PC MAKER Dell updated its Latitude 13 7000 Series at last CES last week, and the Latitude 13 7370 leads the charge in the company's plan to shed the image of business laptops as stuffy, clunky work machines.
In this case, Dell has looked inwards, borrowing several design notes from the more consumer-oriented Dell XPS 13 in an attempt to create a capable, secure productivity aid that looks and feels like a stylish ultrabook. We went hands-on with an early production model to see how this is working out.
The most immediately apparent XPS 13 influence is the Latitude 13 7370's carbon fibre lid that uses the same materials and pattern as the XPS 13's keyboard portion. It's a welcome inclusion, considering its soft-touch feel but strong durability. Magnesium, another Dell staple, forms the bulk of the remaining chassis, providing a nice matte finish.
It's wonderfully light as well; the whole thing weighs just 1.1kg, which is great for a 13in laptop. It's also a bit narrower than most, thanks to the bezel-minimising InfinityEdge display
There's only one USB 3.0 port, but Dell has modernised things by adding two USB Type-C 3.1 ports with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility. That means faster data transfers and charging of mobile devices, as well as the ability to connect to several displays from a single port, although there's also a more conventional mini HDMI connector onboard, plus one SD and smart card reader apiece.
There's no faulting the backlit keyboard, which strikes an excellent balance between light, swift operation and decently deep key travel. Sadly the same can't be said of the trackpad and its loose, mushy left and right buttons.
Still, other than the relative shortage of full USB ports, this is definitely one of the more attractively designed business laptops out there. It includes a 180-degree hinge like the HP EliteBook Folio we've tested previously, although the real-life applications of this seem somewhat limited compared with all the 360-degree hinges we saw in 2015.
We've already praised the space-saving benefits of the edge-to-edge screen, but the panel itself is very respectable as well, and everything looked sharp and smooth with deep, rich colours even on the standard FHD version we saw. A touch-enabled QHD model will also be available at launch.
Our only complaint is a slight lack of brightness, even on 100 percent. It's not outright dull if you crank up the settings, but it's never truly brilliant either.
Operating system and software
Dell plans to offer the Latitude 13 7370, along with all its new Latitude devices, with a choice of Windows 10 Pro or Windows 7 Professional.
This is, of course, to accommodate the majority of firms that still rely on Microsoft's older OS, and it's true that a clamshell laptop like this won't take full advantage of Window 10 Pro's ability to shift between desktop and tablet-style UIs to extent that a 2-in-1 might.
That said, the Latitude 13 7370's integrated camera, which was disabled during our test, is supposedly compatible with Windows Hello, a face recognition authentication feature exclusive to Windows 10. This would give the newer version a key advantage for security-minded users and admins, especially those who fret about stolen passwords.
Speaking of security, Dell is loading its own enterprise-grade protective software, adding extra layers of encryption on top of that built-in to Windows 10 Pro, as well as even more support for multi-factor authentication and remote MDM tools for administrators.
The use of Core M processors from Intel's Skylake family wouldn't normally be a concern, but it seems like a step down from the Core i5 and Core i7 chips found in the XPS 13. We'd have thought that the business line would boast as much, if not more, processing power than the consumer equivalents, even considering the Core M's theoretically lower power demands.
Still, with 8GB of RAM and a dual-core 1.1GHz Core M5-6Y67, the Latitude 13 7370 feels nimble and lag-free when jumping between basic apps. We'll have to wait and see how well it can stand up to intensive work tasks, like media editing or handling large spreadsheets.
A closer look at the Latitude 13 7370's 256GB SDD revealed that 216GB was free from a maximum of 237GB.
We've seen far more egregious examples of over-bloating, to be fair, and a peek inside the test unit's Documents and Downloads folders indicated that it contained at least some temporary or demonstration files which are not likely to be included when it goes on sale.
Like the XPS 13 - again - the Latitude 13 7370 also benefits from an incredibly fast boot-up time on account of the speedy solid state drive.
We're not too worried about how the Latitude 13 7000 Series turns out based on the strength of this taster, even with just one USB 3.0 port, provided that the Core M CPUs can keep up with everyday use.
After all, it's difficult to get too cynical about a more secure, more business-ready spin-off of the XPS 13, which we felt was the best laptop of 2015. Here's hoping that the more modest processor encourages Dell to keep the price reasonable. µ