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Dell Latitude E6430s review

Laptops & PCsReviews
8/10
by James Morris, 26 Oct 2012Reviews
Dell Latitude E6430s review

The size of a notebook and its usefulness aren't completely at odds, although a bigger notebook will usually have more features and greater processing power than a smaller one. But, of course, it won't be so easy to carry around. With the Latitude E6430s, Dell is trying to give you the best of both worlds. The chassis uses the 13in form factor, but the screen has a 14in diagonal, with more features to match.

However, as a result this is no svelte ultra-portable, and nothing like the Ultrabooks we have reviewed in their droves over the last few months. The E6430s measures a chunky 30mm thick, which is at least 50 per cent more than most Ultrabooks. Further increasing the sense of girth is the six-cell 65Wh battery installed in our review sample. This bodes well for endurance on the road, but doesn't mean this notebook will slip with ease into every bag.

Like quite a few notebooks we have reviewed recently, the E6430s sports an Intel Core i5 3320M processor. This is a mid-range CPU from Intel's latest Ivy Bridge generation, running at a nominal 2.6GHz, but with the usual Turbo Boost to allow a single core to run at up to 3.3GHz when required. This is a dual-core processor, with Intel's Hyper-Threading on hand for improved multi-tasking. The Core i5 is backed by 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory, but up to 8GB can be specified when you order the system. This might be a good idea, as no obvious panel is provided for user upgrade.

Now that Intel's integrated graphics have surpassed the merely passable, fewer notebooks are bothering with discrete chipsets, and it makes even less sense in a model targeting portability as much as the E6430s. With its Ivy Bridge processor, the Dell incorporates Intel HD 4000 graphics, which is quite significantly more powerful than the previous-generation HD 3000 graphics. It won't provide enough grunt for the mobile gamer, but for the Latitude range's business audience it will be more than adequate.

Although many 13in notebooks opt for solid state disks, our E6430s uses a 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate Momentus 7200.4 hard disk. However, going solid state adds considerably to the price, with even a 128GB SSD unit increasing the cost by £77. One benefit of the relatively portly chassis is that there is enough room for an optical drive, in this case a TSSTcrop SU-208BB 8x DVD rewriter. The ubiquitous SD card reader is also available.

The screen is one of the key selling points of the E6430s, and here Dell has provided a quality anti-glare display which is bright, colourful, and easy to view from a wide range of horizontal angles. Vertical viewing angles are better than most notebooks, too. However, the 14in unit still only offers the same 1,366 x 768 resolution found on most 13in screens.

The keyboard provides a comfortable typing experience, with full-sized keys and a nicely defined action. There is no separate numeric keypad, although the arrow keys and page up and down are sensibly placed in the bottom right corner, jutting out slightly from the key array. Separate volume and mute buttons can be found usefully on the right-hand side of the keyboard, in the plastic surround, but there are no discrete playback controls. These have been added to function keys at the top instead. The trackpad is on the small side, but the buttons are reassuringly responsive. The small size is in part because there is also a joystick pointer in the middle of the keyboard, with a trio of buttons just below the spacebar. We find this type of pointing device to be the best option in really tight spaces, like a crowded commuter tube or economy flight. A fingerprint reader has been subtly placed in the nearside right corner of the palm rest, rather than the more usual position in between the trackpad buttons.

The focus on security continues with a smartcard slot on the left edge of the chassis. Further back is a combo headphone and microphone jack, alongside VGA. On the right can be found the aforementioned optical drive, above which is lurking an ExpressCard/34 slot filled with a spacer that doubles as a 5cm ruler, with handy measurement conversion information on the back. Further back is a USB 3.0 port, alongside a combined eSATA and USB 2.0 port.

Like the Latitude E5530 Advanced we reviewed recently, the corners have been utilised for ports as well. The left rear corner is home to the power socket and another USB 3.0 port. The right rear corner houses a Kensington lock slot, Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI, although the latter is of the mini variety, rather than full-sized. Subtly hidden on the front below the trackpad is the SD memory card slot. There's also 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking and Bluetooth 4.0, but strangely, there is no option for 3G data. It's also worth noting that the docking port on the bottom is common to all E-series laptops, so one set of accessories could serve a whole fleet of Latitudes, as well as this one.

The E6430s holds few surprises when it comes to performance. We have seen the Intel Core i5 3320M a number of times before, and with it supplying graphics as well there wasn't much room for a great difference in speed compared to other notebooks using the same processor. The Cinebench R11.5 rendering score of 3.06 is on par with the similarly equipped Dell Latitude E5530 Advanced, as is the OpenGL score of 13.93. The result of 620 in 3DMark11 is completely identical, although strangely the score of 5287 in 3DMark06 is quite a bit better, implying improved optimisation for DirectX 10 in the drivers installed on the E6430s. Either way, this is no games machine.

Much more significant is the battery life. In our intensive 100 per cent utilisation test, the E6640s lasted a reasonably impressive 159 minutes, which is significantly ahead of the E5530. This equated to 391 minutes in MobileMark 2007's productivity test, which is slightly behind Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but still shows that the E6430s will give you a full day's work away from the mains. The E6430s also lasted 296 minutes in the DVD playback portion of MobileMark 2007, so it will easily give you a couple of two-hour movies in flight, with minutes to spare.

Verdict

The Dell Latitude E6430s punches above its form factor in many respects. The optical drive, comprehensive port selection including ExpressCard/34, and performance would all be more in keeping with a larger notebook. Unfortunately, it punches a little above the price we usually associate with notebooks this size as well. A three years next business day warranty is included as standard, going some way to mitigate the business price tag, as does the sturdy construction. But if you do want the features of a larger notebook in a smaller package, this is a relatively pricey way to get them.

Manufacturer and product

Dell Latitude E6430s

Processor

2.6GHz Intel Core i5 3320M

RAM

4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD 4000

Hard disk

500GB Seagate Momentus 7200.4 hard disk

Optical disc

TSSTcrop SU-208BB 8x DVD rewriter

Display

14in Dell Wide View anti-glare TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

1 x USB 2.0 / eSATA, 2 x USB 3.0, VGA, mini HDMI, LAN, headphone / microphone combo, SD card reader, ExpressCard/34

Width x Depth x Height

335 x 223.3 x 30.9mm

Weight

1.7kg

Warranty

3 years next business day

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