My experience with Dell’s Latitude series has always been with their E series of laptop models; rather plain looking laptops aimed at businesses with the concept of “no fuss and excellent support” that the other big players such as HP and Lenovo will do.
So, it came as a small surprise to me when I unboxed the new Latitude to find a sleek all-metal machine with thin bezels rather than a plainer looking laptop with a predominantly plastic chassis. Apparently, I missed the memo about the new design.
Now, the Dell Latitude stands within its contemporaries as the business-oriented companion series to their XPS series line-up designed in a stylish Ultrabook form factor. Does the new Dell Latitude series continue the good track record of their XPS counterparts? Let’s check it out.
What is the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1?
Dell refreshed their line up of Latitude laptops a couple of months back with Intel’s 8th generation Whisky lake CPUs that features more business-oriented hardware security support from Intel’s vPro series of chips.
The configuration we received was the top spec that has this Ultrabook sporting a i7-8665U along with 16Gb of memory and a 512Gb SSD. This config comes in at a rather hefty price tag of around $6,547 undiscounted but that’s par for course as far as other premium competitors are concerned (they’re all expensive!).
Since the specifications are very similar to the Surface Laptop 2 that I’ve reviewed last April, expect a bunch of comparisons to crop up in this review.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Our laptop came in a rather discreet looking package that features nothing but the Dell logo in front of the box. I suspect that this isn’t the retail packaging of the device as most premium laptops will come in something more substantial looking. If not, consider this is a reminder to Dell that a good presentation is also part of the user experience which I think Microsoft’s Surface laptop nailed on that front.
Inside, the device is neatly wrapped and the laptop still sits securely within so there is no compromise on that.
As always, this is just an observation on my part and has no bearing on the quality of the laptop itself.
Going over the chassis, the body is likely made of a machined aluminum alloy much like its elder brother, the XPS series. The top of the lid comes with a brushed metal finish with a glossy/reflective Dell logo at the top. The protruding hinge design is definitely eye-catching and probably the only design feature that makes it stand out from the crowd.
All in all, there isn’t really much accents to speak of except for except for some choice rounded slots for the ventilation grills. Basically, if you like the aesthetic of the XPS series or any Apple-like laptops, you’ll feel right at home with this.
The lid can be opened with one hand with ease and the groove to flip the lid open is also quite significant making it all the more accessible. The body does tilt slightly forward when doing this indicating a slightly imbalanced weight distribution.
The hinge here is surprisingly sturdy for a laptop that can be turned into a tablet in a pinch; lifting the base of the laptop and shifting it around doesn’t cause the screen to move at all which would be perfectly fine for most. A slightly more exaggerated scenario of lifting the laptop and shaking it up and down does eventually cause the screen to go 180 due to the intended design of the hinge; though I’d say this is not a practical scenario that most people would experience.
Screen flex here is also kept at a minimum due to the metal construction of the chassis and I didn’t notice any color shift while doing so.
Much like the XPS display, the bezels here are also pretty thin and fits right in there with the clean aesthetic that most premium laptops are going for these days.
One thing I would like to note here is the return of the pinhole-sized webcam that is first seen in Dell’s XPS 7590. This is a great quality of life improvement for most users and I’m sure business users in particular will appreciate the webcam being in a “standard” position rather than the chin camera from some years back.
At 1.35Kg, this Ultrabook sits at your typical range and doesn’t break any records comparatively speaking. Coupled with the ~200g charger, you’re still looking at a very mobile setup that will be perfect for business users.
Like most Ultrabooks these days, USB-C charging is the standard fanfare on this laptop so you could opt to take a beefy power bank if you want to have even more mobility.
Being a 10keyless keyboard on a 14” device, Dell had plenty of space to work with… perhaps a little too much space. I found the spacing on the keys a bit awkward initially as the spacing is definitely larger than what I am used to.
The same goes for the arrow keys; I found the half height keys to be easy to miss and I often found myself hitting the space between the arrow keys due to muscle memory.
