Dell Latitude D620 - PCLinuxOS 2012.02
Update: 28 June 2012
page documents my continuing impressions since ordering this machine
refurbished from Computer-Show.com in February of 2010. I have
been well pleased with this machine, and highly recomend it as a
candidate for anyone considering running a Linux distribution
contemporary with the 2010 - 2012 timeframe.
In the time I have owned this machine, I have ran PCLinuxOS on it
exclusively, starting with 2009.2, and moving eventually to its current
build, using PCLinuxOS 2012.02 KDE4. I will
not do any politicking here, since I figure that, if you're reading
this, you're at least already receptive to Linux.
the system shipped with a Dell OEM combo DVD/CD-RW, 2 GB RAM, and 7200
RPM 80 GB Fujitsu hard drive. I replaced this with a Dell DVD-RW
multi-format drive. Both the OEM drives will read double-layer media just fine, but support
for Double-Layer burning is not available on these drives, so, when I
wish to burn double-layer media I use a Lite-On slim USB external drive.
About a year or so in, I replaced the 80GB drive with a 7200 RPM 500GB
Hitachi Travelstar. I have been most satisfied with the result.
of PCLinuxOS, in almost any release, is nearly trivial. Pop in
the LiveCD, let it boot to check things out a bit, then click the
"Install PCLinuxOS" button and go from there. Default
partitioning works well enough, but I set up a custom partitioning
scheme which I later came to regret. Since I tinker with this
machine a lot and intentionally try to break things testing them, it
won't be long before I re-do the entire system again.
(When I have it to do over again, my /usr will wind up on a separate
partition with enough space to hold everything, including the kitchen
2.0) Dell Latitude D620 Specifications
||Intel Core2Duo, 1.86 GHz.
|This thing is fast enough for everything I do, including intensive multimedia use.
||SODIMM DDR2 RAM, 2 GB, 667 MHz FSB
||Two 1 GB SODIMMs, one in each of the two RAM slots.
||Intel 945GM Integrated Graphics Device
||Shares up to 192 MB of main RAM, 256 MB total video RAM available
||Standard HD-15 port on rear
||dual-display setup is non-trivial, but the port supports a wide variety of scan rates and resolutions.
||14" WXGA, 1280x800, 32-bit TFT
||Bright, narrow view angle. Matte finish screen. Not as bright as some, but enough.
||500 GB Hitachi Travelstar
||SATA III 7200 RPM 2.5" drive (see above, in (1.0) Background, though.)
||No Floppy disk drive supplied. Has not been needed so
||Dell OEM DVD-RW Multi-Format
||A bit slow - it's an 8X drive. Doesn't support Double-Layer burning.
||4 USB 2.0 ports, Standard "B"
||Standandard USB 2.0 ports, two (recessed!) on right side at back, two on rear.
|Serial port on rear, DB-9 male.
|Used it at Johnson Controls DX-9100 School running GX-9100 under WINE.
||Broadcom Corp. BCM5752 Netxtreme Gigabit NIC
||Excellent throughput to our D-Link DIR-615 router.
||Broadcom Corp. BCM4311 801.11b/g WLAN
||Configured "out-of-the-box" during installation of PCLinuxOS. Excellent throughput but range is a little low.
||Integrated V.92 56k modem
||Have yet to attempt to use this device
||Synaptics touchpad with vertical scroll and 2-button controls
||Touch pressure a bit twitchy. (There is a fix to turn
off taps, though)
|J-Stick with two buttons.
|Works well once used to the sensitivity - it's very
fast. Has its own set of buttons above the touchpad, so
ergonomically pretty good.
||SigmaTel STAC9200-based HD Audio
||Uses Intel HDA audio driver. Mic and Headphone jacks on left side mid-way.
||One type I slot, presently empty
||No PC Cards in use presently. Have used SanDisk 192 MB RAM cards well.
