Two years ago I bought a Latitude E6400 and shared my findings (see my review here). It has provided two years of trouble-free service in a range of countries and conditions. However, the time has come for me to consider replacing it with something newer and, hopefully, faster and the logical contender for this role is the E6410. Fortunately Dell has had the wisdom to keep the 16:10 display for this model).
The specifications of my Dell Latitude E6410 are:
Deciding on the configuration is part of the fun of buying a Dell, while buying Dell Outlet stock requires consideration about where to make compromises. I didn’t want the i7-620M CPU since it various reports suggest a tendency to generate more heat and have higher idle power consumption. I’m not into 3D games so I prefer the lower power consumption of the Intel GPU. The LED backlit WXGA+ screen is a must while a backlit keyboard is desirable. RAM and HDD can be easily upgraded.
Overall, the E6410 is very similar to the E6400 and uses what Dell calls “tri-metal” construction. There was not much to improve on the E6400’s design and the visible changes are relatively small. The top of the front edge of the E6410’s palm rest is slightly bevelled and a rim around the SD card slot results in a card in the slot sitting flush with the surface (suggestion to Dell: Provide an SD to micro-SD adaptor instead of the plastic filler). The display bezel has acquired two small rubber bumpers in the top corners, a very small bumper on the left side of the latch and there are two new bumpers behind the keyboard to support the bottom of the display when closed. Hopefully, these will prevent the cosmetic damage that occurred on the E6400 when the display bezel rubbed on the keyboard surround during transport. A less visible change is that the base of the E6410 contains larger air vents than provided on the E6400.
Close up of front edge of palm rest. E6410 (left), E6400 (right).
The initial impression on picking up the E6410 is that it is a solid as the E6400. My E6400 also gave me an initial impression of robustness which two years of travel and heavy use has confirmed the impression. However, whereas my E6400’s hinges had a small amount of travel when open (which has increased with time), the E6410’s hinges are still (after 3 weeks usage) very tight with no looseness when open and pushing back on the open display lifts the front of the computer.
The display back is metal alloy. I’ve tried pushing and twisting but I can’t get any ripples on the display. The computer’s base is a single sheet of metal that is held in place by one screw, which vastly simplifies access to the main components. The battery latches in snugly with no wiggle and has an accessible power gauge. My E6410 computer had originated from Dell Outlet. I therefore checked carefully for any problems and noticed that the right end of the LED cover (which is located immediately behind the keyboard) didn’t clip down. A call to Dell’s support resulted in a replacement part being delivered next day and there was a follow-up call the day after to check that the problem was resolved (comparison of the two parts revealed a broken hook).
Removal of the base revealed no major changes in the layout with the various add-on slots being in the same locations but the cooling system has changed. There is no longer the need for the extension of the heat pipe to cover the northbridge although there is an extension of the heat sink to cover some chip near the battery.
Ports and Features
The E6410 has the same selection of ports as the E6400 including four USB 2.0 ports of which one is a USB/eSATA combo port; mini Firewire; gigabit Ethernet, VGA port; a DisplayPort and, optionally, a modem port).The E6400’s USB PowerShare feature, in which one port could charge an external device while the computer is off, has been dropped on the new model. The USB ports are stacked as two pairs so any fat devices could block two ports. There’s an SD / MMC card slot which supports SDHC and purchasers can select to have either an Express Card or a PC Card slot. The photos below show the E6410 on top of the E6400 for ease of comparison.
There’s not a lot at the front: The SD / MMC card slot and the display release latch (which is smaller on the E6410 than on the E6400)
Left side, left to right: Security slot, VGA port, USB port above USB / eSATA combo port, fan exhaust and smart card slot above the HDD
Back side, left to right: Modem port (blanked off on my model), network port, DisplayPort connector and power socket (identical to the E6400). Note that hidden behind the 9-cell battery is a SIM card slot for the optional WWAN module.
