Sometimes I’m convinced that Dell is just showing off. The Dell Latitude 7330 is a magnesium-built business laptop with Intel’s enterprise-focused vPro technology, and at just 2.13 pounds, it’s light enough to feel like an empty shell.
This combination of features appeals to a business audience and may be just what some IT departments are looking for. But it’s also perhaps the most extreme example of the “thin at all costs” mantra I’ve seen this year. It’s held back by a performance that, while not terrible, isn’t worthy of its several thousand dollar sticker price. That’s a shame, because secure, connected, vPro-equipped devices like this could be excellent buys for freelancers and small business owners – if they weren’t such a bad deal for them.
It’s top notch…
The best part of my Latitude review period wasn’t actually using the device, it was carrying it around. It feels like nothing in my backpack. In some context, it’s over half a pound lighter than its XPS 13 Plus consumer cousin.
This lightness comes with some compromises. The chassis is flexible throughout, it doesn’t appear to meet MIL-STD 810H durability standards, and it looks about as dull and boring as it gets. But Dell promises a lightweight device, not a beautiful or rugged device, and the Latitude holds on to the former front.
However, opening and using the thing is a much less remarkable experience. My review unit came with a 16:9, 1920 x 1080 panel with high-visibility plastic bezels, which I would expect on a sub-$1,000 device. It’s functional but doesn’t look that great and feels a bit like using an antique. The keyboard, touchpad, and speakers are also decent, but similarly unremarkable.
…but not the performance
Performance is my main issue with this device and the main reason why I don’t see it as a reasonable purchase for many business users. The Latitude is functional, sure — but it doesn’t offer $3,000 performance, or even $2,000 performance.
My review unit (MSRP around $3,150, currently priced at $2,047) packs a vPro Core i7-1265U, 512GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM. I don’t see benchmarks as all that useful here (although I did run a few, of course – who do you think I am?). After a few days of use, I can say that this device falls short of what I generally expect from high-end competitors like the ThinkPad range. vPro, for those unfamiliar, is an Intel technology built into a system’s chips that helps IT professionals manage, diagnose, and update devices remotely; It also enables a range of security and virtualization features that keep IT departments happy.
For one thing, I only averaged three hours and 35 minutes of battery life, which would be a huge issue even if everything else about this device was incredible. But even with it on, I could feel the thing chugging towards the higher end of my workload. For example, while I was serving a second display via Thunderbolt, loading some files from external drives, performing a few downloads, and trying to edit that in 20-ish Chrome tabs, the Latitude had a visible slowdown. I don’t see this as an unrealistic office workload, so that’s a concern.
I could do photo work well enough, but more powerful programs like Adobe Premiere and Media Encoder were sluggish. They took ages to open and often crashed. This is more common on thin and light laptops like this, but many cheaper devices can still get the job done faster when it comes to graphics work. The XPS 13 Plus for example, also with 16GB of RAM, was also quite slow when opening and operating Premiere, but it still took about half the time it took the Latitude to export a 4K video and got it a much higher score in PugetBench for Premiere Pro.
This laptop is not worth its current price
You could use this for easier gaming – over watch on ultra settings, rocket league at its highest, and League of Legends were all playable. But Tomb Raider crawled and stuttered at an average of 18 fps on the lowest possible setting (a slightly lower score than the P-series XPS was able to squeeze out of the game’s highest settings). I understand that this isn’t a gaming device, but this result shows how limited its graphics capabilities are.
I promise you that I recognize the value of such a device. The benefits of Intel’s vPro platform, combined with extreme portability, may well meet the needs of many individuals and businesses. But other top business laptops like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga offer better performance, battery life, and build at similar prices (while still offering vPro and legions of other enterprise features).
And for freelancers, small business owners, and others who might well be looking at the consumer space, the Latitude is an even worse deal. You can currently purchase a vPro model from the XPS13Plus with a touchscreen and twice the RAM as our Latitude configuration for $1,549 and a vPro model of the regular XPS 13 for only $999. These devices have much longer battery life, better displays, and a more durable body – they look and feel much more expensive.
Business laptops like this have a whole range of advantages for professionals – not only in terms of remote management, but also on the security side. The Latitude’s presence awareness, enterprise-class security, and dual-network connectivity could be tremendous benefits for a family business owner or a founder launching a startup. But I worry about how much these customers would give up if they chose this Latitude. And the priorities of IT managers buying massive fleets are further beyond my view as a critic, but my instinct is that you should consider models that more reliably serve the diverse needs of your entire workforce, particularly when it comes to battery life.
Photography by Monica Chin
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