Dell Latitude E6410: Minding Intel's Business

Today's review is something of a rarity for us. Yes, we've looked at business laptops before, but this laptop wasn't sent by Dell; instead, it comes via Intel and it's going to be our reference point for Sandy Bridge comparisons next month. When Intel initially contacted us about getting a "reference Arrandale platform" in hands so we could test various applications and games, they suggested the Lenovo ThinkPad T410. Since we already reviewed that laptop and knew what to expect, we asked for an alternative: Dell's Latitude E6410. Targeting the same business class user, it has many similarities to the ThinkPad line, both good and bad. Intel specifically wanted to send us an IGP-only laptop, so our review will be a bit more focused than usual, and our main purpose today is to see what we think of the E6410 compared to other business laptops. Here's what we're looking at today.

Dell Latitude E6410 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-520M
(2x2.4GHz, 2.93GHz Turbo, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel QM57
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Display 14.1" LED Anti-Glare 16:10 WXGA+ (1440x900)
(AU Optronics B141PW04 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 160GB 5400RPM
(Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD1600BEVT-75A23T0)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive (TEAC DV18SA)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Intel 82577LM)
Wireless 802.11n (Intel WiFi 6300AGN)
Audio HD Audio (Intel IDT 92HD81B1C5)
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, ~5100mAh, 60Wh battery
Front Side Flash reader
Latch release
Left Side Smartcard reader (optional)
Exhaust vent
1 x USB 2.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
Kensington lock
Right Side ExpressCard/54 (optional PC Card)
Mini 1394a FireWire
Optical drive
Wireless On/Off switch
Headphone and microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Back Side Modem (optional)
Ethernet jack
AC plug
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 13.2" x 9.4" x 1.0"-1.2" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.5 lbs
Extras HD Webcam (Optional)
83-Key keyboard
Flash reader (MMC, SD, MS, xD)
Warranty 3-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $699 (with $261 instant savings)
Cost as configured: ~$1200

Packing a standard dual-core Intel setup, the E6410 specs are what you'd expect of a modern business laptop. Our particular setup came with a Core i5-520M; that CPU is no longer an option on Dell's site, though you can still find it in the FastTrack C2 version. (Our unit is closer to the FastTrack C4A, as it includes the LCD panel upgrade.) If you custom configure the E6410, you can choose between the i3-380M (2.53GHz but no Turbo), i5-460M (2.53GHz base with 2.80GHz Turbo), i5-560M (2.66GHz base with 3.2GHz Turbo), or the top-end i7-640M (2.80GHz base and 3.46GHz Turbo). Given the cost of most upgrades, typical users will be fine with the i3-380M or i5-460M. Mix in the standard options on most of the other components and you have a laptop that should perform well in most tasks that don't need a better GPU than Intel's HD Graphics.

One thing we do have to note is that the entry-level model priced at $699 is a bit of a joke, shipping with a 160GB hard drive and only 1GB DDR3 memory. The cost to upgrade to 2x2GB DDR3 is a rather exorbitant $145, and most of the other upgrades are very expensive as well. If you get a good sale, things might be better, but count on a reasonable build costing around $900 to $1000 minimum. The one upgrade we do like is the 1440x900 LCD; sure, contrast ratio isn't great, but at least we're not stuck with a 16:9 768p glossy panel. As a whole, the C4A FastTrack (i5-540M, WXGA+, Quadro NVS 3100, 4GB DDR3, and 250GB HDD) is a good blend of performance and features, currently going for $1279, but as we mentioned we're running an IGP-only setup so we have a bit of a special case.

As a business centric laptop, there are plenty of security features and other upgrades available. Most of these won't matter much to home users—TPM modules, contactless Smartcard readers, FIPS fingerprint scanners, etc. are merely added cost. There are a few nice extras however, like the inclusion of Firewire, ExpressCard/54 (or even the old PC Card if you prefer, again mostly for businesses), and eSATA; there's no USB 3.0 however. Dell has also been a big proponent of DisplayPort since its inception, so they provide a DisplayPort connection on the rear, VGA on the side, but no HDMI or DVI. Finally, the standard warranty is 3-years instead of the regular 1-year warranty we see on most consumer laptops.

If we were to look solely at pricing and features, the Latitude E6410 costs more than your typical home laptop, but we can't ignore all of the extras Dell provides. Basically, even if you're using it as a consumer laptop, you're stuck with business pricing. One thing that doesn't show up looking at the specifications is the build quality and overall durability, which is yet another benefit of business notebooks. So let's move on to the user experience of the E6410 to see how it holds up.

