DELL Latitude CP M CPi D
Best retro purpose
Early Windows 98 era gaming released before 1998 or as office computer. Despite the laptop's somewhat nice look and good compatibility, it there are many flaws that make it a less than ideal candidate for retrocomputing. The CPU and Nwomagic chipsets are very well performing for DOS and early Windows DirectDraw games and it is quite well performing at 640x480 resolutions. The system remains silent for Pentium I CPUs and some slower Pentium II models, but there is no 3D hardware acceleration capability whatsoever. The screen size is a mixed feature as lower resolutions are actually better due to a large enough display rather than a small boxy look on 13 inch one.
Durability and Repair-ability
The mediocre plastic quality of most of the chassis means that cracks of internal plastic screw stands as well as entire cracks of the display's casing and bottom parts are extremely common, making disassembly and assembly operations quite difficult, with screws that are difficult to remove or tighten. Access to the hard-drive is convenient, requiring a single screw removal. Optical drives and floppy drives can be easily interchanged, if needed. Another advantage is that the laptop has two RAM slots, giving plenty configuration options.
Another major plus for these models is that the TFT LCDs lamp is mounted horizontally and relatively easy to replace due to a simple mounting system that does not require only partial screen disassembly. The case's fragility is, however, a real issue with drops likely to be fatal to integrity despite the laptop's look and finish of plastic components that suggest durability. Another coomon failure point is due to internally leaking NimH batteries or the poor LVDS cable connectors that leave glitches or even cease to operate, especially on the more modern CPi models.
Greatest features & flaws
|Good Windows 98/95 3.1 2D Gaming platform||No 3D hardware acceleration|
|Good MS-DOS SoundBlaster compatibility||Speakers can be easily covered with dirt or damaged|
|Good Video chipset and RAM expansion capabilities||Fragile, laptop upper case and display bezels, prone to many cracks|
|Good cooling, low CPU heat dissipation||Mediocre keyboard, trackpad, screen|
A midrange, quite slim, business laptop, released in 1998. It had an average mix of parts. Perhaps the single biggest issue is that the whole Dell CP and CPi range is very complex and difficult to understand. Differences between CP and CPi models is minimal in terms of aesthetics while most configuration options are difficult to spot. The major performance jumps are shown in the CPi lineup that has a Pentium II CPU model with major performance improvements, although the Pentium I option is still decent. The graphics chipset is quite fast, actually the best among Pentium I laptops, with good Windows acceleration and compatibility. Another rare feature is the presence of USB ports on a Pentium I era laptop, which is very nice and useful.
However, the typical mix of features of these laptop models mean that it also was obsolete by late 1998, just as most of the mid and high end IBM laptops, due to a lack of 3D acceleration. Windows 98 SE is a typical choice, especially if you have at least 32MB of RAM available. The Neomagic graphics is the top performer on 2D graphics both for compatibility as far back as Windows 3.1 and DOS as well as competitive with Chips&Technology or S3 Trio 64 videocards.
The LCD TFT screen is somewhat alright but far from being the best in terms of contrast and colour reproduction. However, the screen's brightness can be quite pleasantly set using keyboard shortcuts, as the laptop has somewhat more levels to choose from. As usual, DSTN or passive matrix screens should be definitely avoided due to their poor contrast, response, colour reproduction and brightness levels, no matter how lightly they were used.
The keyboard is not as pleasant to use as some IBM models, feeling somewhat light on keypresses. The palmrest is comfortable although the trackpad is somewhat bad in terms of sensitivity and response, being quite dependent on ambient humidity, as is also mentioned in the operating manual. The choice of a trackpoint system would have been much better. Also, due to the laptop's design, the lower area near the mid part of the laptop's case, between bays, is a common failure point due to the simple screw mounting point with no additional stiffening brackets.
The removable drive tray is a nice feature, offering both CD-ROM and Floppy drive support, which was a staple of period DELL laptops . The rechargeable battery has an unique self test feature that also shows the charging level by a simple button press. The BIOS and suspend battery uses a set of non-standard NiMh cells that can be quite messy if worn enough.
The lid closing latch is quite badly designed as it compounds the issue with cracks midway on the palmrest and cases's edge. The display's case is quite flimsy although the frame itself is reasonably well engineered. The integrated speakers are somewhat poor despite their positioning and size, being quite prone to failures due to water ingress.
The standard HDDs are quite competent in terms of size and performance, being well accustomed to the rest of the laptop's configuration.
Software support is great for reasonably modern (for its time) operating systems. Due to the video chipset, Windows 98 is the best operating system choice. Good DOS sound support is present due to the CrystalWare audio chipset that is Sound Blaster compatible, offering good MIDI and software support in MS-DOS.