The keyboard comes with a white back-light that has the usual 3-step lighting for visibility and is adequate enough for one to see the keys in the dark.
On the tactility front, the actuation force is surprisingly high and feels sturdy like what you would get from a bigger chassis; Typing on it feels nice and weighty though material wise, the keys on the Surface Laptop 2 are more pleasant to touch. Key travel is decent for the laptop class with a good bit of bump from actuation to let you know that you’ve pressed the key.
I can definitely see a good typing experience for this laptop – once you get used to the key spacing, that is.
On our typeracer test, I found myself to be, if it wasn’t obvious from the previous paragraph already, missing the mark on my own average WPM figures. Still, it shouldn’t take long for anyone to adjust to and “about 10% slower than average” is still fine given the time I’ve had with the laptop.
While the keyboard can be a give or take, what about the trackpad?
It is actually of excellent quality and definitely something that stands as a highlight of mine from a usability standpoint. Tracking is smooth, responsive and most importantly, feels nice to the touch even when doing repeated gestures. I don’t find myself needing to push my fingers too hard to do any gestures nor have them slip off the trackpad due to the resistance of the texture.
Dell, like many others, have opted for the Apple-like single trackpad design that has no distinct grooves to separate individual left or right clicks. Instead, about 75% of the trackpad can be used to initiate a left or right click which is ample enough for intuitive use.
Despite using the laptop for about 2 hours, I wasn’t able to notice any fingerprint oils on the trackpad which is an excellent showing. Whatever material Dell is using is definitely oil-resistant to some extent.
Pen Tablet mode
Because this is a 2-in-1 device, we of course have to talk about using this laptop in tablet mode.
A neat thing I would like to mention beforehand is that you are able to stick the pen stylus to either side of the laptop which will come in handy for those who tend to misplace these pens.
Since the pen itself is an active touch pen, a AAA battery is required to power it. Dell definitely missed an opportunity here to make a rechargeable device with an integrated battery (perhaps with wireless charging built into the side of the laptop?) to save users the hassle of swapping out the battery every once in a while.
The Dell active pen stylus would be no stranger for those who have used a Wacom stylus before. Although I have to say, it does look a bit more premium with a rubberized exterior and a small light- up power LED.
Using the pen will take some getting used to however, as the pen is slightly weighted at the top due to the weight of the battery. I had no problems adjusting to it after using it for about 30 minutes but as usual, your experience may vary.
Through some minor testing with the default drivers that Dell has provided, I find the overall experience with the pen to be pretty good. It’s responsive and writes with about the same pressure as you would on a whiteboard though the palm rejection component (and my handwriting) could use some improvement. The point would at times spaz out when I tried to adjust my fingers to get a better grip on the pen or fail to recognize that my palm is not a hand gesture.
Perhaps an optional toggle with a slight 0.5 second delay between switching from pen input to hand input would facilitate better ergonomic use.
Wi-Fi, Connectivity & Storage
Over at our regularly-scheduled Wi-fi test where we test our steam downloads over a 5Ghz network, the AC 9560 like we’ve seen in many other laptops already, scores particularly well today. It achieved a very good average of 27MB/s with peaks that are just a tad lower than the highest recorded for this particular chipset. Very impressive result.
Connectivity is about what you would except for this class of laptop. Meager but enough to get by without using a dock in most situations.
Below are the ports for this device:
- 1x Audio jack
- 1x microSD card reader
- 1x microSIM card slot
- 2x USB 3.1 Gen1 slot
- 2x Thunderbolt 3 slot
- 1x SC card reader
- 1x noble lock
What is interesting to note here is the added functionality of a microSIM card slot and a Smart Card reader; Dell definitely geared it towards the business crowd as these ports are very uncommon on consumer laptops. I can especially appreciate the microSIM card slot as that will come in handy when wireless connectivity is limited.
Once again, even a microSD card slot is welcome to see on an Ultrabook laptop for media work/consumption.
