Dell Latitude 7490 review: A solid business all-rounder

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Robust build
  • Good performance
  • All-day battery life
  • Responsive pointing stick and buttons
  • Lots of configuration options

Cons

  • No touch-screen option
  • Too much key travel for some people
  • Enter key design needs a rethink
  • Relatively chunky and heavy
  • Large, weighty power brick with proprietary connector

Dell's Latitude 7490 sits in a crowded sub-range of Latitude 7xxx laptops with screen sizes ranging from 12 inches to 14 inches. The Latitude 7490 has a 14-inch screen, and unlike smaller models, does not come in a 2-in-1 version. The 12-inch 7285 has a detachable screen, while the 13-inch 7390 is a 360-degree convertible. Maybe there's a hybrid version planned for this 14-incher as well, but for now it's a 'classic' laptop.

With a starting price of £1,119 (ex. VAT), this laptop clearly means business. However, if you're looking for an exceptionally thin or light laptop, look away now.

The desktop footprint is a reasonably trim 331mm by 220.9mm, but the 7490 is quite thick -- 17.47mm at the slightly tapered front and 17.9mm at the back. The starting weight of 1.4kg is also some 200g more than I'd call lightweight. That doesn't sound a lot, but it might become noticeable on longer mobile working stints.

The lid may be a tad thick (I measured it at a generous 7mm of full thickness beyond the slight edge taper), but that does mean it's properly rigid. Inside, too, I could not easily depress the wrist rest. I could flex the keyboard with some effort, but you'd have to be a very heavy-handed typist to do this in real-world usage.

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The external lid panel has a rubberised finish that's easier to grip than a slippy metal casing. The same finish extends to the wrist-rest area, providing a non-slip surface here too. I did find the surface rather receptive to fingermarks -- if you eat lunch at your desk, beware!

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The screen hinges all the way back to desk level, making it easier to share content in some situations. The screen itself is a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) panel with a matte, anti-glare finish. There are no fewer than 12 off-the-shelf configurations for this laptop in the UK at the time of writing, none of which deviate from this screen configuration. It seems strange these days to offer a laptop without a touch-screen option, but that's the case here.

Screen brightness goes high enough for working in a range of conditions, but if you want to watch -- or share for work purposes -- a lot of video content, you might find the colours and vibrancy a bit disappointing.

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The Latitude 7490's keyboard has keys with plenty of travel, which some users may not appreciate. The design of the double-height Enter key may divide opinion, too.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The keyboard might prove to be something of an acquired taste. There is a lot more travel than I'm used to, and I found this slowed up my touch typing. The Enter key is irritating too: it's double height, but only full width at the top, reducing to about two-thirds width at the bottom. I found I was regularly jabbing away to its right looking for width that simply wasn't there.

On the plus side, the keys are springy and well spaced. A two-level backlight is toggled via a FN key and will come on automatically at the last set level when a key is pressed.

Dell has included a pointing stick between the G, H and B keys, with a second set of buttons and a central scroller button above the touchpad. These are especially useful for scrolling through long documents and web pages, particularly because of the lack of touchscreen options.

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Physical buttons beneath the touchpad might be unusual these days, but if your users are more used to solid mechanical features you might find this a usability bonus. The buttons themselves, like the keyboard keys, have plenty of travel.

Across the 12 current off-the-shelf configurations, prices range from £1,119 (ex. VAT) up to £1,529 (ex. VAT). Rather than give summary specifications of each configuration, I'm showing the entry-level and top-end specifications only. My review sample was not an off-the-page configuration, but had a Core i5-8350U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

It's worth noting that the two least expensive configurations both sport 7th generation Intel processors, with the remainder running on 8th generation CPUs.

  • Intel 7th gen Core i5-7300U, Windows 10 Pro, 14.0 inch 1,920 x 1,080 non touch anti-glare screen, Intel HD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD.
    £1,119 (ex. VAT)
  • Intel 8th gen Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 14.0 inch 1,920 x 1,080 non touch anti-glare screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512B SSD.
    £1,529 (ex. VAT)
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Ports on the right-hand side: audio combo jack; Micro-SD; Micro-SIM; USB 3.1; RJ-45 Ethernet.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There is a good range of ports and connectors, including a Smart Card reader, NFC sensor and fingerprint reader -- the latter two located on the wrist rest. The Smart Card reader sits on the front left edge, where there are also two USB 3.1 ports, a full size HDMI connector and a USB Type-C port with DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3. The large, round power jack is at the back of this edge.

Meanwhile the right edge offers a headset jack, a MicroSD card reader, a SIM slot, a third USB 3.1 port and an Ethernet port with a spring-out base that means it can be accommodated easily in the chassis.

The pop-out SIM card caddy is perhaps a little vulnerable, though it's about as invisible as it could be, nestled at the bottom of the right edge. It accommodates a Micro-SIM rather than a Nano-SIM. It's nice to see a MicroSD card slot here, although full-size SD would be welcome too.

My review sample performed well. Simultaneous writing into a web app, audio streaming and 20-plus Chrome tabs opened across two application windows presented it with no difficulties at all. Battery life is the key plus point though. During one typical three-hour working session I reduced the battery from 100 percent to 83 percent, suggesting it should easily cope with a standard 8-hour working day. Express Charge, which is a fast-charging system, provides a rapid power boost if required.

The downsides on the battery front have little to do with the laptop itself. The power brick is on the large side, adding bulk and weight to your travel bag. There is a white LED at the laptop connector end that insists on glowing all the time the charger is plugged into the mains. This is not a new Dell feature by any means, but it could keep mobile professionals using awkwardly located mains power points in hotel rooms awake at night. And actually, while I'm discussing the power brick, its proprietary round-pin connector might irritate those who'd prefer to use the existing -- or better, a second -- USB-C connector for charging.

Conclusions

The Dell Latitude is a solid business laptop with good battery life and strong all-round performance. It's tough enough to travel well, if a little on the heavy side.

It is probably worth testing the keyboard before taking the plunge, because there's more key travel than usual and that narrow Enter key might be a deal breaker for some.

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