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The Latitude line by Dell has consistently been favored by businesses for numerous reasons. These laptops are known for having high performance at a reasonable price. They traditionally boast a long-lasting battery, which is excellent for those who work on the run. The 14-inch Dell Latitude E6420 came out in 2011, and at the time, it was a fantastic upgrade for the line. It features an i5 processor, durable frame made of magnesium, and plenty of great features.
We wanted to look at the Dell Latitude E6420 and see how it stands up today. Many of the features and specifications are dwarfed by new laptops on the market. However, with a retail price of only $170 to $230, that might be alright for the buyer on a budget.
The look of the Dell Latitude E6420 is traditional as far as modern computers go. It has a brushed metal lid of aluminum in gunmetal gray and sides that are matte chrome. It has an angular shape that gives off a “space age” look that continues to grow in popularity with laptops. The deck is rubberized and is comfortable to use with matte chrome hinges, matte chrome bezel accents, a latch of zinc, and a bold orange stripe that runs around the outside of the keyboard.
If you are the type of person who is a bit clumsy, this laptop has been MIL-STD 810G tested and protects against dust, vibrations, and temperature. It also has a keyboard that has spill-resistance. It has a magnesium alloy fame inside, along with a chrome bumper, reinforced steel hinges, and an LCD seal for extra protection.
The only real disadvantage is that all this extra protection leads to more weight. The laptop is 13.9x10.3x 1.3 inches and weighs just over six pounds with the battery. When you compare that to the Latitude 7490 of today, it’s significant. The 7490 weights only a smidge over three pounds.
The keyboard on this laptop is spill-resistant and offers a fantastic typing experience with keys designed to grip your fingertips and nice tactile feedback. It also incorporates a soft palm rest that is appreciated. It does come with an adjustable backlight which is convenient for those who need to work in low light environments.
Rather than having only a touchpad, this machine also includes a pointing stick. This is usually a plus because the sticks are often capable of more precision than touchpads. However, the stick is a little slippery and hard to grip, which makes it less useful for most.
As for the touchpad, it is 3.1x1.8 inches with a nice finish that is easier to use than the stick. If you enable gestures in Dell’s touchpad control menu, you can use pinch-to-zoom and three-finger gestures, which add to the functionality of the pad. It works well and makes up for the issues found with the stick.
The 14-inch screen, which comes with or without a touchscreen, has a resolution of 1366x768, which may not be the greatest in today’s world of laptops. It seems to do fine with streaming video, although nothing is truly outstanding. If the screen is tilted to the left or the right, you will notice that the colors wash out to a massive degree. For the businessperson who is buying this, or even someone who wants a casual machine, this may not matter but it’s worth being aware of.
If you choose the touchscreen model, you will be able to tap icons and features on the screen with reasonable accuracy. Two-finger gestures like pinch-to-zoom are supported, which is a nice touch. The Dell’s display does not have table mode or allow pen input, which may make the touchscreen less useful for many. There also isn’t any software to make things more touch-friendly.
The speakers on the Dell Latitude E6420 are reasonable, especially for a business notebook. It can pump out loud volume and has nice lows and highs without the usual distortion. The included speakers should be excellent for home use, as well as for hosting presentations in medium-sized rooms. External speakers might be needed if you are required to broadcast across a large room, but most people won’t need them.
On the right side edge of the laptop, you’ll find an on/off switch for Wi-Fi, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and three USB ports. One of them includes eSATA support. The ExpressCard slot is largely used for those in business with legacy or specialized peripherals and won’t be of use to others. The back of the laptop has a Kensington lock slot, Ethernet port, and HDMI port. Moving to the right side, there’s one USB port, a Smart Card reader, and VGA out. The front of the Dell offers an SD card reader. The one thing it is missing is a USB 3.0 option, although there is an option to add it for an extra cost.
The laptop comes with an 8X DVD optical drive, but to burn discs, you’ll need to upgrade it. There is a dock connector on the bottom of the laptop to give more ports and options if you have a dock available. However, those are both going to cost you extra, so make sure to consider that.
The webcam is hardly anything to write home about. It has 2-megapixel, but the images are washed out. There also tends to be quite a bit of visual noise to deal with. That said, the photos are relatively clear, and for those who don’t often use the webcam, it might not be something to concern yourself with.
