joint – Shake ‘Em Buns (SEB). If you pit the two together, I’d give SEB a better rating than GBU only because the location is better plus they are very creative with the names of their burgers – although to be honest the names may be fantastic, for example ‘Debbie Does Dallas’, but the actual burgers leave much to be desired.

If you are truly craving for a nice burger meal while in Hong Kong, go for Triple O or Outback Steakhouse. You won’t be disappointed when your order arrives at your table.

Bona petite.

Configuration:
Processor: Intel Core i5 M580 @2.67GHz
Installed RAM: 4GB (3.86 GB usable)
Windows Professional 64-bit (Service Pack 1)
Intel HD Graphics card with 1.71GB shared memory, 1366×768 pixels 59 hertz

First impressions

If you go to the Dell website, it describes the E4310 as ‘built thin and light for the executive or frequent traveller,  the Dell™ Latitude™ E4310 ultraportable laptop combines sleek looks with remarkable durability and advanced wireless connectivity.” Listed features include full-featured, ultraportable design, advanced client security features, and Latitude E-Family reliability and commonality. I don’t know about you but I think Dell marketers were a little too liberal in their use of descriptors for this machine (there should be a laptop police to regulate marketers in affixing labels on their products).

For the E4310 chassis Dell opted to use silver and black Aluminium-Magnesium combo giving this series the quality deserving of a business executive.  It comes with a 13.3″ WLED anti-glare LED Display with matt finish supporting 1366×768 pixel resolution.  I found myself manually adjusting the screen resolution as I moved around different locations both indoors and outdoors.

Measuring 32.3cm width x 2.65cm (front height) x 3.06cm (rear height) x 21.5cm (depth), it doesn’t look as clunky as the Lenovo Thinkpad series – the benchmark for most business laptops – which in my opinion has worn out the welcome wagon many years ago.

The E4310 comes with a RJ-45 network connector , 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo port, a headphone/speaker out/Microphone combo port, a 7-in-1 card reader, a docking connector and a 15-pin VGA port. The E4310 comes at 1.54 kg with a 3-cell Li-Ion battery which features ExpressCharge (explains why you have a pathetic battery life). The unit I was given came with a backlit keyboard that, surprisingly, was consistently firm giving a good solid feeling when typing with a sufficiently clear pressure point. This beats even the vaunted Thinkpads which in my experience do flex particular around the centre keys.

Another option my unit came in with is an integrated 2.0 Mega pixel webcam and Dell Webcam Central software. I tried Skype video calling and the resolution was good – according to the party on the other end of the call.

For wired connectivity, the E4310 came with 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet and for WiFi its what you’d expect – DW Wireless-N WLAN and of course Bluetooth. It came with a built-in DVD +/- RW tray (would have been sexier with a slot loading drive but then what’d you expect from Dell?).

Dell did not skimp on security with the E4310. It comes with a smartcard reader, a fingerprint scanner and an integrated TPM 1.2 chip.

The E4310 comes standard with Intel Core i5 CPU. Performance was, perception-wise better than the Core 2 Duos. Core i CPUs come with two distinct features: HyperThreading and Turbo-Boost. I won’t talk about both but you can click here for more on these features (http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Intel-Core-i3-i5-i7-Processors-Arrandale.25085.0.html) . Suffice to say these features come in handy for some applications.

With the default software pre-installed on the E4310, I managed to get started working a little over two minutes after power up. While not the ideal boot time I’d like (instant on would be nice) the E4310 beats my experience even with the vaunted Thinkpad X200 and X201s and the HP Probook 6440B and EliteBook 2540p. I’ve had the pleasure of using two Thinkpads, a Core 2 DUO and a Core i7, and both took longer than five minutes to boot. What made things worst was the lack of option to remove bloatware loaded on the laptop from the factory. Haven’t vendors learned enough from the generations of Windows and Microsoft Office Suites user who complain that they only get to use 20% of the features of the software that they buy? Who died and made those people head of product management?

