Back in May, Dell refreshed its business line of Latitude laptops along with the launch of its new Unified Workspace. I covered Dell’s Unified Workspace already as well as the refreshed line of Latitude laptops in full, and now I want to focus specifically on my personal experiences with the Latitude 7400 2-in-1. Before we jump into the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, it is relevant to talk about the Latitude 7000 series first.
The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is focused on managed, enterprise user workflows and the 7000 Series is the premium Latitude line. Until the last five years, the designs of business laptops weren’t focused on being aesthetically pleasing and were optimized for durability, low cost, and functionality. A good example of this is Lenovo's classic ThinkPad “T” Series, which hasn’t changed its looks dramatically since they were thicker laptops and customers would look to Lenovo’s X Series for newer designs. Dell’s move to make the Latitude series sleeker and more compact is driven by millennialism, work-play imbalance, and the need for improved portability.
So how does the new Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 live up to its value proposition?
A refined design
Dell has become impressively good at making 2-in-1 laptops as demonstrated with the XPS 13 2-in-1, and the Dell Latitude 2-in-1 is no exception. Dell borrowed the dual-hinge design from the impressive XPS 2-in-1 as the Latitude 7400 2-in-1’s bezels have become so thin. The bezels are 25-percent thinner than the Latitude 7390 2-in-1 from last year, and on top of that, Dell left room for the proximity sensors and camera on the top bezel. It took Dell about three generations of the XPS laptops to get the camera from the bottom bezel to return to the top. To include the camera and multiple sensors, it is an achievement of its own.
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is crafted out of machined aluminum rather than last year’s carbon plastic. Even though the aluminum is a heavier material than last year’s carbon plastic, the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 still weighs under 3 lbs. with the standard 52 Whr battery configuration. Given its bezel-less display, the chassis is tiny, packing 14” into a traditional enterprise notebook’s 13” chassis.
I knew the first time I saw the Latitude 7000 design at CES 2019, it was going to be a winner. It’s tough to design with machined aluminum and not look like other brands, but Dell pulled it off. The recessed matte keyboard deck is unique, too. I also notice less light leaking from the sides of the keys, which is hard to do without a completely sealed key. Hats off to the Dell industrial design and mechanical engineering team.
Specs and performance
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 runs on a 15-watt max Intel 8th Gen Core i7 8665U vPro processor (aka Kaby Lake) with 4 cores and 8 threads operating at 1.9Ghz. The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 can have up to 16GB of memory and up to an M.2 2TB PCIe SSD. My loaner unit from Dell had 16GB of memory and a 500GB SSD, more than enough for my use case.
Dell says it uses Adaptive Thermal Performance, to “sense its environment and adjust performance to control the temperature accordingly” and uses GORE Thermal Insulation to improve thermal performance. I didn’t do any specific tests to test for throttling, but I don’t think Dell would make the claim if it weren’t true. I felt the system very performant in my uses case, which was essentially Microsoft 365. I did not edit videos or play games.
I am very excited that the 7400 comes with an optional Gigabit-class LTE option as I don’t consider notebooks without it as actually “mobile.”
When Dell said that the 7400 2-in-1 could get 24-hours of battery life, I expected around 12 hours of working battery life. This isn’t because I don’t believe Dell’s MobileMark tests, but rather because I don’t believe MobileMark is a good test of working battery life.
While I didn’t do any scientific battery life benchmarking, based on my usage model (Microsoft 365, WiFi on, brightness 50%, Windows 10 Pro 1809) I achieved over 10 hours with the 6 cell, 78 Whr battery. Mark Hachman at PC World got results of 18+ hours of battery with the 78 Whr battery option by looping a local, 4K video on a higher than average brightness level. I don’t do looping video tests as playing back video hits only one block of transistors on the GPU on the SoC. On the good side, it does hit the display. Steve Schardein at Notebook Check did a Wi-Fi web surfing benchmark that ran for a little over 12 hours. To me, this is a much more realistic battery life test.
Two factors that I contribute the most to the max all-day battery life would be Dell implementing a 1W display and the option for a 78 Whr battery instead of a 56 Whr battery. The screen of the laptop and the CPU are two of the most battery draining components of a laptop, and a bigger battery always means more juice. On top of all this, Dell included its ExpressCharge and ExpressCharge Boost that charges the battery to 80% in 1 hour and 35% in 20 minutes. Dell offers an external battery as well that can deliver up to 65Wh of power and can also charge other devices. The USB Type-C power bank can charge the laptop, transfer data from one of its ports, and charge another device simultaneously.
