- Non-glare non-touch display (a glossy touchscreen version is available for those who want it)
- Cool and quiet under normal usage
- User-exchangeable battery
- Good performance with SSD
- Excellent keyboard
- Moderate battery capacity
- Fairly noisy under full load
- Most ports located on back
- Moderate sized touchpad
The Dell Latitude range of business notebooks has a solid reputation of tolerating hard usage while also being easy to maintain. I’ve owned various Latitudes in the past and when seeking a successor to my 2 year-old Samsung NP900X4C (the natural successor is the Samsung NP930X5J which has, so far, failed to materialize in the UK), I came across a Dell E7440 which is in my preferred weight range and has a reasonable price. Read on to find out .
The Latitude E7440 is noticeably thinner and lighter than the previous 14-inch Latitudes I’ve used (removal of the optical drive is one contributing factor) and it carries an Intel “Ultrabook” sticker. However, the notebook itself feels at least as solid as its predecessors.
The overall feel is that the laptop is reasonably robust. While it’s possible to apply enough force to bend the display slightly, this does not cause any changes in the display. Most of the display back is metal with a plastic section along the top edge where the antennae are located. Unlike most Ultrabooks, the E7440 uses a standard removable keyboard unit, which makes is easier to replace when necessary.
Perhaps the hinges will loosen up with time, but they’re currently very stiff. As a result, opening the computer is a two-handed task; the absence of any recess on the front to provide a fingerhold for lifting the display doesn’t help matters. Two magnets secure the display when it’s closed. The back of the display is a silver-grey color with a shiny Dell logo in the center and the rest of the computer is black except for a thin silver-grey strip around the edge of the chassis. I personally like the blackish interiors because there’s no glare from the keyboard and the lettering stands out clearly.
In keeping with the serviceability objective of the Latitude range, the battery is removable and there are only two screws holding the cover to the mainboard. The Owner’s Manual provides detailed explanation of how to remove and replace parts. 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.
Dell provides a number of options for the internal configuration. My E7440 came with a WWAN (3G) card but the same slot can be used for an mSATA SSD. Instead, the mSATA SSD in my E7440 was located in a frame (which Dell’s parts list calls an “interposer”) in the 2.5″ drive bay. The notebook came with an empty RAM slot but this didn’t stay empty for long because I already had a spare 4GB 1.35V module waiting.
I was surprised how thin the fan was given that the E7440 is fatter than many Ultrabooks. The fan is no thicker than the business end of a flash drive, which means that it has to spin fast to provide effective cooling.
Ports and Features
After using notebooks with the ports only on the sides, I was disappointed by the placement of two USB ports on the back and only one on the sides. The back is also home to a network cable socket, an HDMI port, and a mini-DisplayPort that provides an affordable route to a wide range of video connectors. There’s no built-in VGA port but unbranded mini-DisplayPort to VGA adapters are very affordable.
The bottom of the computer includes a docking bay connector. There’s a hole on the underside of the computer with a water drop symbol next to it. I presume it may be a keyboard drain but I haven’t tested it.
Screen and Speakers
I was looking for a higher resolution with better viewing angles than that on my Samsung NP900X4C and my preliminary purchasing research revealed that Dell use two different FHD panels on the E7440. My E7440 came with the AUO113D panel. The extended monitor data reported B140HAN which uses AUO’s AHVA technology. I had expected to need to use 125% display scaling to make the display comfortable for my eyes and found this was the default setting. Dell doesn’t quote a maximum display brightness although AUO indicates it is 300 nit. It’s noticeably less bright than my Samsung notebook and, while adequate for indoor usage, would probably struggle in the sunshine. The display has a non-glare surface, which results in a very slightly “sparkly” image.
To demonstrate the difference in display quality, I lined up the E7440 with the 13.3” NP900X3B (Samsung PLS display), the Lenovo T420s (a TN panel of average quality) and the Samsung NP900X4C (a relatively good TN panel) and compared the viewing angles. All four displays had been calibrated using a Spyder 4 Express. For these photos the NP900X3C and NP900X4C displays were at 75% brightness and the other two at full brightness. From left to right the computers are: 13.3” Samsung NP900X3B, 14” Dell Latitude E7440, 14” Lenovo T420s, and 15” Samsung NP900X4C. The superior viewing angles of the Samsung NP900X3B (Samsung PLS display) and the E7440 (AUO AHVA display) are very evident.
Dell placed two downward-facing speakers on the front side of the chassis. The downward-facing speakers on the beveled sides of the computer appear 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 a hint of bass.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard has good travel compared to most Ultrabooks. The bold white lettering is backlit (an option) to improve legibility under all lighting conditions. The layout includes Page Up and Page Down keys above the cursor left and right keys. The Caps Lock key includes an indicator light, but there are no indicators for the Num Lock and Scroll Lock which are accessed using the Fn key.
The touchpad is noticeably smaller than the pad on the Samsung NP900X4C and is a consequence of using not just separate, rather than embedded, touchpad buttons but also having a second set of buttons for a pointing stick. Nonetheless, the touchpad has proved to be quite usable once I had found the registry hack to change the default reverse setting for the two finger scroll. My E7440 includes a fingerprint and smartcard reader on the right side of the palm rest.