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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  • SandmanWN - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Even though it is a matte surface on these instead of gloss. It still show finger prints almost as readily as a gloss finish.
  • SandmanWN - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    On the casing, not the monitor.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Well, it depends on your point of reference. The glossy black (or glossy dark) laptops are horrible. Neutral grey/silver will inherently hide a lot of fingerprints, and white laptops do so even more. But you won't be free from fingerprints just by getting a matte finish; they're just not quite so apparent.
  • mino - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    No fingertips for your eyes or police to sneeze at. :D
  • mino - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    One thing make me a little puzzled:
    "~20% with the same number of cores at the same clock speed"

    Across-the-board? Are you sure about that cause it sure sound like PR spin.
    Cause 20% is in the ball park of Merom -> Arrandale!

    IMO it is a feat that SB will be hard-pressed to get even remotely close to.
    Than kind of boost was NOT achieved since P4-M -> Banias switch.

    10%, maybe approaching 15%, that sounds feasible though.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Not sure if you've looked at the SB preview and architecture articles, but I'd say 20% is probably reasonable as an average. Some benchmarks/apps will be even faster, but there will also be those that don't benefit a lot. Here's Anand's look at the SB architecture, which explains where the performance improvements come from:

    I guess we'll just have to wait for hardware to see how much it actually performs. Maybe most of the increase will come from higher Turbo modes? But there are enough changes to the entire package that we should see some pretty decent performance boosts.
  • dell169 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    "I also appreciate the move back to an old-style 16:10 aspect ratio, though I still prefer the 1080p LCD in the Studio XPS 16 over WXGA+"

    Hold on to it, its the last one. All latitudes will go to 16:9.

    You may not have noticed, but the E6510 (same as E6410, but 15.6" screen) has 16:9 with 1920x1080 as highest resolution. This is really annoying, +5 year old latitudes have better resolution than that ! (1920x1200)
    For business vertical resolution is absolutely more useful than horizontal and I expect a business line, for which you pay a considerable premium, would consider that.

    The only thing 16:9 is better for is wide-screen TV programs so you don't have some black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. It is not even better for movies because those are 2.35:1 (~21:9) so there will be black bars anyway.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    AFAICT, it's not Dell and the laptop people driving the move to 16:9. I could be mistaken, but it appears to be primarily a push by the LCD panel makers so they can increase the number of panels they get from a glass substrate (and thus increase profit margins). Maybe the LCD manufacturers are happy with the move as well, but the only alternative appears to be paying a significant price premium to get a customized LCD. Sony has done that with their VAIO Z; no one else uses a 13.1" LCD at least, and certainly not a 900p panel in that size. But then you look at the VAIO Z cost and wonder if it's worth doing. :-\
  • dell169 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Nobody is driving this move to 16:9. The problem is that nobody is driving anything. This whole move from 19:10 to 16:9 is happening because of customer ignorance and vendor fear.

    The customer would probably prefer 16:10 but most are not even aware of the issue and do not know much at all about computers, so price is usually the strongest motivator for them.

    Vendors are afraid to use the little more expensive 16:10 screens because of the above and therefor switch to 16:9. Initially for the consumer models, but this results in less demand for 16:10 screens. They get more expensive, harder to get, the price difference increases and vendors are even more inclined to switch to 16:9

    result: a race to the bottom of the barrel and soon we can only get portables with 16:9 screens while most people really would like to have a 16:10 screen for a few measly dollars more (whether they know it themselves or not, there were good reasons to choose 16:10 over 16:9 when the move was made from 5:4.)

    I can understand vendors going along with this for the sake of their bottom line, but I do not understand why they do this for their business lines which are about 2x the price of the average consumer laptop anyway. I mean, people for whom price is the strongest motivator are not your target anyway.
  • mike8675309 - Friday, December 3, 2010 - link

    Dell and all the other laptop companies need to push their vendors to perform better. As is pointed out time and time again by this site, these companies are simply not providing high quality displays on these laptops, regardless of the resolution.

    These companies seem bent on commoditizing their products with no one willing to put out a best product at a reasonable price. Everyone seems satisfied providing a sufficient product.

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