Dell brings XPS 13 design to the Latitude family, with predictably great – if not perfect – results.
S omewhere deep inside Dell’s R&D labs, white-coated workers have toiled day and night to splice the DNA of Dell’s Latitude and XPS families. The fruit of their labours is one of the finest ultraportables to ever see the light of day: the Dell Latitude 13 7370.
As a starting point, you couldn’t ask for any better: the XPS 13 is an Ultrabook to aspire to, all carbon fibre, metal and understated design. It’s fast, light, beautiful and well-equipped in every category. The Latitude 13 7370 takes those strengths and moulds them into a more business-friendly form.
Bag-friendly build quality
It gets off to a great start. The base is cast from perfectly smooth, gently rounded plates of carbon fibre, while the silver metal lid of the XPS 13 has been exchanged for a less ostentatious charcoal-coloured sheet.
Build quality is excellent. Pick it up, twist it, abuse it and you’ll get nowhere: the slender lid barely budges more than a couple of millimetres, and the base flexes only once you start to exert the kind of force that would snap a lesser device. Dell says the Latitude 13 7370 is strong enough to survive the barrage of MIL-STD-810G tests, and I’m inclined to believe it.
For a 13in laptop, the Latitude 13 7370 is unusually tiny. It’s easy to see how Dell’s done it, however: the “InfinityEdge” display has a bezel no more than a few millimetres wide. Short of getting rid of bezels entirely, the Latitude 13 7370 couldn’t be any smaller. Nor, at 1.12kg, could it be much lighter.
This shrinking process hasn’t led to any obvious compromises, other than the position of the webcam; below the screen isn’t ideal for conference calls. The keyboard is a touch small, but this won’t be noticeable in everyday use. The Scrabble-tile keys have just enough scoop in them to grip the finger, and the feel is superlative, every key dipping down with a delicate, light action. If you’re the type that curses the fashion for touchpads with integrated buttons, you may now rejoice freely: the Dell’s touchpad has two separate buttons, which operate silently.
If you ruled out the XPS 13 because of its glossy screen, then Dell’s decision to equip the Latitude 13 7370 with a matte anti-glare coating will be a definite plus. Most of the pre-configured models come with a perfectly adequate Full HD display, but pushing up to the range-topping $5,579 model earns you a QHD+ 3,200 x 1,800 screen, not to mention the fastest available Core m7 and a larger 43Whr battery.
The Full HD display on the model reviewed here is fine, but not amazing. Purists will rightly gripe about the dynamic contrast – if colour accuracy is key, it’s a significant downside – and there are other reasons to moan. The anti-glare coating makes images look a touch soft, and colours lack punch and vibrancy, although the peak brightness (278cd/m2) and contrast ratio (1,324:1) is decent. The overall quality is good enough for everyday office applications, but if you’ve spent time with the XPS 13’s high-DPI display, or any of Apple’s Retina displays, you’re likely to be underwhelmed.
Eagle-eyed readers may have already spotted where the Latitude 13 7370 deviates from its XPS-branded sibling: it’s powered by Intel’s low-voltage Core M processors. This isn’t the shortcoming you might imagine. In most situations, you’re unlikely to notice the difference between these and Dell’s Core i3 or i5 laptops.
Unless you subject your work laptop to heavy, extended workloads – virtualisation, video editing, that kind of thing – for the whole working day, the Core M’s ability to crank up the clock speed to deliver brief surges of power is the perfect compromise between performance and battery-friendly power consumption.
Depending on your budget, you can buy yourself a Latitude 13 7370 in vPro-enabled Core m5 or m7 flavours, and take your pick of 128GB or 256GB M.2 NVMe SSDs. Whichever you choose, you’ll get 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Prices start at a considerable $4,635 and work up to around $5,579, at which point you get that upgrade to the QHD+ screen, a faster Core m7 CPU and a carbon-fibre lid.
Dell sent me the Full HD Core m5 version for review, and it put in a very decent performance. A score of 22 overall in PC Pro’s benchmarks is exactly what we’d expect from a Core m5 device, and while it drops around 85% behind the Core i7 XPS 13 in the multi-tasking benchmarks, it’s a much less dramatic 35% to 40% slower in the video transcoding and image processing tests. That might sound like quite a margin, but in reality the super-quick NVMe SSD does a great job of masking the processor’s shortcomings. It was only once I’d started Photoshop CC churning through heavyweight filters that I began to miss the beefier Core i7 processor in the Dell XPS 13.
Battery life is good enough to last a working day, but only if you take a full hour for lunch. In our video-rundown test, where we calibrate the screen to a brightness of 170cd/m2, the Latitude 13 7370 lasted 7hrs 6mins, which is 52mins less than the XPS 13. However, given that the XPS 13’s battery is almost 70% larger, that’s quite an impressive figure – and a good indicator of just how efficient those Core M processors are.
Dell has done a great job of covering the connectivity and security side of things. The Intel Wireless-AC 8260 provides 2x2 stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC.
And it’s great to see that physical connectivity hasn’t fallen by the wayside. There’s a single full-sized USB 3 port, and this is backed up by microSD and two USB Type-C ports, both of which are Thunderbolt 3 capable. A micro-HDMI is present too, while a physical fingerprint reader and full-sized smart card reader round off the selection.
The Dell Latitude 13 7370 isn’t without rivals. HP’s EliteBook Folio 1020 was stratospherically expensive when it first launched, but has since dropped in price to the extent that you can find it for significantly less than Dell is charging for its machine. Then there’s the Dell XPS 13. Several folk in the office have an XPS 13 as their business laptop, and as long as you can live without the security options of the 13 7370, it’s a cheaper, more powerful alternative.
Despite this, the Latitude 13 7370 is a superb business ultraportable. It’s expensive, but once you take into account the fantastic build quality and its excellent array of features, not to mention the three years of on-site warranty, it’s by no means overpriced. If you’re looking to buy a light, portable laptop that’s purpose-built for a life in and out of the office, it gets most things right.