Dell Latitude 3440

The Dell Latitude 3440 is one of few budget laptops to feature Intel's new Haswell processors and, despite its factory-fresh technology, the Dell Latitude 3440 is distinctly affordable at £514.

The chip of choice here is the Core i5-4200U. It's a low-power, dual-core part with Hyper-Threading, clocked at 1.6GHz. Its Turbo Boost top speed of 2.6GHz is a larger leap forward than Ivy Bridge chips can manage, and it also benefits from the improved Haswell architecture. It's a step forward in most departments, then, and it also manages to be more frugal – its 15W total power draw is 2W lower than Ivy Bridge equivalents.

Haswell doesn't make a huge leap in application performance, and the Dell's PCMark 7 benchmark result of 2699 points is the third-best in this group – it's unable to catch up to the Toshiba, which has a significantly more powerful Haswell processor, and the Asus X75VC, which has a full-fat Ivy Bridge mobile part. That said, the Dell was never sluggish when handling work tasks and web browsing – the most common activities for laptops.

Intel's new chips make up ground in games though. The HD Graphics 4400 core inside the Dell is a half-way house between the HD Graphics 4600 core inside faster Haswell chips and the HD Graphics 4000 chipset found in Ivy Bridge: the same number of stream processors as HD Graphics 4600, and more than HD Graphics 4000, but clocked at a slower speed than the HD Graphics 4600 core.

There's a third area where Haswell makes a jump forward, and that's battery life. The new architecture is much more efficient, and the Latitude lasted for 5 hours 50 minutes in our battery benchmark. That's the best result in this group by a significant margin.

Elsewhere, the Dell provides what we'd expect from this level of machine: 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard disk, and a DVD writer. The hard disk returned a good sequential read pace of 101MB/sec, and the Latitude's 40.6s boot time is the best in this group. It's also the only system here to use Windows 7, although the choice of OS can be changed at the checkout.

The Latitude has  a 14in panel, and the 1,366 x 768 screen used here isn't a touchscreen – but it does have a matte finish, so it's easier to see under bright lights. Quality is middling: the brightness and contrast figures of 201cd/m2 and 291:1 do little to stand out, and the Delta E of 7.9 means the Dell has the poorest colour accuracy of any system here. The Latitude's screen is fine for web browsing or working, but it lags behind when it comes to image work, where sharpness and colour accuracy are paramount.

The Dell's exterior isn't fussy, but it's consistently impressive. We like the brushed metal wrist-rest and lid, which both look classy, and we've no issues with build quality: the Latitude might be one of the smallest laptops here, but it's the strongest. Its 25mm thickness is decent, and it weighs 2kg..

The Scrabble-style keyboard is the best in this group: the large keys have good travel, and there's a solid base. It makes for the most consistent and satisfying typing action in this group, and it's partnered with a solid trackpad: the surface is smooth and responsive, and the buttons are both good. The only downside is the lack of space on this 14in machine, which means there's no room for a number pad that some may find useful.

OUR VERDICT

The Latitude 3440 is designed for work rather than play, and that means its talents lie in certain keys areas: the Haswell processor delivers reasonable application and games performance and excellent battery life, and the keyboard and touchpad are excellent. It’s one of the slimmest and lightest machines available, but it’s also got the good build quality.