If you ever come across a feature of Windows 7 called Windows Experience Index (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/What-is-the-Windows-Experience-Index), it gives you an indication of  the various performance characteristics and capabilities of the hardware it is running. For this E4310 I have the score is 4.5 and is directly attributable to the graphics card that the laptop came in – Intel HD Graphics.

Dell Latitude E4310 Microsoft Windows Experience Index

Dell Latitude E4310 Microsoft Windows Experience Index

 

What I like

Heat is a laptop’s worst enemy but is a normal problem across most laptop models I’ve ever tried to use. The E4310 surprised me in that after two hours of use the surprise of the keyboard and track pad were still cool to the touch with only a hint of warmth to the left half of the keyboard. Compared to my experience with Lenovo ideapad and thinkpads, HP and even Dell Studio, the E4310 keyboard is cool to the touch.

The 4310 comes with dedicated volume buttons on the right of the keyboard. Nice for when you accidentally open a youtube video and your laptop screams like its having an orgasm.

What I don’t like

The E4310 comes standard with a 3-cell battery. This means you get about 2.5 hours of battery life from this laptop assuming you set it at Power Saver mode and also switch off the WiFi. This is disappointing considering that laptops were created so you can work even when there is no nearby power source.

The other disappointment for me is heat (huh? I just said I like it above). The E4310 was designed with only three vents: one on the left and two on the bottom (see photo). And it gets hot even under normal use – hot as in I wouldn’t recommend putting this in your bare lap unless its winter and you feel cold. 

I love my iPad and iPod Touch. I love to be able to navigate using the trackpad of my laptop as opposed to the mouse. I hate the trackpoint mouse – and wonder why this didn’t die with the dinosaurs – so when I saw the trackpad of the E4310, I asked myself – who was the moron who designed this unit? It comes with two sets of left and right mouse clickers (why?) leaving the actual trackpad real estate at a measely 7.0cm x 3.7cm. How the hell does Dell expect you to pinch, swipe or rotate on this small piece of real estate? Remember Windows 7 supports these features by default.

It took me a good 15 minutes (sue me I can be a moron) to figure out how to switch off the WiFi of the E4310. There is no short key combo like Fn+F9 to make this happen. Instead you need to go to the control panel\Network and Internet and look for DW WLAN Card Utility and click on View\Show Utility Icon. Without this, you haven’t a hope or prayer to switching off or on the WiFi on the E4310 – morons (pardon my French)!

One other thing

I could never fathom why anyone would want to use a 16:9 display. When running applications like MS Word you need to tweak your word processor to “page width” display otherwise the 100% default setting also gives you lots of white space and tiny fonts to look at.

By late 2010, Apple popularised the use of chiclet keys so other laptop manufacturers have started using similar designs (albeit the internal mechanics varied depending on approved BOM). The E4310 comes with standard keys.

We’ve come a very long way from the early days when portable computers meant a 12.7 kg computer on wheels – luggable Compaq computers (http://oldcomputers.net/compaqi.html). Netbooks and tablets have become popular because they screen mobility and portability with battery life in excess of five hours. I took the E4310 out for a spin one weekend and got 2.75 hours on a full charge using the default Power Saver setting. So I think the E4310 is well suited for people who want to do quick short bursts of work with just enough compute juice to do simple video edits. You can even watch a full length movie on this machine – just one though before the software tells you you’ve got 10 minutes of battery life and time to look for an external power source. It took over 1.5 hours to reach 95% charge (the charge pilot light on the laptop started blinking at 95% so I thought it was fully charged).

If mobility means being able to get reasonable work done away from a power source, then the E4310 is for those who want portability but not mobility. It is certainly portable enough to lug around but best make sure you are near a power source in case you need to use your computer for three hours or more.

Dell Latitude E4310 Photos

Dell Latitude E4310

Dell Latitude E4310 Core i5

 

Dell Latitude E4310 KEYBOARD

Dell Latitude E4310 KEYBOARD backlit on

 

Del Latitude E4310 leftside

Del Latitude E4310 leftside

 

Dell Latitude E4310 rightside

Dell Latitude E4310 rightside

 

Dell Latitude E4310 front bezel

Dell Latitude E4310 front bezel

 

Other Reviews:
Notebook Check
CNET UK