Dell's new Latitude line feels compact and self contained. Perhaps it's the orange line around the keyboard, or the return of the traditional keyboard instead of the island-style seen on so many laptops these days. Maybe it's the silver trim, the matte finish and matte screen or even the fact that the 6420 is only 14-inches in size. Whatever it is, it's a reasonably well appointed business machine, right down to its secure card reader and track-point controller in the middle of the keyboard.
It feels a bit chunky, too, in contrast to the trend of the rest of the industry. Still, it feels absolutely solid, like it could withstand a decent drop.
Sadly, there's no backlit keyboard, but everything else seems to be here: HDMI-out, VGA-out, four USB ports (one integrated with eSATA), gigabit Ethernet, ExpressCard 54 slot and a DVD drive. It's most definitely a business machine, as the lack of USB 3.0 ports and combined headphone/microphone jack give away.
Our review sample came equipped with a Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and, disappointingly, a 32-bit operating system, meaning that you won't be able to take the most advantage of said RAM. Dell offers no option for a 64-bit OS at checkout, either, although we'd imagine that anyone doing a corporate roll-out would be given that extra flexibility. We just wish that Dell would do as Toshiba and Fujitsu do, and offer both the 32-bit or 64-bit install during system recovery.
There's only an Intel HD 3000 in here for graphics, meaning extra battery life but weak 3D performance. Obviously for a fleet machine, this isn't much of an issue — by and large, battery life tends to be what corporations are looking for. More importantly, there's a return to high-resolution screens, with the E6420 sporting 1600x900 pixels instead of the usual 1366x768. A 500GB hard drive finishes off the specs, along with Intel's 6300N wireless adapter, meaning that it can support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless.
3DMark06 scores were as to be expected with Intel graphics, clocking in at 4193 — this isn't a gaming machine. PCMark05 gave a much better showing, though, at 7775, showing that this is quite the productivity machine.
Turning off all power-saving features, cranking screen brightness and volume to maximum and playing back an XviD file, the battery in the Latitude E6420 lasted three hours and 26 minutes before conking out — an admirable showing.
Dell's Latitude E6420 isn't a massively exciting machine, but it is a solid business unit that should handle most tasks that you throw at it.