Express Sign-In: feature or gimmick?
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1’s cameras and proximity sensors kill two birds with one stone by providing the security needed in a business laptop with Express Sign-In while also being ready at a moment’s notice. Express Sign-In uses proximity sensors at the top of the screen to detect when a user is present and wakes the laptop up. With the help of Windows Hello, it can also unlock the device hands-free. Express Sign-In reacts in the same way when the user walks away by locking the device and only unlocking for the user.
Express Sign-In can take the market in one of two ways. It can be gimmicky as many expect from a gimmick-like feature, or it will be a convenient feature that enhances users always ready experience as well as provides extra security. Some scenarios, such as being in a busy work area that triggers the proximity sensors, can raise concern for its usefulness. It’s not like you can tell people to stop walking by your computer because it’s trying to sleep. Then again, you can turn it off in such scenarios and use it when it is useful. In some cases, you might not even need to turn it off because it is configurable to sleep or wake based on the time you have been away and vice versa. Most of the time, Express Sign-In worked by design, locking my system when I left my workspace, and turning on and logging me in when I came back. Once every four hours, the screen would blank as I was sitting at my workspace for about a second.
Laptops that are in a 14-inch footprint house a smaller screen than 14 inches. However, The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 has a 14-inch display in the footprint of what a 13-inch display would reside. The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 comes with an FHD (1920x1080) touch display with no option to upgrade to a higher resolution. Dell made some sacrifices to achieve a 1-Watt display and having only one screen resolution was one of them. Another sacrifice to the screen would be a slightly lower brightness at just below 300 nits.
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 features the same ports as last year’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1 except for the volume rocker and the power button are no longer on the side of the laptop. One of the two USB type C ports is used as the power delivery port. There is also a Gigabit LTE broadband connection that supports CAT 18, Qualcomm’s fastest PC LTE modem, and it works with Windows 10 Dynamic network to connect networks when WiFi isn’t around. Dell also offers a Thunderbolt 3.0 dock that can power up to three 4k displays.
- Audio combo jack
- Micro SD Reader
- Micro SIM card slot (optional) (WWAN only)
- USB 3.1 Gen1 (with power share)
- Noble Lock Slot
- 6. 2x Thunderbolt 3 with Power Delivery & DisplayPort
- HDMI 1.4
- USB 3.1 Gen1 (with power share)
- Smart Card Reader (optional)
Manageability and security
Along with the rest of the Latitude laptops, the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 will be one of the first laptops to take advantage of Dell’s Unified Workspace. Unified Workspace is a solution to deploy, secure, manage, and support virtually all devices from the cloud. The Latitude 7400 2- in-1 also has other manageability and security features such as vPro, Workspace One, TPM 2.0, and FIPS 201 card reader. Intel’s vPro is a platform that increases security and manageability by implementing hardware-enhanced security features that help reduce software level attacks and enables device management that lowers costs, and PC uptime. Workspace One is another workspace platform that manages and secures any app on any device. TPM 2.0 is an upgrade from TPM 1.2 which is a secure crypto processor that is designed to carry out cryptographic operations. The optional card reader is a FIPS 201 card reader that is a United States federal government standard that specifies Personal Identification Verification requirements for federal employees and contractors. Dell also offers Pro Deploy client suite, Pro Support and Pro Support Plus for the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 that provides more control and support for your devices.
Durability and serviceability
Unlike consumer designs like an Apple MacBook, the Dell 7400 2-in-1 is built for durability and serviceability. It passed MIL-STD 810G tests. This is a set of 13 tests covering military standards for vibration, altitude, temperature, and humidity. You can see the details on the test from the US Department Of Defense here. In addition, unlike consumer 2-in-1s, the 7400 2-in-1 is designed to be serviceable by IT shops. Memory is soldered down, but the SSD is M.2 and is replaceable which is important for governments, healthcare, and financial shops. Unlike other Latitudes, but like other 2-in-1s, the 7400 2-in-1 display must be replaced by a Dell repair center given the hinge mechanism.
Wrapping up The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 was designed to meet the needs of today’s managed enterprise, and this includes meeting the needs of IT but also meeting the needs of more mobile and style-conscious workers. The new aluminum design is sleeker and more appealing and doesn’t sacrifice productivity and functionality. The slimmer bezels leave room for productivity in the proximity sensors that are used for Dell’s Express Sign-In. Express Sign-in is a feature that comes off as gimmicky until you use a computer that doesn’t have it. Even if the Express SignIn feature doesn’t appeal to you, the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 has many other features that make it a great laptop to have. Dell has a winner with the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Note.