Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1: A shiny business laptop with a few tricks

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Metal body
  • Ports aplenty
  • Battery life

Cons

  • Display
  • Not the battery you were told about
  • Flaky fingerprint reader

Dell's Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is a 14-inch laptop that is best described as a convertible, in that, the keyboard folds around behind the display, rather than detaching. This definition of the machine is offered because Dell also offers a 7200 2-in-1 that has a detachable keyboard, and they are far from the same style of device.

See the video review: Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1

The 7400 series arrives in a style of brushed metal casing that would not be out of place on the OS X Finder in years prior. If your place of work is a Dell shop, everyone will instantly know you managed to convince the IT procurement folks to go to the top of the line for your device.

Pleasingly, not only does Dell offer a wide variety of ports, but the ports are fully sized. The 7400 2-in-1 has a pair of Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a proper HDMI port, an SD card reader, and a SIM tray for the LTE version.

A stylus is included with the device, and even though there is no place to securely house it, it does magnetically attach to the side, which is better than nothing.

When the device was unveiled at CES at the start of the year, Dell touted it as having a 24-hour battery. This is a case where asterisks on a company's website need to be read carefully.

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In order to get what the company now claims is almost 27 hours of battery life, the device needs to have a 78 watt-hour battery. For Australia, the only option is a 52 watt-hour battery across the line, and it's not a bad choice at all. Why the company pushes on with advertising that could have the ACCC reaching for its misleading consumers stamp however, is beyond me.

Over an afternoon where the laptop applied a fairly large Windows update, had its screen on continuously, restarted, and then played a YouTube clip for the next 90 mins, the battery lost 30% of its charge across 3 hours. The battery should be able to handle a full day fairly comfortably when it is new, but it is a far cry from being capable of 20-something hours.

During my time with this device though, something made me side-eye the keyboard, knowing something was slightly askew. Eventually the answer revealed itself: The 7400 2-in-1 has the same sized keys on its keyboard as the smaller Latitude devices. Dell has merely spaced out the keys to fill the available space and while it is not bad to type on, I can't stop wishing that Dell had created bespoke bigger keys for it instead.

The one possible catch with any of the Latitude 7400 2-in-1s is the display. While Dell has fitted the panel nicely into the laptop with a small bezel, the panel itself has only one resolution option: 1920x1080.

Even though it is possible for a new machine to have all the bells and whistles, including an 8th-generation Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR3 memory, and a self-encrypting SSD, Dell keeps the display panel stuck at Full HD resolution. The amount of screen real estate available is even less than the numbers, as the laptop defaults to having 150% zoom in Windows 10, making it behave more like a 1280x720 screen.

In a world where Dell itself offers a 4K screen as an option on its XPS line, it's curious that the business line is stuck on a single resolution.

On any measure, the screen's maximum brightness could be higher too.

When announced, Dell touted the ability to use its proximity sensing technology to either unlock the laptop when an authenticated user was detected via facial recognition, or lock the machine after the user walked away. This works exactly as intended, but it is unlikely to be used in anger by any organisation that has proper security processes in place. For this reason, the feature falls into the gimmick category.

Likewise, the ability of the laptop to be used as a thick tablet or in presentation mode is more gimmick than feature. If the new Latitude line takes your fancy, and you want a proper tablet, then you should look at the 7200 2-in-1 that has a detachable keyboard, and in my mind is more 2-in-1 than the 7400.

Within the 7400 is also something that isn't a catch, but a conundrum of sorts, and it involves its fingerprint reader. Firstly, it is an optional extra, but one I'd recommend, in theory. It is placed in very sensibly, on the power button, and is large enough to do need any swiping or special placement compared to readers of yesterday.

However, something is amiss with it. The first review unit did not work at all, perhaps it was optionally not there, and Dell generously replaced it quickly so we could get a feel for it working. This was a glorious 36 hours. At some point, either an update from either Microsoft or Dell decided that the reader was too useful and turned it into a flaky login experience. On some reboots it worked, and on others it seemed dead. Hopefully by the time you read this, Dell and/or Microsoft will have removed the driver clash, or whatever is going on, because its a good feature that is being held back by software.

Price-wise, compared to its competitors, the 7400 does cost a bit more. During our time with the machine, the price went from a relatively comparable AU$3,520 before online discounts, to a striking AU$5,532 price tag that could be discounted by 45% with a code to send the price back down towards AU$3,500.

Around the AU$3,500 mark, it's not too much costlier than the machines offered by HP, such as the EliteBook x360 1040. But if the discounts disappear, and the price ever sits at or near AU$5,000, I'd head in the opposite direction fast.

Taken together, Dell has done well here -- the silicon is fine, the exterior metal finish is nice, it has enough battery to make a full day, and there are ports aplenty. The pricing is okay, at the time of writing, and while the screen is serviceable at best, as a business laptop it is likely to have an external display used with it that will lessen the disappointment.

If you are a business that uses Dells already, this is the laptop to demand from your IT department.

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Specifications

System
Notebook Type 2-in-1

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