- High quality non-glare display (a touchscreen version is available)
- Good battery life with removable battery
- Lightweight but durable metal construction
- Excellent backlit keyboard
- 3-year on site warranty (not that it should be needed)
- Most ports located on back
- Boring black exterior
- No SSD available for the M.2 WWAN card slot
- Relatively expensive
A year had passed since I bought my Dell Latitude E7440 and I started to look out for something even better. I wanted a larger touchpad and a quieter fan (not that it is exceptionally noisy but I’ve been spending much of my time in a quiet room). My previous concerns about my eyes wanting a larger screen have proved to be unfounded. Consequently, I started watching the available inventory at the Dell UK Outlet and when an E7450 with the Nvidia 840M GPU appeared at a relatively reasonable price, I decided to buy it. Not that my usage pattern needs the extra graphics power but comments in the relevant notebookreview forum indicated that this version of the E7450, with a higher rated cooling system, ran more quietly under light usage. A potential extra hour or more of battery time was another justification for an upgrade.
Build and Design
The Latitude E7450 represents incremental change (mostly, but not always, improvement) from the preceding E7440. The most visible difference is the change in color from a black and silver combination to all black. I personally like the blackish interiors because there’s no glare from the keyboard and the lettering stands out clearly but some contrasting color on the outside gives the computer some style.
There is no significant change in the physical size but the keyboard has been moved towards the back in order to provide space for a larger touchpad and the edges of the palm rest are slightly beveled. Another visible change is that previous Latitudes have had a plastic panel along the back of the display top to reduce screening of the antennae. This notebook, however, has an all-metal magnesium alloy display back.
Latitude notebooks are built to survive the treatment given out by business users who haven’t paid for the equipment out of their own pockets. The overall feel is that the notebook is reasonably robust but not as solid as some of the older Latitudes (which were likely to damage the floor if dropped). The E7550’s display is slightly easier to bend than the E7440 but this does not cause any changes in the displayed image. However, the keyboard itself has been changed from the preceding model: The most obvious differences are a changed key design using separated keys and the demotion of the Home and End keys to use the Fn key.
The hinges feel solid (and look the same as on the E7440) and the notebook display can be tipped back to lie horizontally. The E7440’s hinges are still firm after a year of use so I don’t expect long term loose hinge problems with the E7450. There is no latch for the display but opening the computer is a two-handed task, not helped by the absence of any recess on the front to provide a finger hold for opening the computer.
In keeping with the serviceability objective of the Latitude range there are only two screws holding the cover which provides access to inside although these screws are under the removable battery. The location of the battery under the palm rest not only provides a counter-balance to the display but also keeps it away from the hot components. While the fan is easy to access on the integrated graphics (iGPU) version of the E7450, Dell’s documentation doesn’t explain how to do this for the discrete graphics (dGPU) version.
The dGPU version of the E7450 equipped with a single mSATA SSD bay (the iGPU version has a 7mm 2.5” drive bay). The older E7440 could also accommodate an mSATA SSD in the slot for the WWAN card but the E7450 has changed this to an M.2 format for which a suitable SSD isn’t available. This represents a step backwards. The notebook came with an empty RAM slot but this did not stay empty for long.
Ports and Features
Unlike some manufacturers, Dell continue to provide an RJ45 network cable socket. I had hoped that Dell would have seen the benefit of an additional side-mounted USB port, but no such luck. Consequently, I frequently have to grope around the back of the computer when I want to connect more than one USB storage device. The back is also home to both an HDMI port and a mini-DisplayPort which provides an affordable route to a wide range of video connectors. There is no built-in VGA port but unbranded mini-DisplayPort to VGA adapters are reasonably priced.
Right side, left to right: Audio socket, USB 3.0 port, security slot. Dell could have usefully squeezed in an extra USB port because the hardware wireless devices switch provided on the E7440 has been omitted.
The bottom of the computer includes a docking bay connector and the removable battery. The bottom air vent panel on the E7450 is about 60% larger than on the E7440 but not all is effective due to parts overlying the chassis.
An FHD (1920 x 1080) resolution non-glare display was on my list of essential requirements. This E7450 has the LGD046D panel while my E7440 came with the AUO113D panel. The E7440’s AUO display was good but the LG display looks better still. The main reason for this is probably that the AOU panel is slightly sparkly due to over-generous application of the anti-glare coating so the LG panel looks crisper. The viewing angles are excellent.
The LG panel’s color rendering is slightly reddish but I have adjusted it using my Spyder 4 Express calibrator which revealed that the overall color rendering of the LG panel is slightly worse than the AUO panel. Side-by-side comparison suggests that the LG panel on the E74450 is slightly brighter although both are rated at 300 nit and the LG panel appears to have slightly better contrast. My eyes love it. However, potential purchasers be forewarned that there is no certainty about which version of the LCD panel will be supplied.
Dell located two speakers on the front side of the chassis. The positioning on the angled edge appears to benefit from the computer being on a table top so that the sound can be reflected upwards. Both audio quantity and quality are relatively good with more than a hint of bass. The volume is sufficient for a medium sized room with no serious distortion when the volume is increased.
The keyboard has good travel (about 2.5mm (0.1″)). The keys backlit (an option) which improves legibility of the white letters under all lighting conditions although the blue lettering for Fn key functions does not show up so clearly. The lettering on the E7450’s keyboard is not quite a bold as on the E7440 and the blue markings for the Fn key functions are more effectively illuminated on the older notebook. However, the biggest change is the use of a separated key layout in which the keys poke through holes in a frame. This gives a more solid key action because keyboard flex is reduced. The other significant change is that Home and End no longer have their own keys but require use of the Fn key.
The other significant change is that Home and End no longer have their own keys but require use of the Fn key. The keyboard drain hole provided on the E7440 has not been carried through to the newer model.
The touchpad on the E7450 is a size larger than the pad on the E7440 and the keyboard has been moved towards the back of the computer to make space for this. The pad has separate buttons and also has a second set of buttons (with a middle button) for the pointing stick. The pad is quite usable and supports gestures.
I noted above the metal display back covering the antennae, unlike the plastic panel on the E7440 (and other Latitudes I have previously owned) which might have adverse impact on the WiFi performance. A simple comparative test with the E7440 several rooms away from my router showed that the E7450 signal strength was slightly weaker. The WiFi throughput at 2.4GHz was about 10% less on the E7450 but at 5GHz the E7450 was about 50% faster. It therefore appears that the newer WiFi card in the E7450 substantially compensates for the weaker signal.