Designed to withstand more abuse than the typical business notebook, the 12.5-inch Dell Latitude E6220 packs plenty of performance into a durable and light 3.6-pound design. With its amazingly tactile keyboard, blistering SSD, and striking tri-metal design, this notebook has a lot to offer business users on the go. But do the added resilience and premium components justify this laptop's whopping $2,447 price tag?
More attractive than most business notebooks this size, the Latitude E6220 has the same "space age" aesthetic as the larger Latitude E6420. The machine's gunmetal gray aluminum lid, matte chrome sides, and angular sides reminded us more of a space cruiser than a business tool.
At 3.6 pounds and 12.2 x 8.9 x 0.1 inches thick, the Dell Latitude E6220 falls squarely into the ultraportable notebook category. The notebook is thinner but weighs the same as the Lenovo Thinkpad X220 with 9-cell battery (12 x 8.1 x 1.25 inches). The HP Elitebook 2560p (4.4 pounds, 12.0 x 8.2 x 1.1 inches) weighs considerably more.
The E6220's Tri-Metal chassis is designed for durability with its highly-anodized lid and magnesium wrapped corners to protect it from bumps. A spill-resistant keyboard and LCD protective seal round out this business-rugged, MIL-STD 810G spec-tested offering. Dell claims this Latitude can survive 30-inch drops, extreme temperatures, vibrations, dust and high altitudes.
However, the 6-cell battery, which sticks out of the back, felt rather loose. Dell did not provide any specific claims about how what the notebook can withstand, including which of the many MIL-STD 810G tests the E6220 has undergone and whether it passed them. The standard 3-year warranty does not cover the laptop should it fail to survive any form of accidental damage.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Latitude E6220's backlit, spill-resistant keyboard provides one of the best typing experiences we've had on a notebook. The traditional-style keys have a comfortable rubberized surface that's slightly concave, making it easy to feel the boundaries between keys and stay anchored to the home row.
Better still, the keys offer a high level of tactile feedback that reminded us of the industry-leading keyboard on the ThinkPad X1. Though we wish it were deep enough to support our full wrists, the soft-touch palmrest was very comfortable. We were able to achieve a strong score of 92 words per minute with a zero percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing tutor test, far better than our typical 80 wpm and 1 percent score.
The 3.1 x 1.6-inch touchpad is a little on the small side, but its smooth matte surface provides just the right amount of friction and its two discrete, rubberized buttons provide an optimal amount of feedback. Navigating around the desktop was a breeze as the pointer moved at just the right pace and never jumped or got stuck.
Multitouch gestures were smooth, too, including pinch-to-zoom, rotation, three finger flicking through photos and pushing three fingers up to minimize windows or launch a program. The Dell Touchpad software provides an attractive interface for configuring touchpad sensitivity and turning specific gestures on and off.
Display and Audio
The 1366 x 768, 12.5-inch matte display provided sharp and colorful images. When we watched a 1080p YouTube trailer for "The Avengers", colors such as the Black Widow's red hair and Captain America's blue costume appeared vibrant and the edges of objects seemed particularly crisp. Colors stayed true at up to 45 degrees to the left or right, but became a little washed out at 90 degrees. Measuring a moderate 159 lux on our light meter, the screen was noticeably brigher than the HP Folio 13's 139 lux.
In an ultraportable notebook market filled with tinny speakers, the Dell Latitude E6220 stands out by offering sound that's loud and rich enough to compete with an inexpensive bookshelf stereo. When we tried playing both the bass-heavy R&B song "Forget Me Nots" and the funk classic "Summer Madness," we could hear a clear, warm separation of sound between different instruments. Better still, the max volume was loud enough to not only fill our living room but could be heard clearly in an adjacent bedroom.
However, when we tried playing guitar-heavy rock tunes such as Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark" or Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law," drums sounded a bit harsh and tinny until we either lowered the volume to about 80 percent or lifted the notebook off our desk. Dell does not include any special audio control software like it does with Wavemaxx on the Dell XPS line.
The Dell Latitude E6220 stayed pleasantly cool throughout our tests. After streaming video for 15 minutes, we measured the touchpad at a cool 87 degrees, the keyboard at a comfy 89 degrees and the bottom at a mere 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees acceptable and those below 90 degrees barely perceptible.
Ports and Webcam
The Dell Latitude E6220 has most of the ports you'd want from a business ultraportable, with the notable exception of USB 3.0. On the right side sits an ExpressCard/34 slot, a Wi-Fi on/off switch, two USB 2.0 ports, and HDMI out. The back side plays host to an Ethernet port while the right houses a VGA out, headset jack, eSATA / USB port, and an SD card reader. Considering the system's price, we'd expect a USB 3.0 port, but at least you can purchase a third-party USB 3.0 adapter to connect to the ExpressCard slot.
The 720p webcam captures sharp images and smooth video, though low-light performance was a mixed bag in our tests. When we shot a photo of our face under the flourescent lights of our office and at mid-afternoon in our living room with only sunlight from the window, our features appeared a bit shadowy. However, when we shot a photo in a darker sitting, with a light source several feet behind us, our face appeared much brighter and more colorful.
