Dell Latitude D620 - PCLinuxOS 2012.02

Last Update:  28 June 2012

1.0)  Background:

This page documents my continuing impressions since ordering this machine refurbished from 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.

Initially 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.

Installation 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 sink...)

2.0)  Dell Latitude D620 Specifications

Item Description Linux Status Comments
CPU: Intel Core2Duo, 1.86 GHz.
This thing is fast enough for everything I do, including intensive multimedia use.
Nominal Two 1 GB SODIMMs, one in each of the two RAM slots.
GPU: Intel 945GM Integrated Graphics Device Nominal Shares  up to 192 MB of main RAM, 256 MB total video RAM available
VGA: Standard HD-15 port on rear
Nominal dual-display setup is non-trivial, but the port supports a wide variety of scan rates and resolutions.
TFT: 14" WXGA, 1280x800, 32-bit TFT
Nominal Bright, narrow view angle.  Matte finish screen.  Not as bright as some, but enough.
HDD: 500 GB Hitachi Travelstar Nominal SATA III 7200 RPM 2.5" drive  (see above, in (1.0) Background, though.)
FDD: NONE N/A No Floppy disk drive supplied.  Has not been needed so far
DVD: Dell OEM DVD-RW Multi-Format
Nominal A bit slow - it's an 8X drive.  Doesn't support Double-Layer burning.
USB: 4 USB 2.0 ports, Standard "B"
Nominal 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. 
NIC: Broadcom Corp. BCM5752 Netxtreme Gigabit NIC
Nominal Excellent throughput to our D-Link DIR-615 router.
WIFI: Broadcom Corp. BCM4311 801.11b/g WLAN
Unknown Configured "out-of-the-box" during installation of PCLinuxOS.  Excellent throughput but range is a little low.
MDM: Integrated V.92 56k modem Unknown Have yet to attempt to use this device
HID: Synaptics touchpad with vertical scroll and 2-button controls Marginal 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.
SND: SigmaTel STAC9200-based HD Audio
Nominal Uses Intel HDA audio driver.  Mic and Headphone jacks on left side mid-way.
PCMCIA: One type I slot, presently empty Unknown No PC Cards in use presently.  Have used SanDisk 192 MB RAM cards well.

3.0)  Impressions:

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 now.

Batteries 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 battery life.  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 exceptional!)

Overall, the system runs PCLinuxOS almost like it was designed for it.  Hardware support is excellent, and the unit has been very reliable. 

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 it. 

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.

I 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.

I 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  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.

4.0)  Conclusions:

Overall, 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.

5.0)  Resources:

The Linux on Laptops Page:
PCLinuxOS Home Page:
Dell Latitude D620 Specifications Page:
Dell Nvidia Official Blog Page: