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Dell's Bizarre Double-Laptop

Dell Latitude Z600 laptop, sitting at the Windows Vista desktop

Please note: I wrote this as an "infotainment" post for social media, and thus it is written with a substantially spicier style than most of my website. I felt that this topic is sufficiently absurd that removing the cussing took the punch out of it; I was genuinely going feral as I performed the research for this article, and it's reflected in my narration. You've been warned.

Several weeks ago I began feverishly exploring the strange lost world of 2009-2011 "instant on" linux environments, and the journey has brought me to some strange places. I've stumbled on other dead branches of the PC lineage, such as Phoenix's bizarre dual-boot ACPI exploit, or HP's scratchmade EFI mail application. Even before I received those machines, however, I had obtained a laptop that is, in ways, the strangest one I've ever owned.

Galapagos Syndrome

The term "Galapagos syndrome" was ostensibly coined in Japan in the 2000s, to describe their bizarrely overevolved pre-smartphone mobile devices. Before iPhones and Android, when American cellphones were limited to talking, texting, and perhaps a crappy camera, Japanese flip phones and candybars were offering features like streaming video, decent videogames and e-wallet payments.

It's not that those things couldn't have been done here. The features could have been implemented in our networks, but for Reasons, Japanese companies are able to be more adventurous. Here, our corporations want guarantees before they do anything, and the result is that they're unbelievable cowards.

New features are very, very slow to appear in products sold in the US, whether they're designed by cowardly domestic businesses or just being marketed by same. And worse, when we do get new features, it often goes like this:

The Dell Latitude Z600 offers no less than four features that never appeared in anything ever again (at least, until this year), and it's not hard to see why: It was a stupidly expensive and poorly built "ultrabook" with extremly middling specs, which probably nobody would have wanted on its merits, and none of the special features are exciting enough to sell the thing on its own. It was a great place to put these features if Dell wanted to kill them.

The Dell Latitude Z600

I wish to briefly review the Z600 itself. Typically I wouldn't do this - the laptop is simply a husk, the thing we're interested in is buried within a chip inside it - but the machine bears description because I don't understand how Dell thought it would be a "slam dunk" to try to sell this for the amount they sold it for - which will appear near the bottom of this article, for reasons.

Dell Latitude Z600 laptop seen from top

Dell Latitude Z600 laptop seen from edge

The Z600 was sold circa 2010-11 as an Executive Ultrabook. To that end it's nearly Macbook Air-thin, has very few ports, and has aesthetic decisions that make no sense. The outside is a reddish off-black with - what else? - soft-touch rubber coating, which hasn't gone bad on mine, but will be bad on most. And yes, the battery is flanked by a pair of shiny chrome "shoulder pads" which serve no purpose, look utterly out of place, and don't even bother trying to merge into the styling of the battery pack.

It's also a 16" machine - a weird anomaly for many reasons. Even now there aren't a lot of those, but in 2010 there were less. Dell had no idea what to do with a machine this size, and a thing about PC manufacturers is that they absolutely, positively refuse to use anything other than the most basic-bitch ABS plastic. Throughout the late 2000s and 2010s, and probably still now, all PC laptop companies sold hundreds of models made from the wrong materials; plastics that weren't stiff enough, not dense enough. Machines that flexed when you put weight on them, and bent when picked up.

This is one such machine. It is floppy. Every time you interact with it, you will feel and see it bending. I have had it open; there are no support ridges inside. The machine is simply a clamshell of two very thin sheets of milky-white ABS.

It doesn't feel good in the hand. You've picked up a Macbook. I don't care how much of a PC user you are, you know those machines feel correct. They feel like objects, whether they're open or closed. The best any PC laptop can hope for is to feel not hollow, but most of them fail this test. The majority of PC laptops feel like all the weight is centered in one place, and when you pick one up you can feel it squishing under the pressure of your fingers, and you wonder if you're bruising the LCD.

In addition, if you refer back to the image opening this article, you will see that the keyboard area has gallons of bezel. Dell could have made a keyboard that adequately fills the space. I have a 16" lenovo - it has a numpad. This one has a subpar chiclet keyboard that makes even the most basic text entry a slog. The touchpad is among the worst touchpads of this era, both unpleasant to touch and extremely finicky. They also did not bother making the LCD fill the space available in the lid, so it has a pretty chubby bezel - but that, at least, pays some dividends, as you'll learn below.

The hardware makes up for nothing. It has a truly anemic Core 2 Duo U9400, a 1.4 gigahertz processor, and two gigs of Soldered, Non Upgradeable RAM. Let me remind you, this was sold with Vista. It does not run well.

One of the only remotely Executive things about it is the hard drive, which is an SSD. In 2010, not that many things had SSDs, and this machine could be sold with two as an option - but that was really only to achieve a thinner profile, which couldn't be done with a conventional spinning disk. Otherwise, I'm positive this would have a sad, screaming 5400rpm relic inside.

Dell's claim that this is "executive" or "ultra" was, in no uncertain terms, a lie. It simply isn't what they said. You can tell this from the inside, too.

Dell Latitude Z600 laptop with the bottom cover off, displaying a horrifically complicated mess of ribbon cables and sub-modules


This machine is one of the least pleasant looking laptops I've had the pleasure to work on. It feels like a noname ODM design. It was designed by an ODM - Compal, to be specific - but they're Dell's primary ODM and make lots of machines AFAIk. Just, usually Dell exerts some influence. Here, it feels like they just said "make it cheap, don't call us until it's done." I want to pull the motherboard to get a couple pictures of it but honestly it's so arrestingly messy inside that I feel like I would almost certainly tear a ribbon.

In short, the Latitude Z600 is not a pleasant machine to own. If you'd handed me one three months ago, I would have wrinkled my nose like I was holding a dead thing, and then done with it what one does with dead things. The only reason I bought this thing - and I very much Went To Ebay, Found One, Made A Deal And Paid To Buy And Ship It, which I don't feel great about - is the feature list.

Let's go over these features. I would like to rank them in order of weirdness but it would be a legal error not to start out with the one that convinced me to buy the thing in the first place: Dell's particular flavor of built-in Linux. It sucks.

Feature 1: Dell Latitude-ON

Z600 displaying the Latitude On boot screen

Like the other machines I've described in past articles, this laptop has two power buttons. One starts Windows like normal; the other boots directly into Latitude-ON. It's to the left, below.

The Latitude-ON power button

I've been calling this a variety of instant-on Linux out of habit, but the goal of instant-on Linux was twofold: to offer a fast booting OS on machines with limited resources, and to offer longer battery life. Both were achieved the same way, by using a Linux distro that could be heavily stripped down and streamlined.

Latitude-ON, as far as I can tell, must only be intended to achieve the latter, cause it sure as shit doesn't do the first one. It's based on an extremely stripped Linux distro called MontaVista that was typically used for set-top boxes and the like, and it has incredibly minimal capabilities, yet it still takes a full minute to boot. I will explain why about a foot below this paragraph.

Empty Latitude-ON desktop, with four icons at top

Latitude-ON offers a web browser and an email / calendar / contact app. That's it. The four icons represent every single thing it's capable of. If you're keeping score, that's less than even Splashtop could deliver.

Latitude-ON's email client showing a bunch of emails and a picture of a kitty

It's also unbelievably slow even after boot: if I open the email app, it takes a solid 20 seconds to open, and 20 seconds to close, and in between, everything takes between 5 and 30 seconds. Opening an email with an image attachment hangs the system for 45 seconds.

Latitude-ON with a partially loaded page from my website

I opened my website, loaded an article with a couple pictures, and it froze the machine. As far as I can tell, it simply ran out of memory, had no swap, and had no way to recover.

They didn't even finish rebranding it. This shouldn't be a criticism, but we all know why it has to be.

The email app is simply Evolution - they didn't bother renaming it to Dell Latitude-ON Browser like every other instant-on Linux. If you hit the system settings icon, you just get the plain old XFCE settings.. This is an incredibly plain distribution; all they really did to customize it was add the little launcher bar up top, make everything run maximized with no borders, and obscure the filesystem - they did enough coding to make sure you can't save pages in the browser, for instance.

After you connect to wifi for the first time, it opens a page with a white background, a mismatched Latitude On logo, and huge serifed font telling you it's waiting for a connection.

There's no obvious reason it does this.

Let me be candid: It looks like shit, feels incredibly barren, and it's unusably slow. Nobody would disagree with this, even in 2011; it has nothing to do with being a fish out of water in the 2020s. I loaded email, a thing that hasn't changed since the 1860s, and it still couldn't handle it.

This machine was sold to executives, who are very stupid people, but even the dumbest Boss wouldn't give this operating mode the time of day. It is garbage. Now: Why?

A Core 2 Duo U9400 is a bad chip, and 2GB is not enough RAM for what this is doing. But it should be able to run this workload like a dream, and instead it runs like it has a Pentium 3 and 64MB under the hood. That's because... it pretty much does.

Shades of Phoenix Hyperspace: Dell offered Latitude-ON in three varieties, Latitude-ON, Latitude-ON Reader, and Latitude-ON Flash.

Reader is simply a dual-boot setup: you install it on a partition alongside Windows, and you can boot into it (theoretically) faster than Windows and run with a lighter battery load. Much like the EFI-based mail reader from HP that I wrote about in my last article, this is just an email / calendar / addressbook app with no online cabilities. It works off an archived copy of your Outlook DB created while you're in Windows, probably via a plugin. There is no web browser.

Flash installs to a dedicated flash module in the machine, like some versions of Asus ExpressGate. Dell optioned these on some Latitude models, and I'd like to get one to see how it performs, but it actually came out much later than the other two options and, as it turns out, is just Splashtop - so it has more features, but. It's just another Splashtop.

The original Latitude-ON, however, is what we have in this system. The way it works is batshit. More batshit, in some senses, than all the other devices I've talked about in this saga.

It's a smartphone that brain-slugs your PC.

I can't make it any more plain than that. Latitude-ON is a Texas Instruments OMAP3430 SoC based on an ARM Cortex-A8 core, 256MB of RAM, and a chunk of flash memory of unknown size, mounted on the Latitude's motherboard. When you press the dedicated power button, that is what powers on. The Core 2 Duo and SSD remain dormant.

The OMAP boots up, and apparently takes over the LCD, touchpad, keyboard, wifi, and sound. How? I have no idea, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are simply wired straight together. Maybe Dell bothered to put 5 different digital switch chips on the board, or maybe they just decided that if both halves can't be turned on simultaneously, there's no need for any of that; errant signals into a powered down chip don't matter, right?

And those are the only parts that work. The wired ethernet is inert. Storage is unavailable. USB ports don't work. Hope you like the trackpad and keyboard, because you can't connect any external peripherals.

Fun footnote about that: About an hour after I got the machine, the trackpad quit working. I discovered there was absolutely no way to use Latitude-ON at that point, and the only reason I was able to write this article is because another hour later, the trackpad started working again. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

You can see why I call this "brain-slugging": the OMAP has attached itself to the motherboard like a parasite, crudely yanking on its nerves to make its muscles jerk and twitch. It's like a forklift-certified Yeerk that crawled into the computer's ear and started driving it around.

It's less Hitchcock than Hyperspace Dual and more Cronenberg: it's not that the machine is going to sleep and waking up as someone else, it's that it absorbed its twin in the womb, and occasionally he takes over their shared body.

Is this a good idea? No. As with every single fucking product that used an SoC other than the iPhone available in 2010, it's not nearly fast enough for what they're doing. That's dumb, because it should be, and presumably during initial tests, it was. The Dell guy who blogged about it when it first came out in 09 made a bunch of claims that seem impossible to accept given what I've experienced:

I don't think ANY of that is remotely true.

Now, I have to be honest: The Z600 wasn't the ONLY machine featuring this. The E4200 and E4300 were supposedly shipping with it before the Z600 came out, and Dell later produced a few other models that got it. So, maybe the other ones, which weren't horribly compromised Executive Ultrabooks, came closer to the breathless accolades listed above - but I don't think so. The few screenshots and videos I've found of Latitude-ON look exactly like what I have, and the blogpost says they used the same SoC, so the perf would be identical. What gives?

Frankly - I have no idea. I got nothing. It really seems like this couldn't have ever not sucked. SoCs in 2010 were born e-waste. OMAPs were used in Blackberries. Without the incredibly optimized code Apple was using on the iPhone, there's no way this could have worked well, and I just don't get what Dell was trying to do here. They claim a 17 hour battery life, but what's the point if it takes you 20 times longer to do everything?

And, of course, as mentioned in the blog post: The browser doesn't support Flash. Whoops. That would have locked you out of half the web in 2010.

I'm baffled by this thing, in no small part because of how uninteresting it is. Yes, it's obscene that they built a whole Feature Phone (smartphone was too generous) into your PC; but beyond that, it works exactly the way you'd expect. In fact, even the infrastructure for interacting with the PC is boring, and they made no attempt to hide how any of it functions.

You can download a Latitude-ON firmware update from Dell's website, extract the installer, and bam: you have a pile of .IPK files, packages for an alternative Linux package manager. The upgrade process simply connects to the SoC, sends these to it, and it extracts them.

It wasn't until I went to write this article that I got to wondering about how exactly the host system talked to the SoC. Well, that's boring too:

A Windows network diagnostics window showing the details of a network interface, IP address, etc.

Note: "" is not real. Blacktop was Dell's codename for this project.

The OMAP and the host system have a pair of USB network adapters connected back to back. The firmware flasher uses an SMBUS command to turn on the SoC, and a NIC appears. The app just connects to it over TCP and dumps IPKs into the socket. It also spawns an socat process that spits out a running tally of /var/log/messages, which is displayed raw in the flasher app:

Latitude-ON firmware app displaying a progress bar, a series of packages to be installed, and a bunch of debug spew from Linux

It's... crass. And it's not terribly exciting. And it isn't very hackable; I'm sure you COULD do it, but they signed all the packages so I don't think it'd be easy, and when you're all done you'd just have an unusably slow piece of shit. There's no point.

In conclusion, the most impressive thing about Latitude-ON - the feature I bought the machine for, because it sounded so hog-wild - is how absolutely dreary and uninteresting it is. You've seen all there is to see. They didn't put much effort into the software, and the hardware was poorly chosen, resulting in a product that business droids would find distasteful and the rest of us - I think I can safely say - just find pathetic. Dell, you should have done better. Shame on you. This could have been so cool.

Christ. Imagine if you could run it concurrently with the main system, headless, and run your own Linux on it. Ugh.

Let's talk about the other, much cooler and dumber shit they did.

Feature 2: EdgeTouch

Z600 with the screen at an angle so you can see that the right bezel has a small inset rectangle near the bottom of the screen

I mentioned that the screen has a relatively enormous bezel. There is a reason for this. See the little inset rectangle in the lower right?

The Windows Vista sidebar is gone, and an inch-wide button bar has appeared in its place with four icons; my thumb is pressing the bezel to the right of the top one

It's a capacitive touch strip. Pressing the rectangle activates EdgeTouch, a customizable quick access bar that pops out of the right side of the screen - displacing Vista's gadget sidebar, I should mention - and offers access to a handful of shortcuts.

I have written before about how computer vendors just cannot figure out how to improve computers, because, well, the computer doesn't matter, right? The OS doesn't even matter. You use it to run programs, and those get all the accolades. This machine existed in order to run Outlook and IE. Those could be running in MacOS or Linux or a void as long as they ran perfectly, and nobody would ever notice anything outside of them. Dell wanted to add hardware features - but where, how?

A "touch strip" is a very interesting idea. But it's not an original one - PC vendors have been offering auxiliary input devices on laptops and keyboards since the mid 90s, but as soon as they try to figure out what to have them DO, they sheepishly set out the same dull shit time after time: Open IE and email, the things you already have open.

In the 90s, vendors sold millions of keyboards with shortcuts to open a browser. Listen - who would ever need that? Try to think of a scenario. There are only two modes for computers: A browser is open, in which case you don't need the shortcut, or it isn't, in which case you can see the desktop, where there's a shortcut.

I am all for hardware buttons! Everything should be instant-access, no menus, no mouse, yada yada - but that's for repeated operations. You turn on your computer, you open your browser and email client, you never close it. Hardware buttons for this make zero sense, but again, the vendors are desparate. They have no other levers to pull. They can't rely on you having any other programs on your computer, and 95% of people never USE any other programs. That's the sad reality: You can't improve a consumer computer. They have been perfect since 1996 for what most people do with them.

The shortcut bar is now a set of media playback icons and a volume slider

The top icon, at least, offers something vaguely novel: Media playback controls, in an era before those were universally available on the F-key row. Okay. That's alright, I guess. More intriguingly, the lower quarter of the bar is a volume slider - you can actually press and slide. That's almost neat except, of course, just like all vendor UI improvements, for god knows what reason, Dell could not get this to work smoothly.

Maybe it's the capacitive strip at fault, but I doubt it. When you drag your thumb, the volume slider randomly jumps up and down and lags behind you. My guess is that on every redraw, they apply the volume adjustment you just made, then check the system volume and sync to it, and that creates a race condition. Sigh.

You can customize the bar. You won't. You'll never use it. The most interesting thing about it is a feature I found buried in the setup program (one of the 16 different setup programs Dell bundles, which all look identical and have incredibly janky UI for no obvious reason): you can set up the touch strip to act as a mouse scrollwheel emulator whenever the bar is not open.

This is one of those things that is, undeniably, clever - but still isn't really anything anyone wants. By 2010, most laptops for the preceding decade (ish) had shipped with scroll areas on the touchpad, and some even had two-finger scroll. Who the hell would want to hover their hand in midair, gingerly grasping the right side of their monitor to scroll through a document? On a tablet it might make sense. Here, it's absurd.

There's a reason this feature never appeared anywhere else.

Feature 3: Wireless Dock

Docks seem like a bygone feature for the most part, and I miss them. USB-C docks are fucking garbage; I won't qualify or discuss this. But it is fair to observe that all docks require a certain amount of... fixed-ness to use, since USB or otherwise, they do involve Wires.

Side by side shot of the front and back of the Dell wireless dock. The front has two USB ports and speaker/microphone jacks; the back, a short antenna, two more USB ports, a smaller mini-USB port labeled SYNCH, a pinhole reset button, and a DVI port

The Z600 offers a wireless dock. As far as I can tell, this was a completely unique feature across the entire market until perhaps last year - Lenovo and HP both have wireless docks now, but both appear to be based on WiGig. I have no idea what they tunnel through that; maybe a proprietary protocol, or maybe there's a standard for this, but either way, I'm certain the Dell is the only machine to ever feature this specific approach: it uses Wireless USB.

I remember reading about WUSB in the 2000s, vaguely, and I was excited at the prospect. It seemed like something I would have some uses for, but it fell off my radar and I never learned anything more about it. As it turns out, WUSB was a proprietary product from WiQuest that did in fact get sold, but nobody cared about it and they went out of business after a couple years.

Apparently Dell got in under the wire however, because the Z600 has what genuinely appears to be wireless USB.

Windows Device Manager showing a Wireless USB Display device

WUSB is also referred to sometimes as UWB or Ultra Wideband. For some reason.

My Z600 did not come with the dock, and I don't just mean when I bought it. I mean it never had it - I learned this when, after buying the dock separately and waiting for it to arrive, I found that it didn't actually work, and shortly thereafter discovered that the bios said "Wireless USB: Not Installed." Sure enough, the spot inside for the UWB card had a single antenna lead tucked carefully away, still enveloped in the factory dust cover.

This led me on a wild goose chase for several hours because, while the UWB card is actually not that hard to find, it is hard to make sure you've found the right thing. It's called the Dell Wireless 420 (nice) but a lot of junk vendors label it a bluetooth card, which is simply false, and Dell sometimes calls it a WPAN card, which is also false.

I bought the card, installed it, and hoooooooly shit does this have a complicated install process. It took, like, 20 minutes, and at least 30 separate windows opened. It installed tons of devices I never even got a good look at, then made me plug in the dock with a USB cable, at which point all the ports on it lit up... but just over the normal USB, not over the wireless. It turns out, if you plug in a USB cable, this thing just behaves as a conventional wired dock, which is actually a nice feature.

Once the install completed however, I unplugged the dock, and everything disappeared, then reappeared again. And it was as simple as that: I was Wireless.

Side by side pic of me holding the Z600, with a monitor visible about 10 feet away in the background. In the first pic, an Explorer window is on the Z600; in the second, it's suddenly on the distant monitor

The dock's DVI port is a DisplayLink device running over USB. The dock also has audio jacks which are also a normal USB sound device, and then a number of USB ports that, again, are just USB. It is simply wireless USB. I waited like 15 years to see it, and it's precisely what it says.

I haven't formally tested this yet, but I was able to get like 6 MB/s throughput off a flash drive, and from 10 feet away I got like 4. It's absolutely strict line of sight; if anything is in your way, it stops working almost instantly. This is irritating, because it results in the DisplayLink driver disconnecting, and Windows HATES this for some reason. Any time you connect or disconnect from the dock, your screen will flicker on and off for about 15 seconds, which is incredibly irritating.

The display is also, unsurprisingly, very slow. Dragging a window around renders at maybe 10 fps, and by default it mirrors the main display, which results in the entire machine only moving at 10fps. Trying to play a video on the wireless display is unusably slow, to no one's surprise. This machine had slow graphics to begin with and wirelessness makes it even slower.

Overall, I feel like if you had a use for a normal pre-USB3 dock, you'd have just as much use for this one. The most unpleasant thing about it is that it always seems to connect if the dock is in range, and I don't think this can be turned off, so if you're in the same room as your dock, every time you open your screen you're going to have to wait for it to bump and jump and pop and finally settle down.

Feature 4: Wireless Charging

I saved what I kinda feel is the weirdest feature for last.

A closeup of the underside of the Z600, with a small plastic cover removed to reveal a spirally wound copper coil

The Z600 has a wireless charger. Or, at least, it could. I'm not sure anyone ever actually ordered it that way, for reasons I'll address.

Mine, in fact, did not come with the charger, not when I bought it, nor from the factory. I had to get it, and the dock, and the laptop, from three different ebay junk merchants. Here's the charging stand.

A metal laptop stand with a curious plastic panel protruding from the middle

Just like the wireless dock, I then found out that the charger required an additional component inside the PC itself, which it did not ship with, and I had to obtain separately.

Closeup of the wireless USB module outside of the machine; a coil of wire inside a ferrite disc, connected by short wires to a printed circuit board with the words WIRELESSCHARGING

The flip side of the unit, showing the PCB covered in huge surface-mounted capacitors

I have no idea why this was on eBay and correctly labeled; by all rights, these should have all been thrown away, except for a couple that got listed under obscure and incorrect part numbers. But I was able to get one for about ten bucks. Unfortunately, there are no instructions on how to install it.

A fun fact about the Z600: Nobody has the manual. Dell never archived it on their site, and everyone else who says they have it only actually has A) the horrible service manual, I mean it's just total garbage, or B) a shitty little quickstart guide with no useful information in it.

There are also no pictures of this module installed and no info about it, because I'm one of six people who has ever owned this thing. So I just had to wing it.

First I had to figure out what these were about. Two dense foam rings occupied the area where I clearly needed to install the charger module. The service manual mentions that these are supports for the keyboard, which makes sense, they fill the void so the flimsy piece of shit doesn't bow when you type on it. But the (awful) guide says nothing about removing them, so I just had to assume they're meant to come out and not go back in. Which means that if you have the wireless charger... the keyboard is supported by the charging coil. This sucks.

I carefully peeled them out and put the charger module where it seemed to go. Put the machine together, set it on the stand... and nothing happened.

The dock is powered off a Dell center-pin charger (just like the laptop, and the wireless dock, which is cute.) I tried three different sizes just in case it was upset about the wattage; no dice. Mind you, that's still a possibility, because Dell are assholes about this and many power supplies of the right wattage still refuse to enable battery charging on their laptops.

But I went ahead and opened the stand up to see if I could make heads or tails of it.

Closeup of the stand with the cover off, showing a PCB, a fan, and a matching inductive charging coil

Not too exciting to look at, I know. The flip side of the board contains miscellaneous power components and a bank of capacitors; who's surprised. The fan doesn't come on, there are no high pitched oscillating noises, no signs of life at all.

There are lots of possible explanations, but something was bugging me: how does the stand know when the laptop is on it? Nowadays we probably use some kind of NFC nonsense to let Qi coils beacon to each other, but in 2010 I was sure the solution was something dumber.

I had noticed that a little neodymium magnet came in a baggie with the coil, along with some little bits of wire-strapping tape. The latter was clearly for holding down the connectors to the motherboard, but the former - no clue. I can't find any obvious place for it, but I wondered if it was meant to go in the laptop in order to signal a hall effect sensor in the stand.

After looking around for that for a bit however, I couldn't find any candidates. And then I noticed something weird. The plastic plate that covers the electronics on the stand has two dimples, presumably for locating the laptop (although they don't match up with anything) and then a third, smaller one in the middle. I wasn't sure what that was about, but when I picked it up to put it back on the stand, I noticed something:

Blurry closeup of the plate showing a reflection of me wearing a godzilla shirt and holding my phone, but you can also see that there's eerie pink light shining through the little square

The little square is an IR window!

Suddenly it made sense: There's an IR sensor in the stand and a matching diode in the laptop - you can see it right above the coil in the first picture. When you set the laptop on the stand, the light on the bottom sends a beacon signal that the stand can detect - hell, maybe it can even tell it "hey, send me less power, I'm charged." That would make sense.

This theory seems ironclad. But there are two problems with it.

Problem #1: How is it going to see the stand through opaque plastic?

The bottom of the Z600; there are no windows.

There are no IR windows on the bottom. Que?

Well, I realized after a bit that this finally explains a question I had from the get go. See that little panel in the middle? That comes off, and on most laptops it would be the RAM door. This machine has soldered RAM; there was nothing under that door when I got the machine. After installing the charger board, the door now gives access to the coil... which is utterly useless. Except. It does expose the IR LED.

My guess is that if you bought this from Dell with the wireless charger option, they included a special door with an IR window. That's the only reason this panel comes off, so it can be swapped without replacing the whole bottom. This theory is balanced somewhat by the fact that I can't find that alternate panel - every single one of these I can find on ebay or google images or anywhere looks the same. This makes me think that nobody bought it with this option. We'll address why in a moment. First:

Problem #2: God Damnit, It Still Doesn't Work.

I felt real clever, managing to get the coil, install it, figure out the mystery of the IR transmitter, and figure out that I needed to remove the bottom panel - and all that amounted to nothing since it still doesn't work. It probably isn't the stand at fault, since I've looked at the LED on the laptop with my phone camera and I see no IR transmission. It doesn't seem to be doing jack shit, despite the setting for wireless charging being on in the BIOS.

So, after all this - buying the stand AND coil separately on ebay and installing everything - it still doesn't work, and I have no idea why. This whole thing was a dry hump, and this is a great opportunity to make it to the finish line of this piece.

Holy Shit It Cost How Much

"Unfortunately, at $3,806 as configured ($1,799 starting price) this notebook doesn't come cheap and its endurance is lacking. Does this luxury business laptop's strengths outweigh the drawbacks?"

Christ Almighty.

The base machine is a chintzy, underwhelming piece of shit. The fact that anyone, anywhere bought one for eighteen hundred dollars is staggering.

Hypothesis: They didn't, and every single one on the used market was a review model.

But if that's the case, then why don't any of them have the bottom panel for the wireless charger? You'd think the review models would all be fully loaded - and you'd hope they'd be the only ones, because paying

Nearly four thousand FUCKING dollars,

is a STAGGERING decision. This laptop sucks. These accessories cost way too much. Dell could have added all these features to an E-series and made a really compelling machine, but the Z600 (the only Latitude Z I'm aware of; it was supposed to be a series, but are we surprised it wasn't) became their graveyard instead: a handful of interesting first tries that could have gone somewhere if they hadn't been condemned to live out their lives inside The Most Disappointing Computer Of 2010.

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