The guys that used to use this pothead as the figurehead of their bargain laptops aimed specifically at students and other bargain hunters, are now bringing you a luxury laptop. How does it turn out? Surprisingly, not that bad.

The Dell Latitude Z is Dell’s most significant foray into high-end computing where they will (basically) be competing with Sony. Other high-end laptops such as Alienware and Toshiba’s Quasimo are gaming-specific, and not designed to look or work like corporate America wants them to.

There are basically three features on the Latitude Z that Dell has included to take this laptop away from its high-end gaming laptop and make it a little more suit-and-tie presentable.

The first is the Instant On feature. Most of the time, Latitude Z runs it’s Windows 7 full functionality, but if you turn it off or put it in hibernation, you have the option of turning it Instant On which runs just a skeleton of its functionality on a Linux-based OS. You’ll have access to email, internet, a calendar, and you’re address book, but nothing else. Cool if you’re just checking your email and you don’t need Norton to download the latest updates for 10 minutes.

The second noteworthy feature doesn’t come standard, but is a $400 optional add-on: wireless, inductive charging. For the additional pricetag, you can get a U-shaped docking station that wirelessly charges the Latitude Z’s battery (4 cell for 4 hours or 8 cell for 8). Why would you use a charger that, actually, gives you less range than a normal, 8-foot cord? Why not just use a charging station that isn’t wireless? Well, because it’s so damn cool. The Latitude Z is the first gadget of any kind to hit the shelves in America with this capability inbuilt.

The third feature worth considering is the overall appearance of it. It’s got a Mac-esque backlit keyboard that uses the webcam to sense light, turning it on or off appropriately. It’s got a uniquely-styled bezel on the back two corners which cleverly includes two additional data ports, and even the charger is stylized with a high-gloss finish.

While it doesn’t particularly outstrip the Vaio line (other than the somewhat gimmicky wireless charger), this is a good start to diversifying the Dell line that, hopefully, will spawn other (maybe a Vaio P competitor?) options.  The Dell Latitude is available now for around $2000 depending on the options from Dell. [Buy it]

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