Dell really wants to make video calls easier. Like many tech vendors enamored with tackling the obstacles associated with remote and hybrid working, the company has been playing with different ways to simplify web calls: from a 4K monitor with a built-in 4K webcam to a magnetic wireless webcam concept that can dock in the middle of a monitor or elsewhere. Dell’s latest foray sees it increasing what you can do with the touchpad, à la Asus’ ScreenPad and NumberPad features.
The Dell Latitude 9330 announced Tuesday has a glass touchpad that offers one-touch access to Zoom’s microphone mute, video on/off, screen share, and chat options.
Asus has long been offering enhanced input control via laptop touchpads. Its latest ScreenPad technology turns the touchpad into a 2160×1080-resolution LCD touchscreen with the ability to launch different apps, app-specific menus, and apps made specifically for the tiny screen. The ScreenPad is also much more colorful.
Meanwhile, Asus’ NumberPad (currently at version 2.0) turns supporting touchpads into a light-up numpad.
The Latitude 9330 sees Dell dipping its toes into advanced touchpad input, offering just four controls for Zoom calls on the touchpad of its business-focused Latitude. The features only work with Zoom, but a Dell spokesperson told Ars Technica this could change based on user feedback and needs.
Dell also explained how the touchpad works:
“When joining a Zoom conference call, the laptop connects to the Zoom application and talks to the different controls within Zoom to enable/disable mic, share screen, video on/off, and chat window,” the Dell rep told Ars.
“The touchpad is already a touch-enabled surface, so we cornered off a section of the touchpad to turn into buttons. When entering a meeting, the video and mute buttons will turn off by default (the default collaboration touchpad behavior depends on the mic and camera defaults set by the user in Zoom application settings), showing up red on the touchpad. And the chat and share screen buttons will be white. Once you tap the ‘video on’ or ‘mute off’ buttons, they will turn white.”
Further focus on video calls is seen in the laptop’s 1080p resolution webcam with an “electro-mechanical camera shutter,” according to materials shared with the press, that automatically opens and closes when a video call starts and ends. The laptop also has four microphones and AI-based background noise cancellation.
Dell’s newest Latitude also has additional AI-based features increasingly found in laptop releases of late. For example, the webcam can tell if you’re no longer looking at the screen or if someone is peering over your shoulder, so the laptop can dim the screen for privacy and to conserve battery life.
Also impressive is Dell updating the Latitude’s reputation as chunky, boring office laptops. Besides incorporating a unique touchpad, Latitude 9330 is the thinnest Latitude, measuring 0.55-inches thick. The two-in-one laptop introduces the 13-inch design to the Latitude 9000-series with a tall, 16:10 13.3-inch touchscreen featuring 2560×1600 pixels and up to 500 nits of brightness.
Like the Latitude and Precision laptops Dell announced last month, the Latitude 9330 can use simultaneous Wi-Fi and wired connections.
Dell will sell the thin Latitude with up to an Intel 12th Gen Core i7 CPU with vPro support, 32GB of LPDDR5-5200 RAM, and 1TB of PCIe 4.0 x4 storage. Port selection is limited to three USB-C ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5mm jack, and an optional SIM card tray.
Dell hasn’t shared pricing for the Latitude 9330 but will release the two-in-one in June.