Dell Latitude E5400 notebook

Dell’s Latitude E-series may not offer the most exciting laptops on the market, but they’re reliable, strong and great for small, medium and large businesses. The Latitude E5400 sits towards the lower end of the range, with plastics used instead of metals, but you’ll still find a comprehensive specification and great quality.

The dark plastic finish looks painfully drab, but the austere styling is ideal for the corporate market, with form placed ahead of function. It lacks the high quality feel of premium products, but it’s an incredibly hardwearing design, with no sign of weakness from any of the plastics. There’s plenty of protection from the thick screen surround, and the plastic chassis also feels more than capable for daily use.

The 14.1-inch screen is great for business use, with a sharp resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels, and a matt finish to keep reflections to a minimum when out and about. Washed out colours make it less than ideal for movie playback and photo editing, however.

The keyboard on this machine is sublime, offering a typing experience that isn’t that far off a desktop keyboard. Each of the keys is perfectly shaped, firmly attached and moves near silently. It’s a responsive board, and is a pleasure when typing for long periods of time.

The touchpad isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but it’s supplemented by a pointing nipple in the centre of the keyboard, offering a couple of ways to manipulate the cursor. There are large and responsive buttons to accompany each.

A comprehensive set of ports are available on the left-hand side of this machine, with VGA and S-Video for hooking up displays and projectors, a PC card slot for older peripherals, 1394 FireWire and two USB ports. You’ll also find sockets for the modem and Gigabit Ethernet adapter. There’s no sign of an HDMI port, however, so you won’t be able to output high-definition movies.

Most of the right side of the chassis is taken up by the DVD rewriter, although you will find a further two USB ports, headphone and microphone sockets and a connection for the power adapter. There’s a memory card reader on the front.

Within the chassis, you’ll find a choice of Intel Core 2 Duo processors available. Our review laptop featured a high-end 2.53GHz P8700 chip and 2048MB of memory – an option that comes in at £654, although drop the specs slightly and the E5400 is available from £528. With the P8700 processor in place, we found it a very responsive laptop in daily use, running smoothly and without issues. 3D abilities are less capable, due to the use of an integrated Intel GPU. It’s fine for office work, but users needing to carry out graphics intensive tasks should look elsewhere. A battery life of around 6 hours also provides good mobility, offering use for long periods of the day.

Verdict

A good choice for corporate users on a strict budget, the Latitude E5400 is unlikely to excite, but it’s still a highly usable and well-made machine. Further backed by decent performance, a great keyboard and a useful amount of ports, it comes highly recommended.