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Dell Latitude 5400 review

The Dell Latitude 5400 is a capable business laptop with a few downsides

Dell Latitude 5400
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

Long battery life and strong performance make the Dell Latitude 5400 a good business laptop despite its bland design and dim display.

For

  • Durable chassis
  • Very long battery life
  • Clicky keyboard
  • Lots of security features

Against

  • Bland design
  • Dull, dim display

After Dell released the sleek Latitude 7400 2-in-1, we hoped to see wholesale changes across its stale lineup of business laptop. Unfortunately, the clamshell Latitude 5400 (starting at $819; reviewed at $1,625) didn't get the same love. This business laptop has a bland chassis that can't claim to be thinner or lighter than its peers, and its dim, dull 14-inch, 1080p touch screen display is a letdown.

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

And yet, if you need a new business laptop (or even a fleet of them), the Latitude 5400 should be on your radar thanks to its fast performance, outstanding battery life and impressive feature set. We'd still recommend other laptops, like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, over the Latitude 5400, which is why this Dell laptop isn't one of the best business laptops

Dell Latitude 5400 price and configuration options

The Dell Latitude 5400 starts at $819 for a base model with a 14-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display along with an Intel Core i3-8145U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 7200-rpm SATA hard drive. You should skip that model and spend at least $1,179 for a midtier model with a 1080p display, a Core i5-8265U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Our $1,625 review unit packs a Core i5-8365U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, along with some optional add-ons, like a Thunderbolt 3 port, fingerprint sensor, IR camera and Wi-Fi 6. 

If you need the most power, a high-end model with a Core i7-8665U CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD costs $1,819 without any of the extra goodies. 

Dell Latitude 5400 design

The Latitude 5400 is the khaki pants and dress shirt of business laptops. Its inoffensive appearance won't draw attention in an office setting just as it won't gain compliments from colleagues. My problem is that the Latitude 5400 has worn the same clothes for too long. It's time for a new wardrobe.  

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I can't help but see the changes Dell made to the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 and bemoan the all-too-familiar design of the Latitude 5400. Until it gets the same facelift, the Latitude will continue to wear a familiar slate-gray plastic chassis with a chrome Dell logo stamped onto the center of the lid. 

On the deck, is more of the same plastic material, which feels sturdy but far from premium. Dell deserves props for keeping the Latitude 5400's bezels relatively thin, although the top edge is fairly thick (to accomodate an IR camera). On that upper bezel is a tiny knob that slides over to cover the webcam. It's an inelegant solution but an effective one. 

There's not much else to say about the Latitude 5400's design, except that, at 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.8 inches and 3.7 pounds, it's less portable than +$1,000 competitors, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (12.7 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches, 2.4 pounds) and the Acer TravelMate P6 P614 (12.8 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches, 2.7 pounds). 

Dell Latitude 5400 durability and security

It's not made of metal but the Latitude 5400 is a durable machine capable of withstanding extreme conditions. The laptop passed 17 MIL-STD 810G tests, which means it can endure high temperatures, exposure to sand and dust, and multiple drops, among other conditions that would kill a regular laptop. 

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

A durable exterior will protect your important files from yourself, while the Latitude 5400's security features will defend against others. Those start with a fingerprint sensor and optional IR camera for quick and secure login via Windows Hello. There is also a TPM 2.0, a microchip that provides hardware-based security for unencrypted passwords. 

To further protect the Latitude from cyberattacks, Dell offers an extensive suite of security software, from the optional Data Security and Management app to the Dell Endpoint Security Suite Enterprise and Data Guardian. 

Dell Latitude 5400 ports

The Latitude 5400 is stocked with all the ports you need to charge devices, connect to monitors and transfer files. 

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the left side of the Latitude 5400 is an optional Thunderbolt 3 port and a USB 3.1 Type-A input next to a DC-in power connector. Our review unit didn't come with the optional SmartCard reader.

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the right side of the laptop is a microSD card reader, a SIM card tray, a headphone jack, two additional USB 3.1 Type-A ports, an HDMI, an RJ-45 Ethernet port and a Noble lock slot

Dell Latitude 5400 display

If you're going to buy the Latitude 5400 for your employees, be sure to get them a monitor as well. The laptop's 14-inch, 1080p matte touch screen is dim and not very colorful, although it doesn't necessarily need to be; If you're filling spreadsheets or creating slides, this detailed screen will do just fine. For anything else — watching videos, editing photos, etc. — look elsewhere.  

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

In a trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic's improved CGI body was crisp enough on the Latitude 5400's display that I could see individual strands of hair on the speedy hedgehog, but its iconic blue fur and emerald eyes didn't pop as I had hoped. The screen's matte finish reduced reflections but the panel looked a bit dim, even with the brightness turned all the way up. 

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I had no problems tapping the Latitude 5400's touch screen to navigate the web or use the on-screen keyboard to enter URLs. That said, the Latitude 5400 isn't a 2-in-1 and it doesn't come with a stylus so touch screen functionality is limited. 

According to our colorimeter, the Latitude 5400's display covers only 62.1% of the sRGB color gamut, making it duller than the screens on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (109%), the TravelMate P6 P614 (113%) and the average premium laptop (124%). 

