Dell Latitude E6410: Minding Intel's Business

Today's review is something of a rarity for us. Yes, we've looked at business laptops before, but this laptop wasn't sent by Dell; instead, it comes via Intel and it's going to be our reference point for Sandy Bridge comparisons next month. When Intel initially contacted us about getting a "reference Arrandale platform" in hands so we could test various applications and games, they suggested the Lenovo ThinkPad T410. Since we already reviewed that laptop and knew what to expect, we asked for an alternative: Dell's Latitude E6410. Targeting the same business class user, it has many similarities to the ThinkPad line, both good and bad. Intel specifically wanted to send us an IGP-only laptop, so our review will be a bit more focused than usual, and our main purpose today is to see what we think of the E6410 compared to other business laptops. Here's what we're looking at today.

Dell Latitude E6410 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-520M
(2x2.4GHz, 2.93GHz Turbo, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel QM57
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Display 14.1" LED Anti-Glare 16:10 WXGA+ (1440x900)
(AU Optronics B141PW04 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 160GB 5400RPM
(Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD1600BEVT-75A23T0)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive (TEAC DV18SA)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Intel 82577LM)
Wireless 802.11n (Intel WiFi 6300AGN)
Audio HD Audio (Intel IDT 92HD81B1C5)
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, ~5100mAh, 60Wh battery
Front Side Flash reader
Latch release
Left Side Smartcard reader (optional)
Exhaust vent
1 x USB 2.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo
VGA
Kensington lock
Right Side ExpressCard/54 (optional PC Card)
Mini 1394a FireWire
Optical drive
Wireless On/Off switch
Headphone and microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Back Side Modem (optional)
Ethernet jack
DisplayPort
AC plug
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 13.2" x 9.4" x 1.0"-1.2" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.5 lbs
Extras HD Webcam (Optional)
83-Key keyboard
Flash reader (MMC, SD, MS, xD)
Warranty 3-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $699 (with $261 instant savings)
Cost as configured: ~$1200

Packing a standard dual-core Intel setup, the E6410 specs are what you'd expect of a modern business laptop. Our particular setup came with a Core i5-520M; that CPU is no longer an option on Dell's site, though you can still find it in the FastTrack C2 version. (Our unit is closer to the FastTrack C4A, as it includes the LCD panel upgrade.) If you custom configure the E6410, you can choose between the i3-380M (2.53GHz but no Turbo), i5-460M (2.53GHz base with 2.80GHz Turbo), i5-560M (2.66GHz base with 3.2GHz Turbo), or the top-end i7-640M (2.80GHz base and 3.46GHz Turbo). Given the cost of most upgrades, typical users will be fine with the i3-380M or i5-460M. Mix in the standard options on most of the other components and you have a laptop that should perform well in most tasks that don't need a better GPU than Intel's HD Graphics.

One thing we do have to note is that the entry-level model priced at $699 is a bit of a joke, shipping with a 160GB hard drive and only 1GB DDR3 memory. The cost to upgrade to 2x2GB DDR3 is a rather exorbitant $145, and most of the other upgrades are very expensive as well. If you get a good sale, things might be better, but count on a reasonable build costing around $900 to $1000 minimum. The one upgrade we do like is the 1440x900 LCD; sure, contrast ratio isn't great, but at least we're not stuck with a 16:9 768p glossy panel. As a whole, the C4A FastTrack (i5-540M, WXGA+, Quadro NVS 3100, 4GB DDR3, and 250GB HDD) is a good blend of performance and features, currently going for $1279, but as we mentioned we're running an IGP-only setup so we have a bit of a special case.

As a business centric laptop, there are plenty of security features and other upgrades available. Most of these won't matter much to home users—TPM modules, contactless Smartcard readers, FIPS fingerprint scanners, etc. are merely added cost. There are a few nice extras however, like the inclusion of Firewire, ExpressCard/54 (or even the old PC Card if you prefer, again mostly for businesses), and eSATA; there's no USB 3.0 however. Dell has also been a big proponent of DisplayPort since its inception, so they provide a DisplayPort connection on the rear, VGA on the side, but no HDMI or DVI. Finally, the standard warranty is 3-years instead of the regular 1-year warranty we see on most consumer laptops.

If we were to look solely at pricing and features, the Latitude E6410 costs more than your typical home laptop, but we can't ignore all of the extras Dell provides. Basically, even if you're using it as a consumer laptop, you're stuck with business pricing. One thing that doesn't show up looking at the specifications is the build quality and overall durability, which is yet another benefit of business notebooks. So let's move on to the user experience of the E6410 to see how it holds up.

Dell Latitude E6410 Subjective Evaluation
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  • G-Man - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Hey Jarred,

    thanks for your review. If I may, I have a question: How do you normally decide on what laptops to review? I'm guessing you have to prioitise, so is there a consensus that you mostly review laptops that are either equipped with new technology (like the first optimus laptops) or laptops that you somehow know are going to be highly recommended (like the recent XPS 15)?

    Also, are there any plans on reviewing Vostro? I recently bought a Vostro 3500 with core i3 and 2gb ram for something around the equivalent of $ 400, which I thought was pretty nice.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Mostly, it's whatever we can get our hands on. ASUS is generally willing to send out their latest and greatest, as is Dell, but even they tend to be selective. If they don't think we're likely to give a reasonably favorable review, they're less likely to send a unit our way. At least, that's my experience after three years of laptop reviews.