With the thunderbolt 3 slots, connecting to an external graphics amplifier is definitely a possibility for those who would want to use this as a daily driver for gaming back at home.
On the storage front, this laptop only has a single M.2 SSD card slot which is unfortunate but understandable given the size. It achieves typical read and write speeds with slightly above average sequential read and write speeds.
Though at the price of the configuration, I would expect a larger capacity to be provided at this level; 1 or 2 Tb at least. Thankfully, dell has still retained the ability for the user to easily swap out the drive (more on that later) if you so choose.
Pricing, Specs and Comparison
As I mentioned briefly in the beginning, local pricing is the definite sore spot of the device. At around $6,500 SGD, it costs nearly twice as much as its competitors and even its own line of XPS 2-in-1s which is a very premium price to pay for the additional security/accessibility features.
Since the pricing for other laptops do not come with the active touch pen, I’ve included the price of the pen for a better comparison
Here is some of the typical laptops in this range:
|Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1||Microsoft Surface Laptop 13.5” 3 (with pen)||Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (with pen)||Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (with pen & keyboard)||Lenovo Yoga X1 Gen4 (with pen)|
|Display||1080p IPS||1504p||1080p IPS||1824p||1080p IPS|
|Storage||512Gb SSD||512Gb SSD||512 Gb SSD||512 Gb SSD||512Gb SSD|
Practically speaking, for me, there is no reason to choose this over the similarly spec’d XPS 2-in-1 and I’m sure typical consumers will agree with me. That said, I’d take machines like these as a laptop meant for B2B transactions with the option for the general public to buy if the international pricing was at this level as well (Currently $2,449 USD on Dell’s own website, which is much more palatable).
Performance, Cooling & Synthetic Benchmarks
In our Cinebench R20 render test, we see that Dell has given more headroom for the Intel i7-8665U to breathe though it did come at a more aggressive fan curve. It managed to maintain an all-core clock speed of 2.9Ghz for 15 seconds before throttling down to 2.4Ghz for the remaining duration of the render; a good 300Mhz increase from the Surface Laptop 2.
The fan noise here isn’t too loud even under the stress test and doesn’t exhibit any high-pitched fan whine though it did hit a maximum thermal of 94 degree Celsius for the duration.
Most of the heat is also directed towards the sides and the bottom so it is not recommended to do a high workload test with the laptop sitting on your lap. The typing area remains unscathed so using the laptop while its under stress shouldn’t be a problem at all.
What would our review be without some gaming benchmarks? – even on things that are clearly not suited for it. Like our Surface Book 2 review, we’ll be going through a gauntlet of indie and more intensive 3D titles (though still meagre) that I think this laptop can handle.
Likewise, as you should know by now, we’ll be running on settings that should at least give us playable framerates of 30fps or higher.
By the virtue of better cooling, we do see some slight upticks in performance when compared directly with the Surface laptop 2. This is inherently the case when looking at games limited mainly by CPU rather than GPU; we received a good uptick in performance in games like Prison Architect while less demanding games in this section continues to give us the flatline maximum of that particular title.
An anomaly we see here is in in Project Zomboid where performance was worse in comparison though both settings used were the same. Though due to the semi-randomized nature of the game, I’d chalk it up to a difference in game state rather than a deficit in performance which would be a plausible explanation for this.
The more intensive 3D titles however, we see much of the same. Despite better cooling performance on the Latitude giving it slightly more headroom, the GPU remains the same in both laptops. Hence, we see almost the same result on both devices with averages that are within the margin of error.
While Intel’s drivers are unable to give us any information on frame time, I found playing CS: GO to be perceptively smoother than the Surface Laptop 2 despite the mere 7 fps difference on the same setting and map (DE_Dust2, of course).
Display & Sound
The Sharp panel (Model: SHP14A2) exhibits good contrast and sharpness akin to what you would find on an XPS laptop. Viewing angles are good with no noticeable hue shift or bleeding when viewing from extreme angles. Though I would say that it does come a bit oversaturated out of the box so some tweaking is required if you require better accuracy.