Right side, left to right: Express Card slot over Firewire port, optical drive in media bay, wireless switch and WiFi detector above audio ports, two USB ports
Device Manager shows the display as SEC5442 (Samsung). Discussion among the E6400 owners suggested that the Samsung was the least good of the displays used on the E6400 and I was worried about getting a display that was inferior to the LG panel on my E6400. However, side-by-side comparison of my E6400 and E6410 revealed no substantial difference in the quality of the displays. There was a slight difference in the colour balance but this is adjustable in the graphics driver. So far, I have not noticed any dead or stuck pixels. While the display does not seem as bright, at full brightness, as the E6400 display did when new, it is as bright as the E6400’s display now is and I suspect that Dell reduced the maximum brightness in one of the E6400 BIOS updates. The viewing angles are similar and are typical of this type of display with good horizontal viewing angles but limited vertical viewing angles.
The E6410 includes an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the display brightness. However, I have turned it off because I find the automatic variation of display brightness to be distracting. However, Dell have moved the sensor from the bottom display bezel to the top where it may be better able to sense the ambient light instead of the brightness of the user’s clothes.
Dell claims that the E6410 has “high quality” speakers. An initial side-by-side comparison with the E6400 paying the same music did not reveal any major improvement on the E6410. However, after watching a DVD on the E6410 with audio through the internal speakers my conclusion is that there may be an improvement. Closer inspection of the grilles on each side of the keyboard reveals two holes where there used to be one and the bigger one is slightly oval and the full width of the grille. This is slightly bigger than on the E6410. There is still a distinct lack of bass and far too much treble although the maximum volume is sufficient to serve a group of people watching something on the screen. The IDT Audio driver has acquired a few enhancements since the E6400 was released but these cannot compensate for the physical imitations of the hardware. Ideally, Dell would have added a woofer to the E6410.
The keyboard is identical to that provided in the E6400 (and is interchangeable – my E6410 is now home to an E6400 backlit keyboard).The consensus among the E6400 owners is that the backlit keyboard is more solid and provides a better typing experience (among the best on any notebooks) than the non-backlit keyboard. My main complaint is with the layout. I would have liked to see the PgUp and PgDn more accessible and use the two empty spaces just in front of the right shift key (which Dell has done on the smaller E series). Reaching to the back of the keyboard is a little tedious. If Dell had done that then they wouldn’t have needed to make the Num Lock and Scroll Lock Fn+F4 and Fn+F5. To the ledt of the power button (which illuminates when on) is a Latitude On button, which did not exist on the E6400.
The touchpad is a medium-sized 66mm x 39mm Dell branded Alps touchpad which appears to be identical to that on the E6400. There is no space for a larger one because of the buttons for the trackpoint. However, the touchpad is reasonably smooth to use and the buttons have excellent action, with long travel but reasonably low force needed. I’m not a trackpoint user but its action seems to be smooth. There are many options in the touchpad software with a new optional feature being multi-finger gestures.
The status indicator lights are above the keyboard and are easier to monitor than lights on the edge of the palm rest. The status lights are not visible when the computer is closed so Dell has provided two more lights on the outside. The power light shines blue when the computer is on or flashes when it is sleeping. The battery light indicates if the battery is charging.
Performance and Benchmarks
How does the performance of my E6410 compare with the E6400 that I reviewed in 2008? Conveniently, the specifications of both notebooks are comparable with CPU that is one above the lowest offered and Intel integrated graphics. While my E6410 came with 2GB RAM and a 160GB 5400RPM HDD, I have upgraded these components and changed Windows 7 from 32 to 64bit. I have provided the results for both configurations where they are noticeably different. It can be seen that the upgraded hardware running the 64 bit version of Windows 7 performs substantially better in some benchmarks which shows the need to look at the hardware configuration.
The Core i5-540M CPU has a nominal maximum speed of 2.53GHz. However, Intel’s TurboBoost feature may allow the CPU to run at up to 3.06GHz depending on overall load. One notable feature of the Core-i series CPUs is the ability to run two processing threads per core. This can provide a substantial performance boost for multi-threaded programs. Another performance-boosting feature is that the memory controller and the Intel GPU are both included in the CPU package.
The Core i5-540M CPU is about 80% faster than the P8600 in this benchmark. Out of curiosity I have run the test for each of 1 to 4 threads and these results show that for 2 threads the i5-540M is about 38% faster than the P8600. The typical speed of the i5-540M during the test was 2.8GHz (ie 17% faster) which suggests that there are some internal improvements in the new CPU (or perhaps it is the improved memory bandwidth – see below). For those interested in the longer benchmark, the time for the wPrime 1024M benchmark was 557.3s.
