“Is that Latitude?” This is the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the new Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1, which looks and feels like a laptop from the future.
XPS 13-like slim bezels, up to 24 hours of claimed battery life, cooling that adapts to how you’re holding the unit, and the ability to sense when you’re walking up to the system for instant logins: These are only a few of the features that distinguish this premium aluminum convertible. It goes on sale in March for $1,599.
As the Latitude line celebrates its 25th anniversary, it is also evident that the ThinkPad is Dell’s primary competitor.
“If I just look at the X1 Yoga 14 inch, we’re sitting at about [a] 20 to 25 percent smaller footprint than that product and offering features that are going to be much more competitive,” said Rahul Tikoo, vice president of commercial mobility products at Dell. We are essentially in front in every metric that our customers care about.
An anti-Latitude design
Dell aimed to create the world’s smallest commercial, a 14-inch 2-in-1, and I immediately noticed the difference when I laid the laptop on top of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. This new Dell system is 25 percent smaller than the previous generation.
According to Allen McKittrick, a senior engineer at Dell, this is the industry’s first 2-in-1 with a four-sided, narrow-border display, which required the development of a new drop hinge and mounting design. Additionally, Dell had to relocate the LTE antennas, which are typically located along the display’s bezel.
“We had to upgrade our board construction to a high-density interface in order to place components more closely,” McKittrick explained.
The result is a striking laptop that’s not only amazingly compact but also decidedly un-business looking. The machined aluminum chassis has a premium brushed finish, and the diamond-cut edges are a nice touch. I also like the soft-touch bottom, which makes the system more comfortable to carry.
Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Specs
|CPU||8th-Generation Core i5 (Whiskey Lake)|
|RAM||8GB, up to 16GB|
|SSD||128GB PCIe/NVMe up to 2TB (summer)|
|Display||14 inches (1920 x 1080)|
|Ports||Two USB 3.1, Two Thunderbolt, HDMI, SIM, microSD card|
|Battery||4-cell 52 WHr, 6-cell 78 WHr|
|Size||12.6 x 7.9 x 0.34-0.59 inches|
Express sign-in with proximity sensing
One of the key vectors mentioned by Tikoo was the reduction of the time required to begin work. Due to a sensor that detects your physical presence (powered by Intel’s Context Sensing technology), the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 can automatically wake up and log you in using the infrared camera and Windows Hello.
When you walk away, the system locks within 5 seconds to keep your data safe.
According to McKittrick, the proximity sensor is very low-power, at sub-1 milliwatts, so it’s always on, and it emits IR light off the user and back to a receiver.
“As soon as you approach the system, it will immediately detect your presence,” McKittrick explained. “It’s similar to how, when you raise your smartphone to your ear during a phone call, the display turns off immediately.”
24 hours of battery endurance?!
Dell asserts that the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 has a battery life of up to 24 hours, based on the MobileMark 2014 test. This evaluation is less demanding than our web-surfing test, for which Dell’s numbers indicate 15 hours are required. Regardless, the colossal 78-watt-hour battery ought to provide very remarkable endurance.
And it was not easy for Dell to pack so much storage into such a small chassis. In actuality, the battery occupies approximately three-quarters of this Latitude’s footprint, as Dell demonstrated by disassembling the laptop’s components.
“We had to design the pack so that the cells could be staggered and rotated,” McKittrick explained. This was done to allow the battery to reach the bottom of the system and to ensure that the ergonomics of the keyboard were not compromised.
Because the screen typically consumes the most energy in a laptop, Dell opted for custom-built, ultra-low-power displays that use approximately 1.8 watts.
When the battery finally does conk out, the ExpressCharge technology will get you to 80 percent in only an hour, Dell says.
Dell chose a robust Whiskey Lake U-series processor instead of the weaker and less powerful Y-series chip found in laptops such as the MacBook Air. Therefore, the company needed to innovate on the front of cooling. The 7400 2-in-1 accomplishes this in two significant ways.
First, the new Latitude features polymer fans made from Kevlar-like substances. No, this laptop isn’t bulletproof, but this material allowed Dell to get more fan blades into a fixed amount of space and generate more airflow.
Second, Dell chose to use Gore aerogel as a thermal material; NASA used the same material in the Stardust probe. Tikoo stated, “It is essentially the best insulator known to man, and its thickness is roughly half that of standard aluminum foil.”
Dell took cooling on this Latitude to a new level by incorporating adaptive cooling based on how the device is held and its orientation. Therefore, when you hold the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 in your hand, it recognizes that you are in tablet mode and attempts to maintain cooler skin temperatures.
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 should be one of the most powerful business laptops when it launches in March, as it is equipped with an Intel 8th-Generation quad-core Whiskey Lake processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and SSD options ranging from a 128GB PCIe/NVMe drive to a 2TB model (coming this summer).
A full complement of ports, including two USB 3.1 ports, two ThunderBolt 3 ports, HDMI, and a microSD card reader, are also included. The display is a full-HD 1920 x 1080 resolution with 300 nits of brightness. There’s also a USIM card slot for LTE.
Dell produces some of the most stylish consumer laptops, but its business laptops have fallen behind those of Lenovo and HP in terms of design. However, the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is the first Dell office computer that employees may desire.
For Dell, a design that appeals to an increasingly millennial workforce is standard. However, the experiences like Express sign-in and adaptive thermal control will set this and future Latitude laptops apart from the crowd.
“Is that really where the future lies?” Tikoo asked. “I mean, the form factor is great, but our investments are in experiences and really getting an emotional connection with our systems, where people just love how they work. And that’s where we’re gonna beat the competition.”
Stay tuned for our comprehensive review and detailed test results.