A quick look at the online specifications tell us that it has good color accuracy with 100% sRGB and about 60% AdobeRGB coverage though we are still unable to test this. This is good enough for most media work and given the included microSD card slot, would be able to do so in a pinch.
On a typical indoor usage scenario, the display isn’t too bright and users will need to turn it up to 40 or 50 percent brightness in order to see comfortably. The display itself has a very glossy coating that makes it a bit difficult to see under daylight in a shaded area even with 100% brightness.
Audio is a peculiar thing. I’ve reviewed a few laptops now and it seems that you can except the laptop to produce a certain range of quality depending on the size of the chassis; though some are exceptions. Sometimes, you just find a certain sound signature that you just “like” for some reason which may not be the case empirically. This is one of those machines for me.
While the Dell Alienware is the best in terms of absolute quality from what I’ve heard so far, this latitude is definitely up there in terms of a clean presentation.
At 100% volume on a table, I heard no noticeable distortion with the music although it did get uncomfortably loud at this volume. It will definitely fill an office or room such as for presentations with the target demographic.
Listening to I Miss You by Blink 182 that features a prominent drum base and guitar mid tone as the riff in the beginning, there is still a lack of separation between the two which is common for small speakers like these. The base is adequate throughout the instrumental though there is nothing spectacular about the punchiness which is also typical.
The vocals however, is up there with the best I’ve reviewed regardless of the size; it’s clean, crisp and detailed without any color towards the base nor the highs. I don’t think anyone would be unsatisfied with the finesse of the audio here; it’s very pleasant, especially for a laptop.
Comparatively speaking, the Latitude definitely edges out the Surface Laptop 2 I’ve reviewed last year, if only by a little. The highs are more toned and nuanced in the Latitude and I find it to have a touch more clarity in the vocal pronunciation. The base is a tad bit better perhaps due to the lack of insulating material although both lack the distinctiveness of separating the base and mid tones.
Battery life is truly exceptional in this laptop. Despite the middle of the line 52 Wh battery in this, battery life is fantastic. On our YouTube loop where we play a video at 50% brightness, the laptop manages to pull an impressive 6 hours 20 minutes from a full charge; a much longer result than I expected.
This typically translates to more than a work day of constant usage which is excellent, especially for business types that requires them to travel frequently. This result can only be improved with some tweaks from TrottleStop so the savvier users might be able to squeeze even longer hours off a single charge.
The charger charges at a typical rate from our testing and takes about 1h 30mins to charge.
I always appreciate it when larger companies empower consumer choice by giving people options on how they want to customize their product. Dell did this with the option of having a larger battery in place of the HDD bay in their G series laptops and it looks like its no different here; this Ultrabook can be opened!
The cover is secured by your regular Philips screws (none of that proprietary anti-tamper screw BS) and can be popped opened quite easily once all 10 screws are removed from the base.
It is still nice to know that the option to replace the SSD or memory with a larger one is still there and you don’t necessarily have to pay the additional mark up unless you want a better processor.
The Dell Latitude is certainly a neat little machine in my opinion but the price definitely needs an adjustment when it comes to the retail price in Singapore. Even against it’s own line up within Dell, a similarly spec’d XPS 2-in-1 is going to cost about half that.
Given that, I can’t recommend this laptop simply due to price alone. If price is none of your concern, consider this if you want a laptop that delivers the familiar XPS experience albeit with the added security and usability benefits of a business-class laptop.
Great Ultrabook that is comparable to the Surface Laptop 2 with more flexibility in memory and storage upgrades. Local pricing is a concern and I hope that Dell would reconsider their pricing for these otherwise commendable laptops.
|The good||The bad|
|-XPS-like experience and design||-Price|
|-Great audio relative to the size||-Keyboard spacing|
|-Battery life||-Did I mention price?|
|-uSD card slot|