Attractive soft-touch chassis; Strong performance; Fast boot and file transfer times; VGA and Ethernet ports; Long battery life
Heavy for an Ultrabook; Relatively dim display; Pointing stick could be more comfortable
The Dell Latitude 6430u business Ultrabook offers strong performance and long battery life in a durable yet svelte soft-touch chassis.
Who said a corporate notebook has to be boring? The 14-inch Dell Latitude 6430u ($1,278 as configured) is built for the rough-and-tumble business world, thanks to rigorous MIL-Spec testing, but sports a sleek and stylish chassis. An Intel Core i5 processor and a swift 128GB SSD will help you breeze through your to-do list before quitting time, while strong security software will keep your data safe. Read on to find out why the Latitude is a top-tier business machine.
The medium-size chrome Dell logo and the trio of status lights along the bottom right of the lid are the only embellishments. The black reinforced metal-plated hinges are well-built, refusing to move despite our poking and prodding. The bottom half of the notebook is trimmed in light gray, which offers a nice contrast.
Opening the Latitude 6430u reveals a full-size keyboard in a slightly recessed well. Above the layout sits buttons for Mute, Volume Down, Volume Up and Power with another set of status lights and a pair of speakers. The touchpad and its two buttons are located below the keyboard along with a trio of buttons for the pointing stick.
Measuring 4 pounds, and measuring 13.3 x 9 x 0.82 inches, the Latitude 6430u is heavier and thicker than most Ultrabooks its size. The 13 x 8.9 x 0.74-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon weighs a slight 3.3 pounds. The HP Elitebook Folio 9470m measures 3.6 pounds, and measures 13.9 x 9.1 x 0.75 inches by comparison.
But before you go slinging the notebook around like hash, keep in mind that it's not a fully rugged machine. That means that the Latitude 6430u can only withstand a few bumps at best.
Users who want another layer of security can add a fingerprint reader for $7.50.
Colors were equally muted during the "Great and Powerful Oz" trailer. What was supposed to be a Technicolor wonderland looked cold and uninviting. Mila Kunis' ruby red ensemble appeared faded as did the Emerald City. Colors began to invert past a 45-degree angle and darker scenes were littered with distortion.
The Latitude 6430u's 143 lux display is rather dull compared with the 227 lux ultraportable category average. The HP Folio 9470 was somewhat brighter at 165 lux while the Lenovo X1 Carbon shone with 290 lux.
Dell will offer a higher-resolution 1600 x 900 display, but not one with a touchscreen.
The Music setting gave us the loudest result complete with noticeable bass, but the usually sweet vocals sounded harsh. Video sounded clearer, but the volume was greatly diminished. When we switched to voice, the track sounded flat and listless.
Keyboard, touchpad and pointing stick
The 3.5 x 1.8-inch touchpad is a little on the small side. We could still perform gestures and navigate documents and Web pages with relative ease. One-finger swiping along the edges of the display summoned the Charms menu and the recent apps bar. Two-finger scrolling and panning was nice and smooth, as was two-finger rotate. Three-finger quick launch and flick were also quick and responsive.
The pair of discrete mouse buttons offered snappy feedback as did the three pointing stick buttons. Which leads us to our only ergonomic point of contention: Despite the small spines in the center, our finger kept slipping of the pointing stick. We wish Dell would take some hints from Lenovo and use a nub that rises above the keys.
After watching 15 minutes of "Le Chavalier D'Eon," the Latitude 6430u's touchpad measured a cool 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was 93 degrees, but the bottom of the display registered a balmy 97 degrees. We consider anything past 95 degrees above our comfort threshold.
It was a good move on Dell's part to include VGA and Ethernet on the Latitude 6430u. Lenovo's X1 Carbon designers ditched the ports in the interest of space. However, business users are finding themselves left out in a lurch when faced with older projectors or an office with spotty Wi-Fi.
On the PCMark 7 benchmark, the Latitude 6430u scored 5,065, well above the 3,208 ultraportable average. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the HP EliteBook Folio 9470M, which also sport 1.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3427U CPUs, scored 5,297 and 4,496, respectively.
The Latitude 6430u's 128GB SSD booted Windows 8 Professional in a blistering 10 seconds, beating the 33 second average. The X1 Carbon's 128GB SSD loaded in 30 seconds while the Folio 9470M's 180GB SSD took 21 seconds.
The Latitude's SSD continued its winning ways during the File Transfer Test, duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files in 32 seconds for a transfer rate of 159MBps. That's 80MBps faster than the 79MBps category average. The X1 Carbon clocked in with 84.8 MBps while the Folio scored 118.4 MBps.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Latitude 6430u matched 20,000 names to their corresponding address in 5 minutes and 11 seconds -- 2:01 faster than the 7:11 ultraportable category average. The Folio 9470M finished the task in a sluggish 8:29. The X1 Carbon crossed the finish line in 5:37.
During the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the Latitude 6430u delivered an average of 36 fps on Good at 1366 x 768p. That's below the 43 fps average, but better than the X1 Carbon and Folio 9470M, which scored 29 and 23 fps, respectively. When we switched the settings to maximum, the Latitude 6430u scored 19 fps, slightly below the 21 fps average.
The business notebook scored 661 on 3DMark11, which fails to match the 740 ultraportable average. However, that showing was enough to edge out the HP EliteBook Folio 9470M (594) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (517), which also have Intel HD 4000 graphics.
Software and warranty
Dell Battery Life was also a favorite. The utility consists of four modes (Standard, ExpressCharge, Adaptive and Primary AC Use) that can either charge the battery in about an hour or adjusts battery usage based on previous patterns. There's also Dell Backup and Recovery to create backups of important files in case of a system crash.
The Windows app store also has a rapidly growing catalog of apps for people who want to augment their Windows 8 experience. Dell has a list of 32 recommended apps tucked away in the larger app store.
Dell also offers a small business line of the Latitude 6430u. The base model starts at $899 and features a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i3-3217U, 4GB of RAM, a 64GB Mobility SSD and Intel HD 4000 graphics.
Note: In order to get the lowest price, we recommend that you go through Dell's Small & Medium Business channel on its site, as opposed to its Small Business & Home Office channel.
VerdictLenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. However, they'll lose VGA and Ethernet and have to pay slightly more. Overall the Latitude 6430u is well suited for value-minded business users high on mobility, adaptability and power.
|CPU||1.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3427U|
|Operating System||Windows 8 Professional|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205|
|Touchpad Size||3.5 x 1.8 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0/eSata|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Smart Card Reader|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Combo Headphone/Mic Jack|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Warranty/Support||Limited Hardware Warranty, Standard 3-year Next Business Day On Site Service after Remote Diagnosis. Optional 3 year Dell ProSupport offers premium support from expert technicians and 24x7 global availability|
|Size||13.31 x 9.04 x 0.82 inches|