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New Dell laptop introduces wireless charging


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New Dell laptop introduces wireless charging

Original Article.

Tue Sep 29, 2009 1:06PM EDT

Yesterday I had the chance to check out a new laptop from Dell. With its crisp screen, ultra-thin profile, and cutting edge specs like an SSD hard drive, it's certainly a looker, yet there's nothing immediately obvious about the machine -- part of Dell's business-class Latitude line -- that makes it unique. But there's a rare first secreted within the Latitude Z: Its battery can be charged wirelessly, without plugging it in.

The system works a lot like your electric toothbrush. A special dock (available as a $200 option) has a coil of wire inside that matches up with a coil on the bottom of the Latitude Z. When the two coils come in contact, power is transferred over that small distance through induction. Dell says it is no slower to charge this way than through plug-in power (a standard plug is also available when you're on the road and away from the dock). Getting the laptop situated just-so on the dock so that the two coils are in contact didn't seem as easy as it should be, but overall I found the innovation to be decisively cool.

The Latitude Z has other enhancements in its innards, though none as exciting as the wireless charging feature. Dell has long included smart card slots in its corporate-class machine, but an option with the Z lets users simply swipe the card across the palm rest to log in. Dell also uses a separate processor on its own motherboard to give the Z a non-Windows, instant-on mode to give quick access to a web browser, email, contacts, and calendars. Dell says use of the low-power quick-boot mode could provide battery life of half a day or more.

Then there's a wireless docking system -- separate from the wireless charging option -- that lets you connect to USB devices and an external monitor without plugging the computer in. An implementation of long-suffering UWB technology, Dell demonstrated the computer using a secondary monitor connected to the dock, the screen smoothly updating as a company rep walked around the room with the laptop in hand, unconnected to the monitor by wire. It's probably less useful than some of the machine's other innovations (the range of the wireless dock is only 12 feet), but still very cool.

The Latitude Z starts at $1,999 (on sale for $1.799 at the moment) and goes on sale today. Expensive to be sure, and possibly only in reach of the most "C" of C-level executives.

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