This notebook is
designed as a business workhorse, and, so, does not have Firewire, HDMI
or other niceties of more modern "multimedia" laptops. That said,
its design is well integrated, and it is compact enough (14-inch 16:10
ratio display) to be easy to carry around. The notebook itself
weighs 5 pounds with the six-cell battery that shipped with it, and
just a bit more (about 5.25 pounds) with the nine-cell units I'm using
are available for this unit in 4-cell, 6-cell, and 9-cell
configurations. I could not imagine using a 4-cell battery with
this unit, as the six cell only lasts a couple of hours under hard
use. I switched over to the 9-cell type (which requires the 90W
adapter I already had), and find the power profile much more to my
liking. I get about 4.5 hours out of a battery under my typically
abusive use, and I have two of them, so I swap them regularly to extend
Built-in speakers are decent enough for normal use, and
sound quality on my Altec BX1021 2.1 speakers is more than
adequate. (Fidelity on a set of Sony MDR-V150 headphones is
system runs PCLinuxOS almost like it was designed for it.
Hardware support is excellent, and the unit has been very
A word of caution here, though:
steer clear of this model, or, for that matter, most models of Dell
Latitude laptops which have Nvidia video systems. These almost
invariably develop problems down the road which require a motherboard
replacement. I've done one such replacement (on a Dell Latitude
D630), replacing the original nVidia motherboard with one that has an
Intel video system. It runs a lot cooler, and more
dependably. This caution applies equally regardless of operating
system (it affects Windows users, too), and there was a class-action
settled against Dell and Nvidia for $20 million concerning this
flaw. More on this can be found at the Official Dell Blog concerning it.
The touchpad is
somewhat annoying, and seems overly sensitive. This seems common
to Synaptics pads I've used, and may be a matter of personal
preference. I have disabled "tapping" and use the buttons when
I'm using the touchpad or trak-stick/J-stick. I usually just use
my Logitech wireless mini-laser mouse, and enjoy great results with
The sound system is pretty utilitarian, and is geared mainly for casual
listening, but quality of the audio is excellent. I have some
trouble getting levels set correctly to record instrument tracks with
Audacity or Ardour, but I'm not using any sort of direct input box for
impedance matching, so that's to be expected
PCLinuxOS has a
nice feature in their PCLinuxOS Control Center (hereinafter abbreviated
PCC). This is probably the last remnant of the distribution's
Mandriva heritage, but has been well maintained over the years and is
well-integrated to the system as a whole. I have had little
recourse to it, as everything on this notebook worked well
"out-of-the-box". The only puttering about I've had to do is for
experiments with dual monitors. I found it difficult to keep the
primary display from showing up on the external monitor without
tinkering around with xorg.conf.
Multimedia playback is flawless for sources of less than 1080p
resolution. Certain 1080p videos tend to make trouble for the
players I use (Xine, SMPlayer, and VLC, mainly), with sound and video
becoming out of sync and video playback stopping after only several
seconds. As most of the video I work with is 720p and down, this
doesn't present a problem for me, but your mileage may vary.
find my best playback results are with SMPlayer, and that, for
recording and transcoding, Handbrake, DeVeDe, and k9copy work very well.
The display on this unit is not the brightest I've seen, but is
adequate. Other units in this same model I've seen are brighter,
so I may just have a weak backlight. Backlight intensity and
other Fn control keys worked right after installation with no fiddling.
replaced my old Gateway 3522GZ with this one when the backlight went
completely out in it after five years of almost continual use.
(So I'm hard on my gear.) It was as good an excuse as any, as I
wanted something faster and with more RAM and drive space. This
unit met my needs at a nice price.
This unit didn't ship with a case, so I bought a Targus "airport
friendly" bag at Wal-Mart for under $20. The bag is somewhat
minimalist, with not too much padding, but it serves well enough that I
haven't damaged my gear moving around with it. That said, the
outside pocket carries a phenomenal amount of stuff (spare battery,
power adapter, cables of all kinds I use for work and play, and
my mouse) and doesn't complain a bit., and the TSA seem to like it, too.
This system was purchased refurbished from computer-show.com.
These are some nice folks who used to be out of Round Rock, TX, but who
were recently bought out by Cosmic Tech Supply out of California.
The folks at Cosmic Tech Supply have tended to continue business as
usual, which is to say, excellent focus on customer service and
satisfaction. I cannot say enough good things about these folks.
this unit's performance under Linux is very satisfactory. My
initial score for this machine on a scale
from 1 to 5 was a 4.9. Over time, that rating has risen somewhat,
especially with the nine-cell battery and bigger, faster hard
drive. This is nearly a perfect machine for PCLinuxOS, and would
probably run any other contemporary distribution quite well, too.
The only thing that keeps it from being a 5.0 is the slightly weak
backlight and the touchpad.