Ultrabooks are usually high-end consumer machines, but these laptops are also beneficial in business. Dell’s new Latitude is a prime example: it’s lighter, slimmer and better-looking than most corporate machines, and it’s got impressive power despite its size.
It’s 21 mm thick and weighs 1.63 kg, which is at the top of Intel’s Ultrabook guidelines, but it’s rock-solid – the Sony VAIO Pro 13 is smaller, but flimsy too. Dell says the Latitude 14 has a “tri-metal chassis”, with aluminium and soft-touch material on the outside, and only the MacBook Air feels stronger than this machine.
The silver lid contrasts well with the darker interior, and the bezel and base are protected with powder-coated aluminium. It’s unfussy, and we like its clean lines and curves.
It’s a practical portable. Three USB 3.0 ports are split between the right-hand and rear edges, and the back also houses Mini DisplayPort, HDMI and gigabit ethernet connections. There are SDHC card, smart card and fingerprint readers.
Unusually for an ultraportable laptop, there’s a trackpoint with accompanying buttons, and a docking station port and keyboard drainage hole. There’s even a physical Wi-Fi switch, and the screen tilts to lie completely flat; in short, it’s a range of features that consumer notebooks like the MacBook Air or Sony can’t match.
This is the most expensive Latitude 7000, and the extra cost buys you a 1920 x 1080 resolution across the 14in LCD screen. It’s not a touchscreen, but it’s made from Corning Gorilla Glass and has a matt finish.
The measured brightness of 351 cd/m2 was excellent, and the 998:1 contrast ratio impressed; few screens provide this much punch and depth. That’s good, but the Delta E figure of 7.6 was below average, and can’t match the Sony’s 3.1 score here. This screen should be fine for work and films thanks to its brightness and resolution, but it’s not up to colour-sensitive tasks.
Many Ultrabooks still include older, cheaper Core processors, but Dell has fitted a recent Haswell-based Core i7-4600U. Its 2.1 GHz base speed rises to 3.3 GHz with Turbo Boost. It’s also Hyper-Threaded, but it’s only got two cores and a middling Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated graphics processor – the downside of this chip’s low-power designation.
The chip performed well in PCMark 7, where its score of 4706 points squeaked ahead of the Sony and Apple laptops. The Dell’s 22 fps average in Stalker was sub-standard, and only allowed for casual games.
The 47 Wh battery lasted for 5 hrs 15 mins in our video streaming test. It’s an average result that couldn’t even match the limited 6 hour lifespan of the Sony, let alone the near-14 hours we recorded from the MacBook Air.
Elsewhere, there’s future-proofed dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi – like the MacBook Air, and similarly constrained at 2x2 MIMO specification. This suggests best sync speed of 867 Mb/s, with real-world speed up to 300 Mb/s. There’s also a SIM slot for mobile broadband.
A 256 GB Lite-On mSATA SSD helped the Dell to a Windows boot time of 14 secs. We tested its sequential read and write speeds, which were 477 MB/s and 396 MB/s respectively, both reasonable figures.
The keyboard has a rigid base, consistent action, and concave keys, and it’s one of the best we’ve used on an Ultrabook: better than the Sony, and almost as good as the MacBook.
The touchpad and its buttons are equally impressive, but the trackpoint has no clearance from the keys and is awkward to use.
Our £1522 sample is the priciest Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series, although the middle model isn’t much cheaper: its £1390 price includes a touchscreen but a slower processor and less memory. The cheapest model, at £838, has no SSD and a low-resolution 1366 x 768-pixel non-touch screen.
Dell offers numerous warranty and service options. The three-year warranty is generous, and five-year deals are available, with ProSupport options costing more.
BIOS customisations can be applied at the factory, accidental damage and data protection cover is available, and Dell can add encryption, anti-theft labels and privacy screens. An optional docking station adds USB and display ports
The sturdy Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series is generally excellent, with rapid components, extensive connectivity, a good screen and comfortable keyboard, but it can’t quite become the ultimate office Ultrabook: the battery life can’t match the MacBook Air’s longevity, and its £1522 price makes it pricier too.