Dell Latitude E6400 review

15 Sep 2008

Dell's latest business model is another superb outing for their recently released Latitude E-series. It's not cheap, though.

Price when reviewed: 
1,142(£1,167 inc VAT)
5

We caught our first glimpse of Dell's new Latitude E-series when we came face to face with its semi-ruggedised E6400 ATG laptop. With a suitably burly build and plenty of carefully focussed business features, it was a promising debut for the range. But, while some users will relish the extra resilience of Dell's ATG laptops, we can see most preferring a more lightweight option for everyday computing.

This is where Dell's standard Latitude E6400 steps in. Strip off the ATG's layers of reinforced metal and you're left with a far more portable 14.1in laptop. Indeed, pop the E6400 on the scales and its less rugged frame weighs in at 2.33kg to the ATG's more considerable 2.98kg heft.

And where the ATG looked a touch too brutish to be truly attractive, the E6400 is an altogether more alluring beast. The combination of stark, clean lines and that magnesium alloy chassis look plain to begin with, but given a few hours we couldn't help but admire the elegant simplicity of it all. Where the D-series looked a little too grey, squat and utilitarian to inspire genuine desire, the E-series is an altogether more tempting proposition.

Solid as a rock

The looks are matched with reassuring solidity. The lid catch keeps the laptop snugly closed in a bag, and it took a huge amount of pressure on the lid to produce any show through on the display itself.

Tilt back that sturdy feeling display, and the E6400's base tells a similar tale. Finished all in black, the clean lines are destined to become a design classic, and any attempts to twist or flex the chassis produce little result.

It's more than just a good looking laptop, though. Ergonomically it's well on song, and although the presence of an all-new keyboard might be enough to put a lump in the throat of those weaned on Dell's superb D-series, there's nothing to fear. Each key has a decidedly firm but pleasingly positive action and the anti-slip finish helps to keep typos to an absolute minimum.

The combination of trackpad and trackpoint are a staple of business laptops, but there are no slip ups on this front. The trackpoint offers precise cursor control even in the most cramped of environments, and the trackpad and its horizontal and vertical scroll zones behaved perfectly throughout our testing.

Screen wonder

The 14.1in screen is kitted out with an LED-backlit 1,440 x 900 panel which, in our eyes, should be the de-facto native resolution for all 14.1in and 15.4in laptops. There's plenty of desktop space to take advantage of, and the supreme brightness and fine image quality is only marred by colour reproduction which errs on the side of dullness.

It's a minor complaint, but one that's more than made up for with useful features such as the automatic brightness sensor nestling to the left of the Chrome-effect Dell logo.

The E6400's connectivity and security features are beyond reproach, though. Three USB ports are complimented by an eSata port and mini-FireWire, and businesses can opt for PC Card or ExpressCard/54 slots as they choose. The inclusion of a DisplayPort output, is a welcome sight too, though the number of displays that have these types of inputs is still limited.

A standard SmartCard slot is complemented by a contactless SmartCard reader to the right of the trackpad, there's also a fingerprint reader tucked in next to the cursor keys and a TPM 1.2 chip deals with encryption duties.

Details

Price ex VAT £993
Price inc VAT £1,142
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 3yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 335 x 238 x 31mm (WDH)
Weight 2.330kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo P8400
Motherboard chipset Intel P45
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 14.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,440
Resolution screen vertical 900
Resolution 1440 x 900
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500MHD
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Hard disk usable capacity 149GB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 5,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 1
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 3
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader yes
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 3min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 39min
Overall application benchmark score 1.15
Office application benchmark score 1.25
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.25
Encoding application benchmark score 1.01
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.07

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business 64-bit
OS family Windows Vista