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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  • brshoemak - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I have found that the one weakness of my Dell E6400 is the Dell Control Point software. My brand new machine felt REALLY sluggish relative to the hardware inside. After experiencing a couple BSOD's (which I never expected on a brand new machine) I deleted the Control Point suite. After that, all my BSOD issues were gone and the everything was much quicker.

    If you can, blow away Dell Control Point, it should take care of most performance issues. For reference I have a Dell E6400, C2D P8600, 4GB, 160GB, Quadro NVS160M.
  • hennes - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I want to confirm the problems with the dell control point software. Some versions of it are broken. Googling will tell you which (older) versions do work. Copying some dlls manually repairs some of the problems.

    That said, if you do not need WAN access that you can run fine without the DCP software, and I am very happy with the E6400, E6410 and E6500's which we use at work.

    For reference, my own laptop is a Latitude E6500 (C2D P8400, 4GB, Quadro NVS 160M and the good 1920x1200 display). No DCP, no sluggish performance.
  • Zap - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    WD1600BEVT is AFAIK a 5400RPM drive. The Scorpio Black are 7200RPM while Scorpio Blue are 5400RPM.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Whoops! You're right; I fixed the table now. I thought all of the HDDs for the E6410 were 7200RPM, but it turns out the one option where you can get a 5400RPM is the minimum 160GB drive. That's what Intel shipped me, and that's almost certainly part of the sluggishness. Dell's Control Point software is probably the other half.
  • mike8675309 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Isn't it a sad state of affairs where a 1440 x 900 resolution in a 14" laptop screen on s business laptop is considered great. My 12.1" Toshiba M400 from years ago has 1400 x 1050 for petes sake. 2 years ago I could get a Dell Lattitude with 1920 x 1200 resolution in a 15" panel. WTH has happened to the world where the highest resolution you can get in a 20" panel is only 1920 x 1080?

    I don't care if a movie looks good on my computer, I just want to be able to get some work done, sigh.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I'd say going higher resolution on 14" will displease the vast majority of users. Enthusiasts and people with great eyesight might be happy, but I've had more than a few encounters with people over the years that think current resolutions make everything "too small". I know our readership is mostly in the 20-35 year old range, but the majority of business people are in the 35+ bracket. Personally, I also find anything more than 900p/WXGA+ at 14" to be too small. Similarly, 768p on a 10" netbook gives you very small pixels. I'd say the vast majority of regular users would prefer the following resolutions:

    10" and smaller: sadly, 1024x600 is probably enough.
    11.6-13.3": 1366x768 or 1280x800.
    13.3-14.1": 900p or 1440x900
    15-16": Here you can finally go 900p to 1080p
    17" and larger: 900p minimum to 1080p or WUXGA.

    There's some overlap, especially on the larger side of the scale, but if you gave me 1080p in a 13" LCD I'd be squinting all day long. And before you ask, no, glasses won't help my situation (although corneal replacement might... yeah, a bit extreme if I don't *need* to have it done).
  • mike8675309 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I guess I never have believed that people actually prefer the resolution on these displays. I write, QA, Debug code all day long. Dealing with low resolution displays is o.k. much of the time, but sometimes it becomes unbelievably frustrating. Scroll code up, scroll code down, up, down, up, down.

    Is there a laptop today, that even is available with a WUXGA screen? The smallest LCD monitor in WUXGA is 24" which is crazy big. Do we really want to have to physically move our head to do our work?

    Consider the monitors of 2 to 3 years ago. A typical business class LCD monitor in a 17" size was 1280 x 1024. Tech from 3 years ago. And today, 1440 x 900, something with significantly less horizontal real-estate is considered Great. Great for what? Browsing websites, which most of their content is either up or down? Working on spreadsheets, which has content in both planes? Working on Visio Diagrams, Writing E-mails, writing C# code? About the only thing having wider yet shorter resolution is good for is people who don't like to see black bars when they watch movies.

    I appreciate the reviews here, I agree the displays in laptops need to be much better, I just think they also need to do something to improve the resolution, especially in business class machines. People are supposed to be working, not watching movies (at least for most businesses). Why are these machines following along with consumer grade equipment being optimized for movie watching?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    The aspect ratio wars are unfortunately pretty much done and over, and the winner is 16:9... but thankfully most business laptops still stick with 16:10. I agree that 16:9 is a lousy choice, and I was happier with 16:10. I'm not sure when the last time was that anyone manufactured a 4:3 or 5:4 laptop; my wife has a 4-year-old Latitude that's 1280x800, so I think it's probably more like 5-6 years since 1280x1024 was readily available.

    One thing to keep in mind is that wider also worked out better for keyboards. You can make a reasonable sized keyboard fit in a 13.3" widescreen chassis, whereas a 13" 4:3 or 5:4 would be more like the width of a 12.1" widescreen chassis. Remember the old ThinkPad with the butterfly keyboard? So it's a balancing act between how many LCD panels they can get out of a certain size glass substrate, how big they can make the keyboard, how light they can make a laptop, etc.

    I'd say movies and games benefit from being wider, and on a higher resolution display you can do two pages side by side in Word. For spreadsheets it's a wash, and for coding if you can do side-by-side view it may help as well (decrease the indent to 2-3 spaces instead of 8 maybe?) It really depends on how you use your system, but there are certainly times when the opposite of widescreen is desirable (i.e. portrait view for reading long web pages).

    As for WUXGA laptops, you can still find them, but choices are limited. 17" business laptops (Dell Precision, HP EliteBook) and the MacBook Pro 17 have WUXGA panels I believe.
  • mike8675309 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Get a handle on one of those WUXGA laptops and take a look at it from the approach of productivity. Compare those to perhaps their same version with their standard display from that aspect. And then perhaps discuss the trade off in real-estate vs visual pain vs cost.

    I think the cost piece is where it would push it over the edge, i.e. the dell m6500 precision is a $300 premium for WUXGA. (yes, the apple 17" mackbook pro has WUXGA)

    Interestingly, high rez macs are not new, as there are some posts out there of folks sticking a WUXGA resolution 15" panel into older Mac Book Pros. Apparently I'm not the only one that would prefer a little higher rez.
  • Penti - Friday, December 3, 2010 - link

    Why don't hook up your laptop to your dock and a high-res screen at work? That's really why you have business laptops to begin with. Docking capabilities, maybe now days (comes in after docking though) support for AMT/vPro and remote administration features. At the road you have to sacrifice some, at the desk you should have 1920x1200 S-IPS for $400 or better. A good 2560x1440 screen shouldn't cost more then $1000, and you can skimp on the workstation laptop instead and possibly get by with a more usable business model. Some compromises has to be made at least if you want <17".

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