The Dell has a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. This was fine in 2011 when the laptop came out but is lagging behind quite a bit now. You might see the i5 and 4GB of RAM in other budget options, however. The hard drive is small by today’s standards, as well as a traditional hard drive not an SSD.
In testing, the laptop could boot Windows in just over a minute. Copying files had an average rate of 34.6 Mbps, which isn’t anything astounding but will do the job just fine for those who are considering a budget laptop.
For those who do any video transcoding, the Dell Latitude E6420 can handle the process well enough. With a 114MB MP4 file, it converted to AVI in 40 seconds. This is reasonable for a laptop from 2011 but isn’t going to keep up with the latest models.
There are small upgrades you can make on the laptop if you have the prerequisite skills. The hard drive, Bluetooth card, memory, and network cards are accessible after removing the base cover. You can put in up to 8GB of memory. One thing to keep in mind is that you must remove seven screws to do any upgrades and removing them can be difficult.
The Dell Latitude E6420 has a single heat exhaust on the left side, along with two openings on the bottom. Testing done with the laptop shows that it does well at keeping cool, even when being pushed hard. You can expect an average of 80 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit depending on what you’re doing. When the machine is under a lot of pressure, you may hear a humming noise, but it’s not noticeable to most people.
The graphics for the Dell is an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 chip, which isn’t going to play the latest and greatest games. It can handle most 1080p video just fine, but beyond that, you may not find this to be the best media laptop out there. You can undoubtedly churn out some time on casual games with what’s included, but even World of Warcraft was nearly unplayable at anything but the lowest settings. It’s just not built to handle the games of today. However, it’s completely capable of basic tasks and business use.
There is an option to upgrade to NVIDIA NVS 4200M graphics, which will certainly add some amount of intensity needed for games and viewing videos. It’s still not going to be the best option for someone who needs cutting-edge graphics performance.
There are a few configuration options available with the Dell Latitude E6420, depending on your need. The most barebones model has a 2.1 GHz Core i3, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, no touchscreen, no webcam, no backlight, and a six-cell battery.
You can choose a system with an i3, i5, or i7 CPU. The RAM options also go from 2 to 8GB. There are different hard drive sizes including SSDS for more expensive models. Resolutions are available at 1366 x 768, 1600 x 900, and the touchscreen is 1366 x 768. The main issue is that this laptop is no longer being built so unless you find a refurbished model, you aren’t going to have the options you might want. The option we find most often available includes the i5, 4GB RAM, and 320GB hard drive.
The Dell doesn’t come with a ton of preloaded software, which is a plus. It does have Dell Data Protection Access that is used to configure your windows login, smart card reader, and optional fingerprint reader. It also includes Dell Backup and Recovery, so you can preserve and restore your system if an emergency comes up. The optical drive is powered by Cyberlink PowerDVD for burning discs.
If your laptop comes with Intel vPro, the system will also include Intel Management and Security. This is used in tandem with IT at your job, so you can get secure remote access to the system wherever you are. It can also be configured with Intel Anti-Theft in case your laptop is stolen, which would disable the laptop remotely. However, you won’t find a secure erase tool or an encryption tool.
The unit we looked at has a 9-cell extended battery, which is a higher capacity than most notebook batteries have. It is going to last longer on the battery than other laptops, as well. With a balanced profile and screen brightness at 70%, you can expect the battery to run for almost nine hours, which is pretty much unheard of with other laptop options on the market.
If you are considering the purchase of a Dell Latitude E6420, there are plenty of things that make it an excellent pick. It has a beautiful aesthetic, exceptional keyboard, high battery life, reasonable performance, and excellent sound. You can expect extreme durability that can handle drops, bumps, and scratches. It can handle 1080p HD video and moderate multitasking. It also has plenty of options with graphics, multitouch display, CPU types, and even the potential for using an SSD.
This might not be the laptop for someone who wants everything, but it’s a great laptop at a fantastic price for the budget buyer. You will find some of the extra features really bump it up in terms of productivity and style. We recommend it to anyone looking for a robust machine at a reasonable price.
Featured Image via Amazon logo, text and banner added.