Dell has had a range of business notebooks with the Latitude label for well over a decade. The Dell Latitiude E6230, with a 12.5in display, is a compact and portable iteration of this evolving template – the smallest in the Latitude E family.
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The notebook we tried came with a custom configuration of Intel Core i5-3320M processor running at 2.6 GHz, 4GB of memory and a relatively small 128GB SSD.
The latter point is worth noting as, although it appeared to contribute very positively to the performance of the review unit, an SSD is a custom configuration option, not currently the default with this CPU.
It’s also worth adding that Windows and pre-installed software left less than 90GB of free space. With today’s software suites, media files and even web caching, you’ll fill that up pretty soon.
Dell Latitude E6230: Build
The E6230 is a tough and robust machine. Following a streamlined design overhaul in 2011, the Latitude E series still impresses with its solid design and build.
Our review unit came with a large 65Whr extended battery that projects from the rear of the case. This spoils the clean lines a little but enhances portability, with improved runtime between charges.
We were able to stream video from BBC iPlayer for 5 hours and 50 minutes on a full charge. A 32Whr battery option is also available if weight or style is more important than substance.
There are a variety of materials used throughout the construction. The display lid is predominantly aluminium, slim and stable, opening to an angle of about 130 degrees. The lid’s remaining composition employs three types of plastic - with strong (if rather stiff) steel hinges.
The base unit composition is dense powder-coated plastic, with a fibreglass feel. The keyboard and trackpad are surrounded by spill and slip resistant rubber.
For a sub-notebook-sized machine, the keyboard is still full size and comfortable to use. The keys are curved and bevelled, with a good level of resistance. There’s also a keyboard backlight, with four levels of brightness. It’s a machine that’s well designed for sustained periods of typing in portable conditions.
The touchpad, however, feels a little small at 80 x 40mm with traditional separate left and right buttons rather than integrated below the pad. It has some multi-touch capabilities but these are disabled by default. Enabling pinch-to-zoom really just highlights the meagre amount of space the touchpad gives you to work with.
Dell Latitude E6230: Performance
We benchmarked the E6230 with PCMark 7 in Windows 7 Professional, and saw an impressive overall score of 4437 points. The Windows Experience Index of 5.0 is disappointing in comparison. It’s not difficult to find the bottleneck though video power is provided by onboard Intel HD Graphics 4000 – an option that can’t be upgraded. The relatively poor graphics performance was confirmed by benchmarking with FEAR, producing an average framerate of 21fps at Maximum detail.
For a business machine, video playback seems (subjectively) stronger than the benchmarks suggest. The LCD panel is limited to 1366 x 768 pixels, but this looks quite crisp when squeezed into a 12.5in panel. And the matt finish made it quite easy to read under normal office lighting. And in dark conditions too, wher we were able to try out the backlit keyboard with the lights out.
The range of ports and slots is generous. There are slots for SD Card, Smart Card and ExpressCard, plus ethernet, eSATA, VGA, HDMI, and USB 2.0 and 3.0. There’s a docking port on the base to mate with a Dell dock. Other options include a 3G data modem.
With built-in mobile broadband and solid build quality, the Dell Latitude E6230 is a robust and road-worthy notebook choice. The inclusion of an SSD in the review sample really helped optimise performance, although we’d suggest stretching to 256GB SSD at configuration stage.