Wprime (32M) processor comparison results (lower times mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
The Cinebench benchmark provides a useful measure of graphics rendering and OpenGL performance. It can be seen that the E6410 in its basic configuration pulls comfortably ahead of the E6400 (which, in turn, is about 50% faster than the previous generation of Intel hardware).
Cinebench 10 results for graphics rendering and OpenGL performance (higher is better):
The supplied hard disk is a Western Digital WD1600BEVT. The performance is best described as modest and it actually slightly inferior to the Samsung HM160HI supplied with my E6400. Not much progress there although current technology is capable of putting 160GB on one side of one platter to give good HDD performance. This highlights the lottery associated with pre-installed HDDs. Fortunately, I had an SSD waiting to replace it.
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
The cooling system of the E6410 is designed to handle the heat from a Core i7-620M + Nvidia NVS 3100M GPU. Keeping a Core i5 processor and Intel integrated graphics cool should therefore not be a challenge. I was therefore surprised to see a peak CPU temperature of 83°C (181°F) reported by HWMonitor V1.16 under heavy load. This is about 10°C hotter than the P8600 under similar conditions. Temperatures dropped quickly when the CPU load reduced. Under heavy stress of benchmarking the system, the case temperatures were around 90°F on the keyboard-side and slightly hotter on the bottom with a peak of 105°F at the middle back. This is getting warm, but the location means that user contact is unlikely even if the computer is being used on a lap. The maximum external temperatures shown below (recorded during benchmarking) are listed in degrees Fahrenheit:
Fan noise levels are not obtrusive even during benchmark tests. I have noticed two fan speeds (plus off). The low speed, which runs much of the time, is barely audible in a quiet room while the faster speed is not noticeable in normal office environment. It is possible that there are faster fan speeds if more cooling is required for the dedicated GPU version of the E6410: Dell had introduced four speeds during the E6400 production life to better match the cooling requirements (before that change the E6400 was more noisy under load). The BIOS offers a passive cooling option which reduces fan activity when running on battery at the expense of increased (but still manageable) case temperatures. I have used the E6410 on my lap without any discomfort.
Battery Life and Power Consumption
Dell provide a 90W PSU as standard although the specifications indicate that 65W is sufficient for an E6410 with the intel GPU. Power consumption at the mains socket peaked at 48W during benchmarking which leaves some margin for battery charging.
My E6410 came with a 90Wh 9-cell battery (which is backwards compatible with the E6400 and E6500). There are other options ranging from a hard-to-find 4-cell battery to a 12-cell battery slice. Dell didn’t heed user grumbles about the lack of a media bay battery option when designing the E6410. The battery supports ExpressChargeTM, which Dell claims will recharge an empty battery to 80% full within one hour. Personally, I prefer a slower charge rate to reduce the risk of battery degradation and have disabled ExpressChargeTM in the BIOS. However, I am still seeing a charge rate of up to about 50W.
Does the lack of a very low frequency mode for the CPU (the minimum speed is 1200MHz) increase idle power consumption? My first battery test was to play the 3-hour Dances with Wolves DVD with the display at 3/4 brightness. The battery capacity was 36% (32.6Wh) at the end of the DVD indicating a power drain of about 59Wh. This is comparable to the E6400, which didn’t quite reach the end of this DVD when using a 56Wh battery.
Battery run time depends on the usage conditions and display brightness. After the SSD was installed I have observed idle power consumption dropping below 8W with the display on minimum brightness and using the Extended Battery Life power plan. However, more typical power consumption under light usage with the display on half brightness is around 9 to 11W which suggests 8 to 9 hours battery run time on the 9 cell battery (5 to 6 hours with the 6 cell battery). I suspect that in a back-to-back test using the same batteries the E6410 would not match the frugality of the E6400 with a P series CPU.
Dell has built on the strengths of the E6400 to produce the E6410. Dell prudently kept to the 16:10 aspect ratio display for the E6410 which is more suited to business usage than the 16:9 displays. The one step backwards is the omission of the Power Share feature while the new Intel platform provides a significant speed boost albeit at the expense of a small reduction in battery life. Overall, the E6410 does feel a little faster but, as noted above, an SSD has more impact on the overall performance than the platform change.