Dell Latitude E5520 2nd Generation Intel Core laptop

Dell Latitude E5520 review: One of the first business notebooks on the market to feature Sandy Bridge

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Dell Latitude E5520
  • Dell Latitude E5520
  • Dell Latitude E5520
  • Dell Latitude E5520

Pros

  • Excellent all round performance, strong build quality, backlit keyboard, plenty of connectivity, modular bay

Cons

  • Feels very heavy, some users may lament the lack of DisplayPort

Bottom Line

With 2nd Generation Intel Core technology in its belly, the 15.6in Dell Latitude E5520 definitely has speed to burn. It's recommended for business that want to roll out fast and well-featured laptops for their workers. However, it is a heavy unit and can be a chore to carry to and from the office.

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One of the first notebooks to pass through our Test Centre using Intel's 2nd Generation Core i5 CPU is Dell's Latitude E5520. It will be available to Australian buyers from the middle of March and businesses looking for fast notebooks to deploy to their workers should definitely take heed. Not only can the Latitude E5520 tackle run-of-the-mill office and Web tasks with obscene ease, its 2nd Gen Core i5 CPU (codenamed Sandy Bridge) will also complete complex multimedia tasks in a much swifter fashion than its predecessor.

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Latitude E5520: Specifications and performance

Our Latitude E5520 shipped with an Intel Core i5-2540M CPU, which is a dual-core CPU that has a 2.6GHz frequency, Hyper-Threading, (for a total of four threads), and Turbo Boost. Compared to the previous generation of Intel Core i5 CPUs, the 2nd Generation Core i5 provides a significant boost in performance for advanced tasks such as media encoding and decoding, and even 3D gaming — even business users need to take some time out. The rest of the notebook's configuration is comprised of 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, integrated Intel HD graphics, and a 500GB, 7200rpm hard drive.

The CPU has a Turbo Boost frequency that can hit a maximum of 3.3GHz. This is well above the standard 2.6GHz clock speed of the CPU, and it's of most benefit when performing tasks such as creating MP3 files and converting video files from one format to another (transcoding). In our tests, the CPU ran at a consistent 3GHz when it was under an 80 per cent load, and under lower loads (under 50 per cent) it was able to reach up to 3.2GHz.

The high speed translated into great performance in our tests. In the Blender 3D rendering test, the Latitude E5520 notched up a time of 40sec, and in our iTunes MP3 encoding test it recorded 48sec. This type of performance is first generation Core i7 territory (the Dell XPS L501x recorded a time of 43sec in the Blender 3D test using eight threads), and it's a good deal faster than comparable first generation Core i5 laptops we've seen, such as the Acer Aspire 5742G. Its time of 51min in our media transcoding test, where we convert a DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid file using AutoGordianKnot, is one of the fastest times we have seen to date and is a whopping 17min faster than the Acer notebook.

Storage space in the Latitude E5520 is 500GB. Our test unit came with a 7200rpm hard drive (a solid state drive is an option), which recorded a zippy transfer speed of 32.12 megabyte per second in our tests. If you want to sacrifice some capacity for data security, then a 320GB encrypted hard drive option is also available. A freefall sensor is built in to motherboard.

Latitude E5520: Graphics performance

It is perhaps in the 3D processing arena where the biggest gains in performance can be seen compared to the integrated graphics of the first generation Core CPUs. The Intel HD 3000 graphics in the second generation platform provide more than double the performance of the first generation. This was shown in 3DMark06, where the Latitude E5520 recorded a mark of 4255. A typical notebook equipped with a first generation Core CPU with Intel HD graphics can achieve around 1800 in this benchmark. Not only does the integrated graphics processing do a good job on 3D applications, it has a media processing feature that can be used to hardware-accelerate the encoding and decoding of video files.

Latitude E5520: Design, build quality and connectivity

The Latitude E5520 doesn't look like much when you lift the lid — it's definitely no Macbook Pro. Its dull black palm rest and bezel are clear indicators that this notebook is meant for business, and it has a style that definitely won't cause anyone to ooh and aah over it. This isn't a bad thing, and in fact we don't think it looks bad at all; it's nice and neutral. The only somewhat elegant parts of the notebook are its backlit keyboard and its lid, which has a subtle brushed metal look to it and, of course, the chrome Dell logo.

We like the Latitude's matte screen, which doesn't suffer from reflections and is therefore perfect for use in bright office environments. The model we reviewed has a 1920x1080-resolution screen, which is very useful when multitasking and using Windows 7's Aero Snap feature to get windows side by side. Its colour reproduction and brightness were very good during our tests, and we found it comfortable to stare at this screen for long periods of time.

Around the edges of the Latitude, you will find a mixture of old and new connectivity, and also consumer-minded technology. You get USB 2.0 (four of them), eSATA (shared with one of the USB 2.0 ports), Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, VGA, a 56Kbps modem, a combination microphone and headphone port, an SD card slot, a SmartCard slot, a DVD burner and an HDMI port. The inclusion of HDMI over DisplayPort is an interesting choice, and it panders more to mainstream users rather than graphics professionals. You also get Bluetooth, 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi, a 2-megapixel webcam, and there is an option for integrated mobile broadband.

The build quality of the Latitude E5520 is very solid. It doesn't creak when you hold it from the edges and its lid isn't easy to flex. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a scratch resistant underside and metal plated hinges. Furthermore, a rubber lining around the lid forms a seal to protect the screen from dust and other particles when the lid is closed and latched. At 2.9kg, the Latitude E5520 is comparably heavy for a 15.6in laptop, so it can be a chore to lug it to and from work.

Latitude E5520: Battery life

Our test Latitude E5520 shipped with a large 9-cell battery that supplied us with a long life away from an outlet. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the notebook lasted 4hr 25min. You can get even more life away from an outlet if you substitute the DVD burner for a second battery. This makes the Latitude E5520 desirable for field operations or basically any type of job where a power outlet isn't handy for long periods of time.

Conclusion

Basically, what you're getting in the Latitude E5520 is a laptop that is super-quick and useful for just about any productivity endeavour imaginable in an office environment. It possesses a good array of old and new connectivity, it has a backlit keyboard and a great Full HD screen, and we think that any businesses that deploy it will get many years of use of it.

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