Dell Latitude E6410 Subjective Evaluation

The E6410 stock configuration is an attractive looking "slate silver" cover, with the appearance of brushed aluminum. I believe the cover is still plastic, but the main body comes with a "tri-metal" magnesium alloy frame that feels very solid. If you want to make a bit of a statement, you can opt for a blue or red cover. I'm not one for fashion statements so I'm perfectly happy with the slate silver model and "boring" appearance—in fact, I quite like the look of the E6410. It's classy and subdued in my opinion, but then you know what they say about opinions….

Comparisons with the ThinkPad T410 are easy to make. Both have similar specs and pricing, though I have to give a clear edge to the T410 for feeling more durable. Mostly, it's the LCD cover on the Dell that doesn't match up to ThinkPad standards—a compromise to get something not quite so "boring" as ThinkPad black perhaps. ThinkPads also have a textured non-slip coating so that you're less likely to drop them; I'm not sure how often that helps, as I've been careful enough with my laptops over the years that I have yet to drop one, but if you're prone to such accidents Lenovo is probably the better bet. The hinges on the E6410 do feel very solid, however, and I have no doubt they'll withstand plenty of use and abuse over the years.

One area where the Latitude and ThinkPad are again similar is in the keyboard department—and that's a good thing. ThinkPad has the ThinkLight while Dell offers LED backlighting (I wish the E6410 Intel ordered included LED backlighting…), but both have a similar keyboard design and feel. Having used both, I actually found I prefer Dell's keyboard in most regards. One of my few complaints with the keyboard is something I've mentioned with other Dell business laptops (i.e. the Precision M6500): there's no "context menu" key (usually found in the lower-right area between the CTRL and ALT keys). It's something I can live without, but I do miss it on occasion. Key travel and feedback is good, there's no flex to speak of, and it's a spill-resistant design. In fact, other than a few minor differences the keyboard is almost a clone of the ThinkPad design, including a TrackPoint equivalent in the center for those who dislike touchpads.

Speaking of the touchpad, that's where we start to encounter more noteworthy differences. Dell's touchpad includes the expected gesture support, but it's on the very small side for a 14.1" laptop. When you combine the touchpad with the Track Stick and its three associated buttons, plus the rather large touchpad buttons, you start to run out of room fast. Dell also has an extra inch gap between the LCD and the top of the keyboard, so the palm rests are smaller than the Lenovo T410. While the feel of the keyboards is nearly equal in my book (with a slight nod to Dell), the layout and position of the keyboard and touchpad is slightly better on the ThinkPad. Then again, I'm not much of a fan of the Track Stick/TrackPoint and would happily give that feature up to reclaim some space for a large touchpad. Ultimately, I have hailed the ThinkPad keyboard as my favorite laptop keyboard based purely on the typing experience, and I'd say the current Latitude matches it. They're both solid and provide good feedback, without going for style points like so many chiclet designs.

My out-of-box experience with the E6410 wasn't quite as rosy as my keyboard experience, however. First, while I'm happy to have a matte LCD, I wish the quality were more like the RGB LED panel in the M6500. To clarify, the ultra-wide gamut isn't really necessary, but matte displays are usually about 20% lower contrast than glossy LCDs. When you start with a low-contrast 250:1 panel tech and then go matte instead of glossy, the result is a very lackluster 200:1 contrast ratio (give or take). It has a great resolution, and for the higher premium that business laptops demand there really should be better contrast options available. At least it's bright and has a nice 1440x900 resolution, but the $80 upgrade deserves more than a resolution bump.

My other issue with the E6410 after unboxing and setting it up is that it was frequently very sluggish. I struggled to determine the cause, other than I'd usually see the HDD activity light active when the system would lag. After uninstalling a few applications (goodbye Trend Micro Business Security Services), I defragged the hard drive. I'm not sure what was going on, but the drive appears to have arrived very fragmented because afterwards the sluggishness all but disappeared—almost, but not quite. Unfortunately, while most of the E6410 line ships with 7200RPM hard drives, the base model (that Intel specced out) goes with a 160GB 5400RPM drive; it's hardly a fitting companion to the rest of the laptop!

Worth noting is that while the Latitudes may not be loaded with quite so much bloatware as consumer laptops, even with a "clean" install (but with the Dell utilities still enabled) the E6410 is sitting at over 65 processes. I'd also say there was a slight feeling of sluggishness in general use because of the lack of discrete graphics; Intel HD Graphics isn't fast enough for most games, but if you're used to a desktop with a decent GPU you'll likely notice the difference even in mundane tasks. We're certainly interested in seeing what Sandy Bridge will do to shake things up, though even the fastest systems will feel slow if they're bogged down by extra applications and utilities—especially if they're running conventional hard drives instead of SSDs.

All things considered, I actually like a lot of what the Dell Latitude E6410 provides. It has a classy aesthetic and feels incredibly solid, and it's small enough to be portable but large enough to have room for plenty of performance options. When looking at the Dell XPS 15 (L501x) last month, I was very impressed with the feature set, but the aesthetics are understandably not something that will please everyone. What I'd really love is to get more of a combination of the best that the Latitude line has to offer with the best that the XPS line has to offer. Take the Latitude keyboard and build quality but combine it with the LCD panel, speakers, and GPU options in the XPS 14/15 and you'd have a potent laptop that most people would be happy to use.

Dell Latitude E6410: Minding Intel's Business Performance: Intel's Outgoing Calpella Platform
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  • rootheday - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    At the outset of the review you stated that the focus was the Intel IGP. Why only compare it to systems with discrete instead of comparing to AMD IGP systems? And why only on 3DMark - why not games, media playback? Reply
  • AssBall - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Because it is an Intel business laptop? Reply
  • GoodBytes - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    To add,

    If you do NOT use Dell Fast Track service, and you are in Canada, The Latitude E series, also comes with 3 year next buisness day on site service at a minimum, making it even more attractive.
    I have the E6400, with a Hitachi 160GB 5400RPM HDD, the the Quadro NVS 160M, Core 2 Duo P8400, and I see no sluggishness visible (other than the slower boot, or slower start-up of very large programs like PhotoShop), but it's clear it's the HDD.

    Moreover, it is to be noted, that the laptop comes with really solid hinges, all in metal (and not plastic which can break easy, after a year or so of usage). As for the laptop lid, I can't say for sure about the E6410 as I don't have it, but if it's the same as the E6400 (which probably is the case), then it's in metal (magnesium allow), with a very thick coat of primer and paint, except the small \___/ shape edge of the lid is in plastic (probably having it in metal would effect the wireless antenna as they are found there). I know this, because I had my lid change once on my E6400 (I have the On-site service - which is excellent by the way), and you can clearly see it's metal, from the inside.

    Another point that was not cover in the E6410, well it's not the focus of the review, but still, is to access the laptop internal you are 1 screw away from getting FULL access, you can switch anything very easily. Wireless card, Bluetooth, heatsink, CPU, heck you can even pull out the motherboard with a few screws (ok well you have 2-3 screws under the keyboard to remove for this part... but never the less it's super easy to remove the keyboard.... for a laptop, of course. (See picture from Anatech review)

    Backlit keyboard is a must, and the in my opinion, the Latitude E series back lit keyboard is very good. It lit very well the keys, where you can clearly see the lettering. The brightness is fully adjustable via Dell Control Point software.

    Finally, this laptop also has Dell new long lasting 9-cell battery with a 3 year warranty on it.
    Reply
  • rembo666 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I agree with your point about the easy internal access. Business laptops are so much easier to work on in general, and they actually come with instructions. It's nice to be able to open up the machine and swap out or repair anything you want and never get that feeling "am I going to be able to put this back together". Reply
  • HilbertSpace - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I have the E6510 (work supplied laptop) and the lid is different than on the E6400 or E6500 - it's definitely plastic. The E6400's and E6500's definitely do look better with the metal lid.
    Sluggishness could be the Dell controlpoint software (inane security stuff). First thing I did was take the HD out and replace it with an SSD. Now it's nice and fast. Although I have the NVS3100m option - and Autodesk Inventor works really smoothly on it.
    Reply
  • Hxx - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    best thing you can do to a laptop is get an SSD. I own like many here a refurb e6410 fully loaded with 310m, bl keyboard, core i5, etc that i got for about $650 so no complaints on price/specs. However it would be so much nicer if Dell will give us the ability to replace the removable dvd drive with an ssd. A removable hdd cage where i can fit an ssd would be the best feature of this lappy. Reply
  • somedude1234 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    Dell doesn't offer a 2.5" SATA HDD adapter for the modular bay, but I bought an after market one from newmodeus that works great: http://newmodeus.com/shop/index.php?main_page=prod...

    Kinda pricey for what it is, but if you spend as much time on your work laptop as I do on mine, the extra $ is worth it.

    In my E6400 I currently have an Intel 80GB G2 SSD in the primary HDD bay and the 160GB HDD that came with the laptop in the modular bay. I swap this out with the DVD burner as needed.

    Fast dual core processor + 4GB RAM + SSD and Windows 7 64 bit is a great combination.
    Reply
  • webmastir - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    our company ordered a batch of these, and about half of them we received had motherboard related issues. yes, i know it can happen to any band of laptop and/or batch of computers that get manufactured, but this doesn't help ones reliability thoughts on the maker. i was very disappointed. of the few that did work fully, i was very happy with the performance. hopefully, this doesn't happen to us again from dell.

    nice review btw, thx.
    Reply
  • SandmanWN - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    The E6410 is the standard for our company right now as well. We've come across a number of issues such as bad memory modules and bad cdrom drives. About 40% of the E6400's we've ordered so far have had an issue of quality control of some type so far. Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Thursday, December 2, 2010 - link

    I would say we have had issues with about 20% of all current-generation Latitudes at the companies I service. Of those, the majority were related to the cheap Hynix RAM or Seagate 2.5" drives that Dell chooses to ship in their laptops. In fact, the Seagate failure rate is so annoying that I will never buy that brand again, for home or work.

    The only MAJOR issue that I have ever had with Latitude was that ~75% of all D620 laptops that I ever worked on eventually had graphics card failure with the onboard Quadra chipset. Like the Deathstar drives years ago, it was one of those things you read about on tech forums, then actually experience in real life.

    Overall though, the quality of Latitude is more or less equal to Lenovo business class laptops.
    Reply

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