Dell's Latitude range is normally associated with no-nonsense business notebooks, which are usually reasonably priced but not exactly budget options. The Latitude 3330, however, is very much aimed at the value end of the market. It specifically targets small business and education sectors, but with the intention of bringing the no-nonsense strategy of the Latitude range with it. The question is – can the solid build of the Latitude range be maintained at a budget price?
The Latitude ethos starts with the 3330's overall design, which is distinctly sober, blending matt black plastic and metallic grey. This is a 13.3in system, so ventures into Ultrabook territory. However, it weighs a fairly sizeable 1.8kg for this form factor, and a large 65Wh battery protrudes underneath at the rear, for a maximum thickness of 32mm. This ruins any pretensions the 3330 might have of being thin and light, but it's still a laptop that won't be any trouble to carry around with you all day.
Although this isn't quite an Ultrabook, it's pretty close in specification. The Ivy Bridge processor is from Intel's Ultra-Low Voltage range, so sports a 17W power rating. The Core i5 3337U CPU runs at a nominal 1.8GHz, and sports two physical cores, but the clock speed of a single core can increase to 2.7GHz when required – although there is no multi-core Turbo Boost power-up with this particular processor model. Hyper-Threading is also on hand to squeeze extra performance when running parallel tasks.
The processor is backed by an adequate but unexceptional 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory. This is the bare minimum we expect from a notebook these days, particularly when some of the memory will be borrowed by the integrated graphics. Strangely, there is no option to specify more memory at the time of purchase, even though a panel on the underside of the chassis provides access to a spare DIMM slot, so you could upgrade at a later date. The graphics come in the shape of Intel's HD 4000 chipset, which won't offer quite the performance of a dedicated chipset from AMD or Nvidia, but is close enough to be useful unless you’re an avid gamer (which we suspect most Latitude users won't be).
Storage takes a value compromise approach, with a Seagate solid state hybrid drive (SSHD) in the main role. This partners a 500GB conventional 5,400rpm hard disk with a small 8GB solid state disk, which functions as a cache. The operating system and most frequently used software will load quickly from the SSD, so the hard disk can spend a considerable time spun down to conserve energy. But you also have the healthy 500GB capacity available when required, so there is plenty of room for software and data. In other words, you get some of the benefits of an SSD, alongside the price advantage of a hard disk.
The 13.3in screen has the usual 1,366 x 768 resolution for this size, but it's not top of its class. It has an anti-glare surface, so it doesn't suffer from the detrimental reflectivity of glossy high-transmission screen treatments. However, viewing angles are still not particularly outstanding. It's also not the sharpest display, with a slight lack of distinction around fine text. For personal business activities, it's fine, but this is not a screen optimised for multimedia enjoyment. Audio is also unsurprisingly lacking in body and bass. Few notebooks this size offer stunning sound, though.
The Chiclet-style keyboard has a light action, which won't satisfy those who prefer more definitive feedback when typing – but it's still pleasant enough for touch typing. Dell has opted for a more traditional trackpad with discrete buttons at the bottom. The trackpad is accurate and its buttons have a clear click, making it comfortable to use.
The port allocation will meet the everyday needs of a business user. The left side houses a full-sized HDMI port, USB 2.0 with sleep and charge, and the SD card slot. The right is home to a combined microphone and headphones minijack, twin USB 3.0 ports, VGA and Gigabit Ethernet. This is pretty standard for a notebook in this class. There is 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi but no Bluetooth available for wireless device connections.
The Latitude 3330 has a level of application performance somewhere between an Ultrabook and a regular notebook, although more towards the former than the latter. Its score of 2.51 in the Cinebench R11.5 render test is slightly ahead of most Ultrabooks, but not by much. However, the Cinebench graphics score of 13.66 is what we would expect from an Intel HD 4000 chipset, and the Futuremark 3DMark11 result of 585 is actually slightly behind the norm – although this isn’t a notebook you would want to be playing games on anyway.
The 3330 managed a respectable 167 minutes during our 100 per cent processor and graphics battery stress test. This translates into an even more respectable 422 minutes in Bapco MobileMark 2007's productivity test, implying that you can expect up to seven hours of everyday business software usage, which is just what you want from a distinctly portable notebook. Endurance away from the power socket is clearly the 3330's most impressive feature.
If you're looking for a business notebook with a very commendable battery life, the Dell Latitude 3330 is good value. There's an even cheaper Core i3 version for nearly £200 less, too, if you're willing to sacrifice on performance for a near-netbook price.
Although the 3330 we looked at isn't a model to get your heart going, with a mediocre screen letting the notebook down somewhat, it provides a decent balance of everyday performance, portability and price. For the intended education and small business customer, it's a sensible budget choice.
Manufacturer and Model
Dell Latitude 3330
1.8GHz Intel Core i5 3337U
4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Intel HD 4000
Seagate Solid State Hybrid Drive with 500GB 5,400rpm hard disk and 8GB solid state disk cache
13.3in Anti-Glare LED backlit TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
2 x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, combo headphone and microphone, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
329 x 238 x 32mm
1 year RTB