    In this particular instance, Intel wanted to make sure I had an "Intel reference laptop" for times when I might want to compare, say, AMD IGP vs. Intel IGP, or old Intel vs. new Intel. So when they asked if I was interested, naturally I said sure. They offered a ThinkPad but as I mentioned, I wanted to play with a Latitude just as a change of pace. This review was obviously lower priority... basically, get it done before Sandy Bridge ships. Dell was also a little concerned with the review, as it's not what they'd deem their "best foot forward".

    If I have the luxury of getting numerous laptops, I also try to prioritize on the stuff I think people will want to read/buy. A new technology is more interesting than "yet another standard Arrandale laptop". In the case of the XPS 15, I moved that ahead of a couple other laptops I've had longer (like this Latitude and the Acer 5551G). Toss in Dustin and Vivek and we get a fair selection of laptops reviewed all told. Now if only we could get Sony and HP to send us more stuff... Dustin has the Envy 17 now, but we're about three months late on that one. :-\
    Reply
  • QChronoD - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Is there somewhere on the site that we can send in suggestions for reviews/stories that we'd like to see? If you had several things in the backlog, maybe have us vote on which we'd be more interested in...

    On that note, please bug ASUS to send you guys one of the new U36's as soon as they can. From the press release, it looks like it'll be a direct competitor to the Air, only with a much faster cpu.

    I'm looking for a new super light laptop that I can carry all day when I'm at school, and it just jumped to the top of my xmas money shopping list.
    Reply
  • jgrunhut - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Jarred,

    If you do have any pull with Dell, I would also love it if you reviewed the Vostro 3400/3500. I purchased the 3400 back in June and am mostly happy with it. It was definitely one of the best relatively thin/light laptops available at the time. The only problem, which seems very common, is that once the fan spins up to its medium setting, it doesn't want to return to its lower levels. Hopefully, if you get to review this model then maybe Anandtech can bring more media attention and push Dell to fix it sooner.

    The only other issue with this laptop is the poor monitor. While I love the matte finish, the vertical viewing angles are absolutely terrible.

    Thanks,
    Jason
    Reply
  • fabarati - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    I got a 3500 for my mother.

    Good build quality, good keyboard, pretty good touchpad, looks decent (it's the red one), typical 15.6" 1366x768 screen (i.e. not very good), but matte.

    Battery life is good, there was little bloatware on it and it has a good port selection, save that it lacks firewire. It has express card, though, so you can just get a firewire card (we did).

    It's a bit on the heavy side, but I'm comparing it to my brothers Macbook pro 15 (core i7).

    Prices are good (well, we got the basic one when it was released), and for regular use, the intel igp is enough.

    Compared to consumer laptops for the same price, you may lose a bit of performance (higher clocked cpu or a dedicated gpu), but the improved build quality, battery life and keyboard more than makes up for it.

    Too bad on the display, though.
    Reply
  • fabarati - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    I would like to point out that the 3300/3400/3500/3700 reintroduced magnesium alloy chassis to the main vostro line, accounting for the good build quality. It also uses aluminium (note the extra i, yanks) panels and fairly high quality plastics. Reply
  • mschira - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    'nough said!
    M.
    Reply
  • jasperjones - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    On pricing: I think what makes Latitude and Vostro laptops attractive to consumers is the Dell outlet (you gotta use the coupons which are floating around regularly). E.g., I got a refurbished E6410 with i5-520m, WXGA+, 250GB 7200rpm HDD, 4GB, Intel IGP, Win 7 Pro x64, Bluetooth, 6300agn and some other stuff for $709 out the door (that included ~9% NY state tax). Given you still get the 3-year warranty, this is a mightily attractive price imo.

    Two minor things:
    - I also had performance issues prior to doing a clean install. Apart from a clean install, the A05 BIOS also helped. The A06 BIOS (released today) promises a number of additional fixes as well as performance improvements. E.g., what bothered me is the slow POSTing of the E6410, the A06 BIOS seems to have fixed this.
    - Probably our opinions differ here but my primary complaint about the E6410 is that the blue status LEDs are waaay too bright, they really bother me in low light.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Your point on the Dell Outlet is dead-on. I got a Latitude E4200 ultralight for a friend for $690 (they start at $1700 new) with a three-year warranty. Every Outlet order I've placed is indistinguishable from new product.

    I've just started working on some E6410s here, and like most Dell Latitudes, they're strong, well-built, and the Core i5 is fast. I own a ThinkPad T400 myself that's been souped to maximum performance, but considering Lenovo's slow slide in quality control standards, an E6410 would be my choice if I was in the market, rather than the T410.
    Reply
  • Zap - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Yup yup, I'm also a happy Dell Outlet customer. I picked up a Dell Latitude 13 with SU7300 CPU for $451 out the door. Mine has a big green REFURBISHED sticker on the bottom, some sticker residue on the bottom and the lid may be a hair warped, plus it showed up with a stripped screw on the bottom, but I'm still reasonably happy with it. Reply

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