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Building Dell’s first 5G laptop: a Q&A with Dell

Latitude 9510
(Image credit: Dell)

Having a SIM card slot on your laptop can enable you to work from anywhere without having to pull out your phone and turn on your smartphone’s hotspot. Up until recently, laptops that did feature a SIM card slot, could only connect to 4G networks. However, as 5G modems have become readily available, Dell and other PC makers have begun thinking about how to incorporate them into their business laptops.

Dell’s first 5G laptop is the Latitude 9510 5G and TechRadar Pro spoke with VP of Latitude and Mobility Products at Dell Technologies Meghana Patwardhan as well as the company’s Director of Mobile Alliances and Cellular Devices Jon Howland-Nielsen to learn more about how 5G was incorporated into the device’s design and which users could benefit the most from having a 5G laptop.

Bearing in mind that the Latitude 9510 5G was designed pre-COVID and that since then the world has changed significantly with the usual use cases put forward by 5G proponents shelved, so what's the rationale nowadays behind owning a 5G laptop vs using your 5G smartphone as a hotspot (or even going for a 4G laptop)?

It’s important to see the bigger picture and understand how companies that begin making small investments in their 5G future will pay off big as 5G hits its stride. This is a commercial device and with many businesses on a 3+ year PC cycle, we expect that a device they buy an employee today may well be used until at least 2023, when we can expect 5G to be much more of a reality. 

We’re all using our PCs more than ever before, whether it’s for work or play, and there are simply some tasks that I need to do for work that I need to do on a laptop. 2020 has been the year of the video call and with the extension of work from home policies we will see this trend continue to grow and evolve. There is nothing more frustrating than a frozen screen or a dropped video call during our already stressful workdays. 5G will deliver the bandwidth, capacity and latency required for video calls to truly deliver as close to an ‘in person’ type meeting experience as possible. 5G will also play a key role in the flexibility to work from anywhere. It allows for higher capacity which enables more diverse simultaneous connected devices and applications on the network. 

When an employee does work from the office, they will not have to connect directly to the network but instead can connect to their best connection, either 5G or Wi-Fi, and work fluidly no matter where they are. 5G will offer mobile executives and professionals more reliability and security over Wi-Fi hotspots. We are ensuring that when 5G does become more readily available, the Latitude 9510 will support your working needs 24/7. 

5G

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

5G coverage, at least in the UK, is very patchy. Doesn't that play against a 5G laptop and how is that being improved?

We are seeing companies looking to invest for the future when purchasing a 5G device: three yearly cycles mean devices will be perfectly poised to use what 5G coverage there is today and for when wider coverage hits in the future. Over the next five years, we will start to see pockets of 5G activity in specific cities across the UK that will have more capabilities. To the consumer, it will feel like we’re experiencing faster broadband; however, industries will feel the benefit by building in conjunction with the Telco provider.  Even today our partners such as Swisscom have 90% coverage and can showcase the virtues of 5G to their B2B customer base. Where 5G isn’t available, 4G+ networks will be able to deliver capable network speeds and the 9510 is able to take advantage of that too.

Businesses are excited by the 5G technology and last month a digital transformation, energy management and automation company Schneider Electric and global telecoms operator, Orange announced the first deployment of indoor 5G in the industrial sector in France as part of a trial. In order to maximise use of the indoor 5G antennas, the Orange team built on its co-innovation ecosystem and will be leveraging the Latitude 9510 5G to deliver results.

Thanks to its low latency, very high throughput and – over time – network slicing, 5G will be a competitive lever for companies, as it will bring noticeable improvement in industrial processes and working methods, especially through mixed reality. In the Industrial sector, 5G will help synchronise in real time large amounts of data, which are key to boost performance, facilitate remote working, and ensure optimal production efficiencies.

Is the 5G technology deployed in the 9510 universally compatible with the numerous 5G connectivity options available? 

In short, yes - the device is a sub 6Ghz, which is the most common of the 5G bands used by operators. It can sit side by side to the LTE network they run today. 

Mobile (4G/5G) devices are increasingly being used more and more at home during the pandemic. When families are vying for home Wi-Fi bandwidth, whether that be for home schooling or multiple work from home users, 4G/5G devices can bypass that to have solid internet connection as an alternative to Wi-Fi. Multiple carriers show new devices (in the thousands) are being used on a regular basis which are not already on the network nor are they iOS or Android devices.

Latitude 9510

(Image credit: Dell Technologies)

Why did Dell opt to add 5G to a 15-inch laptop rather than smaller, lighter models?

The Latitude 9510 is the first device in our new ultra-premium 9000 series. By design, this means that it is designed for the executive or mobile professional who needs the very best in style, power, connectivity and portability. The 15-inch screen in a 14-inch body makes this device portable, but also gives you the benefit of a huge display with narrow borders so you can see more and do more. Even though the device has a 15-inch screen, it does not mean that this device is not light. In fact, the Latitude 9510 is only 1.5kg, with up to 34 hours of battery life and a variety of ports and powerful speakerphones/microphones to enhance your home conferencing experience.

It really has everything you could need to fully support continued remote working. The use case for this device us clear and 5G was a key element for that. We’re excited to start our journey in bringing 5G-ready capabilities to our Latitude portfolio and are looking forward to the gradual shift to see the industry level up as more services and operators move into the Telco space.