Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Dell Latitude E6400
Style and speed.
- Performance, usability, looks great, excellent screen, chock-full of cool features
- Heats up, no ExpressCard slot, may inspire insane jealousy among others
This notebook ticks pretty much every box: style, speed, connectivity (including Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi) and usability. It packs in plenty of business-friendly features, including a smartcard reader and a fingerprint scanner. It isn't cheap, but if you're after a business notebook and aren't in the market for an ultraportable the Latitude E6400 may well be worth it. Besides, Accounts will pay for it right?
Price$ 3,049.00 (AUD)
Dell's Latitude E6400 is a notebook that means business. Its black chassis eschews the shiny surfaces and quirky patterns of some of its contemporaries for a subtle wood-grain-esque pattern on its lid.
We were well-disposed to the Latitude E6400 from the start because it avoids two irritating features of notebooks that we see frequently: glossy, reflective screens and shiny plastic surfaces that attract fingerprints.
The surface isn't totally immune to the odd thumb mark but this notebook is head and shoulders above most units we've had through our test centre recently. It is the screen that really impressed us from the outset, however. Working in an office environment with typical overhead fluorescent lighting means that glossy screens are the bane of our lives. The Latitude E6400 has a matte screen that is vibrant and possesses excellent viewing angles.
The screen is LED backlit and has a native resolution of 1440x900, which is more than enough screen real estate for office work. The quality and size of the display make it an exceptionally good notebook for on-the-spot presentations to clients, for example. Of course, it's also there if you happen to have 15 copies of The Matrix lying around your office, as we do, and want to put the 8x DVD R/W to good use. The stereo speakers do an adequate job, but they're really there for when you use the integrated webcam and microphone to collaborate with colleagues. (We should note that our test DVD continued playing without a whisper of protest while we tilted the notebook hither and thither.)
An ambient light sensor can be found on the bottom of the Latitude E6400's screen; this is supposed to adjust screen brightness to suit your environment. We found it to be more annoying than useful and preferred to adjust brightness manually. The sensor can be enabled and disabled by using the
The keyboard is supremely comfortable to use, and the keys are full-sized. The touchpad is likewise excellent, and to top it off a TrackPoint-style device sits in the middle of the keyboard. Extra buttons for left and right clicking make it easier to use the device (they are positioned above the touchpad); a third button makes it easy to scroll through documents.
Packed into the stylish body of the Latitude E6400 are components that will happily dispose of most tasks you throw at them. WorldBench 6 returned an excellent score of 98, so any programs you need for work should run without the notebook breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, however, this may not be the case for you: heat was noticeable underneath the laptop after only a short period of use, and it also traveled up through the palm rests and the keyboard. This might be okay when you're catching a train in winter, but it could be a little uncomfortable on hot days.
The notebook comes with a 160GB, 7200rpm. This is more than enough space for a business-focused laptop. Best of all it has a free fall sensor, which should reduce the risk of data-loss if the laptop is jolted.
The notebook's Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 processor, which runs at 2.53GHz, completed our iTunes test (where we convert 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s) in 1min 17sec. Using both cores of the CPU our test render in Blender completed in 1min 13sec. Less impressive was our 3DMark06 test: the Latitude E6400's NVIDIA Quadro NVS 160M scored only 1678. But then this is a notebook for corporate takeovers not alien invasions, so you're probably not going to use it for gaming anyway.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to understand is that the Latitude E6400 should churn through your work with ease. More interesting are the results from our worst-case scenario battery test — 3hr 20min using its 9-cell battery, which is a great result for a notebook of this size and processing power — and the extra business-focused features, such as the fingerprint scanner and smartcard reader. Tucked around the sides of the notebook you can find a memory card reader; a Wi-Fi switch and connection button; headphone and microphone jacks; 56Kbs modem, Gigabit Ethernet and FireWire ports; and D-Sub for connecting an external monitor or projector. There is also a DisplayPort, if you have a monitor that uses this modern connection.
A PC Card slot is present; it may seem a little unusual not to have an ExpressCard slot given the modern components of this Centrino 2 notebook, but many businesses will be happy with the older standard's presence anyway.
Four USB ports are also found on the sides; one doubles as an e-SATA port for connecting speedy external storage and another is a USB PowerShare port. This is similar to the 'Sleep and Charge' ports found on Toshiba notebooks like the Portege M800 (PPM80A-01900P). It will let you power USB-connected devices using the port even when the Latitude E6400 is shut down.
At just under 2.5kg and with its 14.1in display and full-sized keyboard, we think the Latitude E6400 strikes an excellent balance between portability and usability. If you're only interested in portability then go for something like Dell's own Inspiron Mini 9. However, if you're interested in something that you can use in the office on a daily basis (perhaps taking advantage of its dock connector) as well as take on the road, then you should be happy with this notebook. As usual, it's available in a variety of configurations, so you can adjust it to suit your needs.
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