Comfortable, responsive keyboard; Good low-light webcam; Accurate touchpad; Strong value; Windows 7
Mediocre Performance; Slow hard drive; Left palmrest gets warm
The Dell Latitude 3330 offers small business users and students a Windows 7 notebook with a top-notch keyboard, lightweight design and good battery life for a great price.
The average PC laptop sells for just over $500, but for that price, you usually have to settle for a mediocre build quality, weak battery life and a poor typing / navigation experience. Even when you're willing to pay more for your laptop, many of today's high-end notebooks trade ergonomic comfort for good looks with their shallow keyboards and jumpy, buttonless touchpads. A throwback to an earlier era when usability mattered most, the 13-inch Dell Latitude 3330 pairs an accurate touchpad and wide viewing angle screen with one of the best keyboards we've ever tested and the multitasking-friendly Windows 7 operating system. With a price of just $539, $419 to start, both students and professionals will get a lot of productivity from this affordable, lightweight laptop.
The laptop sports a functional but not unattractive design that we've seen before on other low-cost Dell business laptops, like the Vostro V131. The Latitude 3330's lid doesn't cover the entire top surface of the chassis, leaving a small end section that elegantly hides the hinges. The aluminum matte silver surface on the lid isn't fashion forward, but completely resists fingerprints. The all-black interior and matte silver sides look neat and professional even if they're not particularly exhilarating.
Display and Audio
On both clips most images did not wash out even at 90-degree viewing angles, though extremely dark scenes showed a little inversion at the widest angles. The Latitude 3330's screen measured 213 lux on our light meter, which is about on a par with the 209 lux thin-and-light category average and significantly brighter than the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430 (176 lux).
While not rich enough to replace your stereo, the Latitude 3330's front-mounted speakers were loud enough to fill a small room and reasonably accurate. When we played the bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots," the music was pleasant, if not overly textured. However, the hard-rock "Rainbow in the Dark" sounded just a bit distorted. Considering that the 3330 is a budget laptop, we were pleased with its audio output.
Keyboard and Touchpad
It's rare to find a new notebook touchpad that doesn't have its buttons built in. Unfortunately, many of these so-called "clickpads" jerk your mouse pointer around because you're using the same surface for moving and clicking. Sticking with what works, Dell has given the Latitude 3330 a 3 x 1.75 inch touchpad that provides nearly flawless navigation around the desktop and two discrete buttons that offer just the right amount of feedback. Though we had to enable them in Dell's Touchpad software before testing, multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, rotate, three-finger flick and three-finger press worked every time. The pad does not support four-finger flick.
The Dell Latitude 3330's keyboard and touchpad stayed cool throughout our testing, registering just 91 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit after streaming a video at full screen for 15 minutes. However, the left palmrest occasionally felt just a bit warm, reaching 94.5 degrees on our thermometer. The bottom topped out at 97 degrees. We consider temperatures above 95 degrees uncomfortable and those under 90 degrees optimal.
Ports and Webcam
The Latitude 3330's 720p webcam provided strong low-light performance and even better image quality under better conditions. Under the fluorescent lights of our office, our face was colorful and detailed, though there was just a little noise if we looked at the images up close. The camera even managed to capture a relatively bright image in our dark living room with a light source behind us, conditions under which many webcams completely wash out. Dell's included Webcam Central software makes adjusting settings and capturing video or stills a breeze.
The Latitude 3330's 5,400 rpm 320GB Samsung Spinpoint hard drive is its biggest weakness, providing significantly weaker load and copy times than we normally see on notebooks with similar drives. The sluggish drive took a full minute to boot the system into Windows 7, 19 seconds more than the thin-and-light category average. Much worse, it took a full 6 minutes and 8 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File transfer test. That's a rate of just 13.8 MBps, less than a third of the 45.4 MBps category average and way behind the ThinkPad Edge E430 with 7,200 rpm hard drive (29.4 MBps) and the Dell Inspiron 13z with 5,400 rpm drive (29.2 MBps).
The older 1.5-GHz Core i3-2375M CPU caused the Dell Latitude 3330 to take 10 minutes and 29 seconds to complete the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses. That time is nearly double the thin-and-light laptop average (5:44) and way slower than the Core i5-powered Dell Inspiron 13z (6:16) and Thinkpad Edge E430 (5:04).
Though the Latitude 3330 was fast enough to play 1080p videos, its graphics performance left something to be desired. When we opened a 4K clip, the laggy playback was more like a slideshow than a movie. The 3DMark11 benchmark we typically use to measure graphics performance would not run on this system, but we were able to play "World of Warcraft" at a reasonable 44 fps when using its recommended settings. With the special effects turned up, this rate dropped to just 10 fps. These rates are below the 50.6 / 24.6 fps category average.
Dell claims that the Latitude 3330 will be configurable with processors up to a third-generation Core i5, storage drives that include 7,200 rpm hard drives or SSD options and your choice of Windows 7 or 8. However, as of this writing, the company offers only three configurations. Our $539 review configuration has a second-generation 1.5-GHz Core i3-2375M CPU, 6-cell battery, 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Professional.
The base $419 configuration has a slower 1.5-GHz Intel Celeron 1007U processor, just 2GB of RAM, a smaller battery and Windows 7 Home Premium. A $449 configuration has the Celeron processor and Windows 7 Home Premium, but includes 4GB of RAM and the same 6-cell battery as our unit. All three configurations have the same, sluggish 5,400 rpm hard drive. We hope that Dell will make faster storage options and better CPUs available on its site soon.
Software and Warranty
Dell backs the Latitude 3330 with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. However, as with all Dell laptops, you can purchase extended warranties and accidental damage protection for up to five years.
|CPU||1.5-GHz Intel Core i3-2375M|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||8GB|
|Hard Drive Size||320GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 3000|
|Wi-Fi Model||Dell Wireless 1501|
|Touchpad Size||3.3 x 1.75 inches|
|Warranty/Support||One year parts and labor|
|Size||13 x 9.4 x 0.8 inches|