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Tech Product Review – Olivetti Lettera DL

12 Mar
The Olivetti Lettera DL

The Olivetti Lettera DL

We were quite excited to get an opportunity to spin the wheels of this new product by Olivetti. We’d rather not say exactly how we got hold of this device, but – wow! Are we ever glad we did!

When we first opened it up (I love the smell of bubble wrap!) we were, admittedly, puzzled. What on earth was this thing? By the end of our trial, we had figured it out. Olivetti’s Lettera DL will be as world-changing as GMail, the iPad or the Kinect.

From time to time, a technology company brings out a product that redefines the way we think. Apple’s iPad straddled the boundary between phone and laptop, and made the tablet PC not just a raging success, but a “must-have” productivity tool. Google flipped our thinking upside-down with Chrome’s “The Browser is the OS”. Never – that we can think of – does a new consumer IT product transform two paradigms simultaneously. Never, that is, until the Olivetti Lettera DL.

The Olivetti Lettera DL, at 6.23 kg, is heavier than a typical laptop, but much lighter than a Desktop PC. It’s not a portable device, but being completely self-contained within its 29cm x 32cm frame, it will save huge amounts of desk space when deployed across a large office. What the iPad did for phone and laptop, the Olivetti Lettera DL does for laptop and PC. It straddles the divide, redefining both.

When we started up our DL, we discovered that it didn’t just combine the firmness and solidity of a Desktop PC with the small size of a laptop. It also follows Chrome’s “… is the OS” philosophy, extending it into the realm of workplace productivity software. In the whole time we played with the DL, the OS remained hidden – it’s almost as if there wasn’t one! This is even better than what Chrome accomplishes. Olivetti’s software development team must have pinned the slogan “The Word Processor is the OS” on every wall of their workplace, and lived and breathed it. Not once were we distracted from our word processing by irritating intrusions from the operating system. We were never prompted to install this or that, or upgrade anything at all. No reboot needed at any time.

Striking features of Olivetti’s Game-Changing Lettera DL

The keyboard

Using the Olivetti Lettera DL is an interesting experience. The machine itself is silent. No sound of any exhaust fan. This surprised us, until we measured the battery life – see below. However, the programmers have ensured that every keystroke produces an excitingly retro Clack. We thought this was really cool, though we couldn’t find any way to change the default sound or mute it. The DL’s keyboard feels disturbingly heavy and unresponsive. You have to press quite hard to get it to respond at times. We figure this would seriously eat away at productivity. Considering the DL’s hybrid laptop/desktop nature means workplaces are the obvious target market, it’s surprising that Olivetti didn’t put more effort into making the keyboard experience smooth as silk. Our rating : 3 out of 10.

The display

The display – ah, the display! The Olivetti Lettera DL’s display is such a dream come true that the mis-engineered keyboard is completely forgotten – and completely unforgiveable. The flexible – yes, flexible display is every e-paper hope fulfilled. One of our staff discovered – quite by accident – that the screen can be detached from the main body of the DL. Phenomenally thin and light, the detached screen retained its image with no degradation even after a weekend separated from the main device. It’s also ridiculously thin and light. And I mean ridiculously! Compared with it, the Amazon Kindle is a 3 tonne concrete paver. Trust me, once you’ve tasted display technology like the Olivetti Lettera DL’s, you’ll never want anything else. Our rating : 11 out of 10.

Could Olivetti Be The Next Apple?

Could Olivetti Be The Next Apple?

Power consumption

I mentioned earlier that when we first started using the unit, we missed the old familiar exhaust fan hum. The Olivetti Lettera DL generates almost no heat, and consumes almost no electrical power. It didn’t need recharging even once the whole time we had it. I know that’s hard to believe. Olivetti has clearly spared no expense in sourcing the most advanced battery technology on the planet. Our rating : 10 out of 10.

In Summary

Olivetti has produced a machine which is simply beyond comparison with any other consumer electronics device on the market. It redefines not just one, but two paradigms, and has display and battery technology beyond anything we’ve seen before. We were unable to discover for how much Olivetti plans to retail the Lettera DL. Most places we called seemed to not have heard of the device. Could this be the IT world’s best-kept secret? It’s puzzling that, with such a revolutionary device, Olivetti hasn’t spread the news more widely. They are clearly keeping their even closer to their chest than Apple does. There’s still no hint about Olivetti’s marketing strategy, but with a device a fantastic as the Lettera DL, they probably won’t need one.

 

 
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  1. Neil Gerace

    March 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Sounds like the next big thing. I especially like the open-source architecture too. I can’t wait for your review of the Underwood Standard Black.