Dell's 14-inch Latitude E5470 should keep a lot of business users happy for at least the next four years. It's fast, it's solid, it has an big selection of ports, great battery life... and, brand new out of the box, it runs 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Pro.
For companies that used to live and die by their IBM ThinkPads, it even has a TrackPoint-style Pointing Stick nestling between the G, B, and H keys.
For traditionalists, the E5470's only obvious flaw is that, like most laptops nowadays, it doesn't have a swappable battery. However, that's less of a problem with a system that seems to run for 10-12 hours than when 3-4 hours was the norm.
This is not to deny that choosing an E5470 means making some compromises. At 1.76kg (3.88lbs), it's not the lightest laptop you can get. The standard 1366 x 768 screen resolution is lower than many rivals (you can upgrade to 1920 x 1080), and the screen isn't touch-sensitive. Those would be failings in a Windows 10 laptop but they're the status quo for a Windows 7 machine, albeit one that Dell says is "Designed with Windows 10 in mind."
As tested, the Latitude E5470 included a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U dual-core processor with integrated HD Graphics 520, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and a 256GB SSD (225GB plus a 14GB recovery partition) for £769, plus VAT and shipping.
The 14-inch screen has an anti-glare finish so you simply cannot see your face in it.
The backlit keyboard has island-style isolated keys that are comfortable for touch-typing. It's set further back than I would prefer, but the keyboard has to make room for a large multi-touch trackpad and two sets of mouse buttons. The ones at the top are actually quite handy because you can hit them with your thumbs without moving your fingers from the home keys. Other top-side features include a power button and a fingerprint reader, while the base has Dell's EDock connector for a docking station.
Ports are distributed right around the E5470, and there's a USB 3.0 port on every side except the front.
The right hand side of the case has USB, an SD card slot, an audio jack and a Kensington lock. The left hand side has USB and a SmartCard reader. The back has USB and HDMI ports, an RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet port, a VGA port for those old projectors, a SIM card slot, and a power socket. The front edge just has three indicator lights. Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi are built in.
The matt-black case measures 13.2 x 9.1 inches (334.9 x 231.1mm) and is just under an inch thick (23.2mm). The screen is held by two large metal hinges and folds all the way back to flat, but no further.
The full technical specifications are online (PDF).
The Latitude E5470 is, as you'd expect, not very flash but extremely functional. It feels very quick, and operates smoothly. It doesn't seem to slow down when not on mains power, though I plugged it in to run the Windows Experience Index and the NovaBench benchmark. You can run these on your usual laptop for comparison.
The WEI scores were 7.2 for the CPU, 7.4 for the RAM, 5.6 for Graphics, 6.8 for 3D business and gaming graphics, and 7.9 for the SATA M2 SSD hard drive. It's a very well balanced score and suggests the Latitude E5470 wouldn't do too badly with low-end games.
On NovaBench, the Latitude E5470 scored 766, with 187 for RAM speed, 470 for the CPU, 76 for graphics and 33 on the hard drive tests. This is very close to my 2011-vintage Dell 460MT desktop, which has a 3.3GHz Core i5-2500 (score 464) and an Nvidia GeForce GT420 graphics card (score 99).
The screen is not the brightest, and while you can turn the brightness up, this reduces battery life. It's perfectly serviceable, but if I were buying a Latitude E5470, I'd probably pick the optional Full HD (1920 x 1080) screen with Gorilla glass.
I haven't had the machine long enough to be sure of the battery life in daily use, but it also depends on the size of the battery. Dell quotes "up to 17 hours" for E5000 Series laptops with 84Whr batteries, but the review sample had the 4-cell 62Whr version, and the cheapest model has a 3-cell 47Whr battery. From the reported run-down numbers, I'd expect to get 10-12 hours of word processing and web browsing with Wi-Fi turned on and the pre-set screen brightness, but I turned it up a couple of notches. Either way, you shouldn't need to carry the charger if you're out for the day.
Also, the E5470 never got hot. I've seen reports of Latitude's heating up, so I tried running six streaming YouTube videos simultaneously for an hour. It didn't even get warm.
The built-in speakers are good quality but, being small, they're bass-light and don't go very loud. They're excellent for speech, such as video conferencing, and better for music than most business laptops.
I mentioned that the Latitude E5470 doesn't have a swappable battery, and there's no "maintenance hatch". However, you can change the battery if you remove the back of the case. According to the online manual (PDF), you can also change the hard drive (if fitted) or SSD, access a spare memory slot (presumably to provide 16GB), and change many other parts. Although I'd tend to rely on Dell's on-site service - the first year is included in the price - easy access to the innards could be a boon for IT departments with fleets of E5000 laptops.
Finally, there's the choice of operating system. The Latitude E5470 comes with 64-bit Windows 10 Pro on disc but, thanks to downgrade rights, it ships with Windows 7 Pro installed. I suspect most buyers will prefer this. The drawback, for people becoming used to Windows 10, is the amount of time Windows 7 takes to boot up or resume from hibernation or sleep.
Restarting the E5470 from a clean desktop takes around 45 seconds, where a Dell XPS13 running Windows 10 can do it in 10 seconds or less. Also, if you move between a lot of conferences and meetings, the "instant on" from sleep makes a big difference.
The Latitude E5470 running Windows 7 is a satisfying version of an old faithful, and nicer than any Latitude or Inspiron I've used before. It should, as I said, get you through to 2020, when Microsoft stops supporting Windows 7. But it's the past, not the future.