Dell Latitude E6410 Subjective Evaluation
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  • rootheday - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    At the outset of the review you stated that the focus was the Intel IGP. Why only compare it to systems with discrete instead of comparing to AMD IGP systems? And why only on 3DMark - why not games, media playback?
  • AssBall - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Because it is an Intel business laptop?
  • GoodBytes - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    To add,

    If you do NOT use Dell Fast Track service, and you are in Canada, The Latitude E series, also comes with 3 year next buisness day on site service at a minimum, making it even more attractive.
    I have the E6400, with a Hitachi 160GB 5400RPM HDD, the the Quadro NVS 160M, Core 2 Duo P8400, and I see no sluggishness visible (other than the slower boot, or slower start-up of very large programs like PhotoShop), but it's clear it's the HDD.

    Moreover, it is to be noted, that the laptop comes with really solid hinges, all in metal (and not plastic which can break easy, after a year or so of usage). As for the laptop lid, I can't say for sure about the E6410 as I don't have it, but if it's the same as the E6400 (which probably is the case), then it's in metal (magnesium allow), with a very thick coat of primer and paint, except the small \___/ shape edge of the lid is in plastic (probably having it in metal would effect the wireless antenna as they are found there). I know this, because I had my lid change once on my E6400 (I have the On-site service - which is excellent by the way), and you can clearly see it's metal, from the inside.

    Another point that was not cover in the E6410, well it's not the focus of the review, but still, is to access the laptop internal you are 1 screw away from getting FULL access, you can switch anything very easily. Wireless card, Bluetooth, heatsink, CPU, heck you can even pull out the motherboard with a few screws (ok well you have 2-3 screws under the keyboard to remove for this part... but never the less it's super easy to remove the keyboard.... for a laptop, of course. (See picture from Anatech review)

    Backlit keyboard is a must, and the in my opinion, the Latitude E series back lit keyboard is very good. It lit very well the keys, where you can clearly see the lettering. The brightness is fully adjustable via Dell Control Point software.

    Finally, this laptop also has Dell new long lasting 9-cell battery with a 3 year warranty on it.
  • rembo666 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I agree with your point about the easy internal access. Business laptops are so much easier to work on in general, and they actually come with instructions. It's nice to be able to open up the machine and swap out or repair anything you want and never get that feeling "am I going to be able to put this back together".
  • HilbertSpace - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I have the E6510 (work supplied laptop) and the lid is different than on the E6400 or E6500 - it's definitely plastic. The E6400's and E6500's definitely do look better with the metal lid.
    Sluggishness could be the Dell controlpoint software (inane security stuff). First thing I did was take the HD out and replace it with an SSD. Now it's nice and fast. Although I have the NVS3100m option - and Autodesk Inventor works really smoothly on it.
  • Hxx - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    best thing you can do to a laptop is get an SSD. I own like many here a refurb e6410 fully loaded with 310m, bl keyboard, core i5, etc that i got for about $650 so no complaints on price/specs. However it would be so much nicer if Dell will give us the ability to replace the removable dvd drive with an ssd. A removable hdd cage where i can fit an ssd would be the best feature of this lappy.
  • somedude1234 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Dell doesn't offer a 2.5" SATA HDD adapter for the modular bay, but I bought an after market one from newmodeus that works great:

    Kinda pricey for what it is, but if you spend as much time on your work laptop as I do on mine, the extra $ is worth it.

    In my E6400 I currently have an Intel 80GB G2 SSD in the primary HDD bay and the 160GB HDD that came with the laptop in the modular bay. I swap this out with the DVD burner as needed.

    Fast dual core processor + 4GB RAM + SSD and Windows 7 64 bit is a great combination.
  • webmastir - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    our company ordered a batch of these, and about half of them we received had motherboard related issues. yes, i know it can happen to any band of laptop and/or batch of computers that get manufactured, but this doesn't help ones reliability thoughts on the maker. i was very disappointed. of the few that did work fully, i was very happy with the performance. hopefully, this doesn't happen to us again from dell.

    nice review btw, thx.
  • SandmanWN - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    The E6410 is the standard for our company right now as well. We've come across a number of issues such as bad memory modules and bad cdrom drives. About 40% of the E6400's we've ordered so far have had an issue of quality control of some type so far.
  • Donkey2008 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I would say we have had issues with about 20% of all current-generation Latitudes at the companies I service. Of those, the majority were related to the cheap Hynix RAM or Seagate 2.5" drives that Dell chooses to ship in their laptops. In fact, the Seagate failure rate is so annoying that I will never buy that brand again, for home or work.

    The only MAJOR issue that I have ever had with Latitude was that ~75% of all D620 laptops that I ever worked on eventually had graphics card failure with the onboard Quadra chipset. Like the Deathstar drives years ago, it was one of those things you read about on tech forums, then actually experience in real life.

    Overall though, the quality of Latitude is more or less equal to Lenovo business class laptops.

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