Not only is it less colorful than those competitors, but the Latitude 5400's screen, which peaks at just 228 nits, is also much dimmer. The displays on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (336 nits), the TravelMate P6 (299 nits) and the average premium laptop (359 nits) get considerably brighter

Dell Latitude 5400 audio

The bottom-firing speakers on the Latitude 5400 aren't great, but they get loud enough to fill a medium-size room. When I listened to The Killers' single "Rut," Brandon Flower's vocals sounded crisp and clear until the instruments kicked in. Muddy drum thuds and splashy cymbals bled into the midrange and obscured the vocals. If you listen to indie or classic, then this won't be a problem, but the Latitude 5400 struggles with more complex arrangements in rock and techno music.

Dell Latitude 5400 keyboard, touchpad and pointing stick

A snappy backlit keyboard is one of my favorite things about the Latitude 5400. Bouncy keys with decent travel made writing this review comfortable for my fingers. Not only did I never bottom out, but there was a weighty tactile click to each key press that I really appreciated.

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I still prefer the larger, curved keys and lower actuation force of Lenovo's ThinkPad keyboards, but Dell isn't too far behind. 

I typed at 113 words per minute at a rate of 95% on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is a bit slower but just as accurate than my typical 119-wpm average. 

The Latitude 5400's 4 x 2.2-inch touchpad responded quickly to swipes and gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. Just below the surface are discrete left- and right-click buttons that feel great, although it'd be nice to also have integrated buttons. 

In the center of the keyboard, is a small black pointing stick for those who prefer to use a rubber nub instead of a touchpad. While I don't normally use the pointing stick, I found that the feature worked well. I had no problems using it to move my cursor while keeping my hands on the home row keys. 

Dell Latitude 5400 performance

I was impressed by how zippy the Latitude 5400 was in day-to-day testing. The laptop had no problems loading 15 Google Chrome tabs, two of which played 1080p videos while another pair streamed full-HD uploads on Twitch and Mixer. With all that going on, I pulled up a couple reviews of The Mandalorian and read through the generally positive reception without hitting any lag. 

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

That strong real-world performance was reinforced on our benchmark tests. With a score of 15,307 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Latitude 5400 nearly matched the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (15,649, Core i5, 8265U) and the premium laptop average (15,726) but edged out the TravelMate P6 (13,402).

It took the Latitude 5400 18 minutes and 13 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution, which is less time than what the TravelMate P6 (19:52) and the average premium laptop (22:10) needed. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (16:52), however, outpaced the competition on this test. 

The 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 35 SSD inside our Latitude 5400 showed its quickness by duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files in 12 seconds at a rate of 424.1 megabytes per second. That's a decent result but the hard drives inside the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (424.1 MBps, 256GB SSD), the TravelMate P6 (462.7 MBps, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD) and the average premium laptop (762.4 MBps) are just as swift or even faster. 

Dell Latitude 5400 graphics

With integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics, the Latitude 5400 isn't meant for playing games at high graphics settings or running animation-heavy programs. On the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, the Latitude 5400 scored a 84,709, which puts it just ahead of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (81,350) but far behind the TravelMate P6 (98,034) and the premium laptop average (93,525). 

Dell Latitude 5400 battery life

Sign the Latitude 5400 up for the marathon, as this laptop has some serious endurance. With a runtime of 13 hours and 19 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), the Latitude 5400 lasted longer on a charge than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9:30), the TravelMate P6 (7:34) and the category average (8:25). 

Dell Latitude 5400 webcam

A selfie I snapped in our dimly lit office using the Latitude 5400's 720p webcam was very grainy. There was so much visual noise that the three half-domes of my jacket's North Face logo looked like a rounded blob.

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Hanging office lights were also overexposed. The webcam's one saving grace is that it captures punchy, accurate colors; the desk drawer behind me was the right shade of olive green while my T-shirt was a proper forest tone. 

Dell Latitude 5400

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

But as we so often advise, spending a bit extra on an external webcam makes a world of difference. 

Dell Latitude 5400 heat

Don't worry about running a heavy workload on the Latitude 5400; The laptop stays cool even when it's being pushed to the limits. After playing a 15-minute, 1080p video, the Latitude 5400's touchpad warmed to 78 degrees Fahrenheit while the center of the keyboard (87 degrees) and bottom panel (95 degrees) also stayed at or below our 95-degree comfort threshold. 

Dell Latitude 5400 software and warranty

Dell loaded the Latitude 5400 with software designed specifically for business laptops. Those include Data Free Fall Data Protection, which protects your hard drive from damage caused by unexpected drops by placing it into a "safe" state. There is also an app for adjusting the pointing stick and a power manager. Dell's Command Center app is where all the magic happens: Here, you can check for the latest BIOS updates and view your system information. 

Microsoft added a few unneeded apps — Farm Heroes Saga and Microsoft Solitaire Collection — to Windows 10 Pro, but bloatware on the Latitude 5400 is otherwise kept to a minimum. 

The Latitude 5400 comes with a one-year limited warranty that can be extended to up to five years. See how Dell fared on our Best and Worst Laptop Brands and Tech Support Showdown special reports. 

Bottom line 

With a durable chassis, fast performance and a plethora of security features, the Latitude 5400 is great for business use. The laptop even offers a comfortable keyboard and long battery life for those who travel frequently. But a dim, dull display and a bland chassis prevents the notebook from being a recommended device for uses outside of the office. 

For a better overall laptop, we recommend the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which takes all the things we like about the Latitude 5400 and packs them into a slim chassis, then adds a gorgeous display on top of that.

Overall, the Latitude 5400 is a solid business laptop that doesn't do much to stand out from the pack.