A video call on Skype was extremely smooth though our skin tone appeared a bit too red. Dell's webcam central control software offers a face-tracking feature that did not work properly; it zoomed in on a photograph on the wall behind us rather than our face.
With its 2.6-GHz Core i5-2540M processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB Samsung SSD, the Dell Latitude E6220 can handle most demanding tasks with ease. Whether we were playing a 1080p movie trailer, executing a massive spreadsheet formula or transcoding video files, the system proved speedy.
On PCMark 07, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the Latitude E6220 scored a strong 4,138. That showing is nearly double the 2,249 ultraportable notebook category average and the 2,400 offered by the Core i5-powered HP EliteBook 2560p.
The 256GB Samsung SSD booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in just 31 seconds, significantly faster than the 53-second category average, the ThinkPad X220's 47 seconds and the HP EliteBook 2560p's 56 seconds. However, both the ThinkPad and EliteBook we tested had mechanical hard drives.
The SSD also showed its superiority by completing the LAPTOP File Transfer test, in which we copy 4.97GB of files, in just 52 seconds. That's a rate of 97.9 MBps, which is more than double the 41 MBps category average, the ThinkPad X220's 32.2 MBps, and the HP EliteBook 2560p's 28.9 MBps.
The Latitude E6220 can transcode video with the best notebooks around. It took just 25 seconds to convert a 5-minute HD video to iPod Touch format in Cyberlink Mediashow Espresso, much faster than the 2-minute and 58-second category average and the 37 seconds provided by the ThinkPad X220.
The Latitude also took a mere 5 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which uses a macro to match 10,000 names with their addresses. That's less than half the 10:56 category average.
The Dell Latitude E6220's integrated Intel HD graphics chip is good enough for business tasks and playing videos, but forget about serious gaming. On 3DMark06, a benchmark which measures overall graphics prowess, the E6220 scored a strong 5,255. This score is well above the 3,203 category average, the ThinkPad X220's 3,494 and the HP EliteBook 2560p's 4,792.
However, when we played World of Warcraft with the settings turned down, the E6220 managed a playable but unimpressive 36 frames per second, less than the 38 fps category average. With the settings pumped up to max, the E6220 managed only 17 fps, which is unplayable but on a par with the 16 fps category average.
With its 6-cell battery, the Dell Latitude E6220 lasts a respectable 6 hours and 55 minutes, better than the 6-hour and 39-minute ultraporatable category average, but noticeably shorter than the 7:51 that the ThinkPad X220 got with its 6-cell battery. Though Dell does not offer a 9-cell option for this notebook, both the ThinkPad X220 and HP EliteBook excel with their 9-cell packs, lasting for 12:39 and 11:34 hours respectively. Dell does offer a $250 battery slice that attaches to the bottom of the E6220.
Though our review configuration carries an MSRP of $2,447, the Dell Latitude E6220 has a current starting price of $1,329. For that cost, you get a 2.5-GHz Core i5-2520M CPU, Windows 7 Home Premium, 4GB of RAM, a 3-cell battery, no webcam and a 250GB 5,400 rpm hard drive.
Dell's website lets you custom configure the Latitude E6220 with a choice of Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, 4 to 8GB of RAM, 3 or 6-cell batteries, and a very limited choice of storage drives that includes either a 250GB hard drive, a 128GB SSD for $230, or a 256GB SSD for a whopping $560. We wish Dell offered high-resolution screen and discrete graphics options as it does for the 14-inch Latitude E6420. Whatever configuration you choose, we highly recommend that you spring for the 6-cell battery ($19).
Software and Warranty
Dell keeps the software preload on the Latitude E6220 fairly light. Dell Backup and Recovery Manager backs up your data. Dell Access allows you to set your password and configure any additional security features you might have like a SmartCard reader. Webcam Central shoots photos and videos with the included HD webcam. Dell System Manager and Power Manager allow you to tweak settings such as the power profile and the brightness of the keyboard backlight. We wish Dell had a more robust suite of data security tools like the Protect Tools software that HP includes on most of its business notebooks, but those who want features like a file shredder can always find third-party programs.
The Latitude E6220 comes with a standard three-year limited warranty on parts and labor, which compares favorably to the one year standard warranties offered by Lenovo and HP on their ThinkPad and Elitebook lines. At additional cost, you can extend the warranty to four or five years, get on-site service, or purchase accidental damage protection.
With its strong performance, world-class keyboard and crystal-clear audio, the Dell Latitude E6220 has a lot to like. Yet, for the somewhat-vague promise of added ruggedness, the notebook costs a lot more than competitors with longer battery life. Those looking for a better value should consider the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 which starts at $899, costs just $1,399 when configured similarly to our $2,447 Latitude, and lasts more than 12 hours on a charge with its 9-cell battery. However, if you're looking for a business ultraportable with fantastic ergonomics and an added dose of durability, the Latitude E6220 is a strong choice.