Dell Latitude E6220 review

Not all ultraportables are equally portable, and it's true that the Dell Latitude E6220 is one of the slightly heftier examples of its breed. There's no denying that the machine has a pretty compact footprint, and it's also a tad thicker than your average ultraportable at 25mm (an inch, if you prefer).

Weighing in at just a touch over 1.4kg, this business laptop is still small and light enough to be carried around, with relative ease. On the plus side, its chunkier nature has a solid build quality. The Latitude has a sturdy base too; the displays' hinges feel similarly well built, also opening with a very smooth action.

Even the touchpad buttons have a quality feel when you press them. The keyboard boasts a lovely typing action, which hits a nicely pitched tactile note - somewhere between firm and yielding. It also benefits from well-sized keys, despite the compact nature of this notebook.

Weak point

On the whole, the Latitude is a very smartly designed and solid piece of technology, but there was one weakness, when it came to the build quality of our review machine. The laptop has a black bottom section, joined to a silver top section to make the base unit. However, at the right hand corner of the unit, the black section had come away slightly from the top silver half, leaving a small gap visible.

Essentially, this wasn't a problem in terms of the laptop functioning, it was just an aesthetic blemish - but one that rather flies in the face of the expensive build quality. We didn't even notice the flaw until late in the review period, after the machine had been sat on our desk, staring at us, for several days.

Judging by the overall level of build quality, we're sure this won't be a remotely common issue with the E6220 range. At any rate, we spoke to Dell regarding the matter and the company assured us that in such a case, the system would be repaired, replaced or the customer refunded in line with policy.

The Dell representative we talked to also assured us that the issue would be investigated, back down the manufacturing chain. He noted that, as part of on-going quality evaluation, Dell would: "Check the history of that product via the identifiable TAG number to determine if there were other reports of ‘warped' cases on that product - Dell manufacturing can trace back to the manufacturing team that would have assembled the system."

Core i7 blimey

So, what's inside the stylish looking silver and black clad Latitude? At the heart of the machine is a Core i7-2640m dual-core processor running at 2.8GHz, with turbo up to a very nippy 3.5GHz. 4GB of memory is provided, along with integrated graphics, and a 128GB SSD (with around 100GB of free space after Windows 7 Professional has been installed). There's no optical drive, which is obviously pretty common in the world of ultraportables.

The Samsung PM810 solid-state drive and powerful mobile processor means tasks are completed snappily, under Windows. The Latitude was very responsive when running applications in general, as you'd expect from an SSD, and the machine's boot time was quick - at 25 seconds. Returning from hibernation mode is an impressively swift process. After you've opened the lid, it's literally just a couple of seconds before you're back at the desktop with the machine ready to go.

A further bonus of the SSD is that the E6220 is very quiet running, with the fan only spinning up, if you try to do something a bit more intensive such as run a 3D game. Even then, the Latitude still keeps the noise down to a palatable level.

The 12.5in display has a resolution of 1,366 x 768 and is nice and crisp, with pretty good viewing angles - both horizontally and vertically. There's an anti-glare coating, meaning the screen fares well even under more brightly lit conditions, such as using it near a window. All this makes the notebook well suited to presentation work, with the added bonus of some integrated speakers. These pump out some surprisingly good quality sound, at a more than reasonable volume.

The machine boasts a range of ports including an HDMI; two USB 2.0 ports; an Ethernet port, e-SATA and USB combo; a VGA output; a smartcard reader and an ExpressCard docking connector. Oh, and there's a headphone/microphone combination jack. So whatever you've got to plug in, this laptop should accommodate despite its small stature. The only disappointment is the lack of USB 3.0. We would really expect to see this, particularly given the E6220's price tag.

Fingerprint security

A neat extra on the security front is a fingerprint swipe sensor, which does what it says on the tin, and keeps your data extra-secure should the laptop go walkies. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support are on board, and our review model also came with a Dell wireless 5550 HSPA+ mini-card modem - for those who need mobile broadband, while on the go. Throw in an HD webcam with a built-in microphone, and that's a lot of extra bits and pieces that are on board the Latitude.

Finally, the battery is also a quality affair, giving ample usage time, when out and about. We put the notebook through its paces in our light Windows usage test, using a balanced power plan and moderate brightness settings. It lasted for eight hours: an impressive show of staying power.

However, as we've already hinted, all this goodness comes at a price, and if you've already glanced below, you'll be aware of the Latitude's weighty RRP. It's true that you are getting a slick piece of hardware for the money, plus Dell's three year "next business day" warranty. Even so, the near £1,400 price of our review model is certainly on the steep side.

There are cheaper specifications of the E6220 and it's possible to pick up a base spec model, for just over £1,000. The snappiness factor of the most thrifty E6220 won't be the same, however, as it lacks an SSD, instead employing a standard 250GB 7200rpm hard disk. It also switches the Core i7 processor out, for a considerably weaker Core i3-2330m dual-core CPU (which runs at 2.20GHz).

Verdict

The Latitude E6220 is a quality addition to Dell's line of business laptops, and is a seriously snappy, well-featured machine. The main downsides are its size, which is slightly chunkier than you'd expect for an ultraportable class machine. The price tag is chunkier still. However, if your wallet can take the punishment, this is a smart and responsive laptop, with an impressive battery life, not to mention some useful extras.

Pros: Snappy and responsive; excellent battery life.

Cons: Rather steep asking price; a little chunky around the midriff.

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: DELL

Price: £1388 inc. VAT

Specifications

Display: 12.5in 1,366 x 768 Anti-Glare LED

Processor: Intel Core i7-2640m

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Memory: 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 SD-Ram at 1333MHz

Chipset: Mobile Intel QM67 Express Chipset

Video Card: Intel HD Graphics 3000

Hard Drive: 128GB SSD

Connectivity: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; Dell Wireless 5550 HSPA+ Mini-card Modem

Multimedia: Speakers; Integrated Microphone; HD video webcam

Ports: Network connector (RJ-45); 2 USB 2.0 ports; 1 USB/eSATA combo; Stereo headphone/microphone combo jack; Memory card reader; 34 mm ExpressCard; VGA; HDMI; 1 Full and 2 Half Mini Card Slots; SmartCard Reader; Contactless SmartCard Reader/Fingerprint Reader

Dimensions: Width: 12.2" / 309mm; Height: 0.97" / 24.7mm; Depth: 8.9" / 226mm

Weight: 3.15lbs / 1.44kg (with 3-cell battery)