Most people use their laptops in the confines of an office or classroom, but those who brave the elements at work need something more durable. True to its name, the Dell Latitude 7242 Rugged Extreme can survive even the harshest physical stress. This monstrous machine is rated to military-grade durability, which means it can survive a drop, high altitudes, and exposure to sand and dust.
Along with its Hulk-like build, the Latitude Extreme ($3,499 starting, $5,123 as tested) has a superbright display that's great for outdoor use, can last close to two days on a charge (with a second battery) and did an excellent job in our performance tests. It's just a shame that the Latitude 7424's touchpad is erratic, because that makes its exorbitant price harder to justify.
Dell Latitude 7424 Price and Configuration Options
With a starting price of $3,499, this tank of a laptop is targeted at business users, not everyday consumers. The base model comes with a last-gen Core i3-7130U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of PCI NVMe SSD storage.
The $5,124 model we reviewed packs a Core i7-8750U CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and an AMD Radeon RX 540 GPU. For fun, I visited Dell's website and decked out a Latitude 7424 with the highest-end components -- a Core i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM, 3TB of storage, a rubberized keyboard, an IR camera and every optional port -- and racked up an $8,367 bill.
Don't skip arm day before you try hauling the Latitude 7424 Extreme around your workplace. Embracing its ruggedness, this beastly machine is about the size of a compact briefcase and weighs about as much as one filled with lead. Made of magnesium alloy and durable plastic, the Latitude 7242 reminds me of those indestructible Pelican cases the military uses to carry firearms.
Each corner of the Latitude 7424's display has a soft, black bumper to absorb shock, and every port is covered by a metal-reinforced door. Providing even more durability, the display snaps into the base with a buckle and can be opened only when you press in a button.
Fitting in with the briefcase analogy, the Latitude has a convenient handle on the front so you can carry the laptop at your side. While I purposely avoided hauling the Latitude Rugged around our office, the grip made transporting the laptop a lot easier. That's great news for field workers who move from site to site. I only wish the handle were on the back or side of the laptop, so it wouldn't get in the way while I type.
At 8.5 pounds, the unapologetically massive Latitude 7242 Rugged Extreme could double as a kettlebell. And don't even think about packing the Latitude into your backpack or suitcase, given its 14 x 10 x 2-inch footprint.
Durability and Security
The Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme is a dream laptop for doomsday fearers. This brute was built to MIL-STD-810G standards and passed half a dozen other durability tests. In our own testing, the Latitude 7424 survived falls from 3 feet and 6 feet onto our carpeted office floor while turned off. The drops caused scuffing on the rubber bumpers and one of the port doors popped open, but the laptop booted up and the keyboard, touch screen and touchpad were functional. The Latitude 7424 even powered back on after I ran water over the chassis and keyboard for 30 seconds.
Additional tests passed by the Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme include operating in an "explosive atmosphere," under blowing rain and when exposed to solar radiation. Seriously, this thing is ready for the apocalypse.
While rugged elements protect the outside of the laptop, a bunch of security features defend what's inside. Physical security measures include an optional fingerprint reader, a contactless SmartCard reader and a steel-reinforced cable lock slot. On the inside, a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 microchip protects unencrypted passwords and keys.
On the software side, Dell's ControlVault software isolates a user's credentials from unsecured operating systems and hard drives, while the Backup and Recovery program makes it easy to safely store your most important documents.
Dell's kitchen-sink approach to the Latitude extends to the machine's wide selection of ports. The only notable omission is Thunderbolt 3, a future-proof standard we've come to expect on a premium laptop.
On the right side of the Latitude 7424, next to an optional Anchor strap, is a removable SATA storage bay, a garaged stylus, a removable PCIe storage bay, an optional Smart Card reader, SD and SIM card slots, a USB 3.0 port, and a Blu-ray drive.
The right side is a bit more sparse, housing "only" two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port and a headphone/mic jack.
Navigate to the rear of the Latitude 7424, and you'll see even more ports, including an Ethernet input, a VGA (or optional DisplayPort), a serial port, an optional second Ethernet port, an HDMI port, a lock slot and, finally, a covered power input. There is also a docking pad on the bottom of the 7424 that connects the laptop to a desk or a vehicle via an optional accessory.
Locking flaps cover each port to prevent dust and grime from getting in. To access these inputs, just slide a latch over to the unlocked position and then push the small hatches downward.
The 14-inch, 1080p display on the Latitude 7242 exudes saturated colors and gets blindingly bright.
The deep, rich red and shimmering gold pigment in a hotel worker's gorgeous dress burst off the display in a trailer for the upcoming suspense film Hotel Mumbai. The matte panel is very detailed, and I could easily make out the intricate gilding running up the hotel's beautiful white marble columns.
What impresses me most about the display is how incredibly bright it gets. Reaching 695 nits of peak brightness, the panel is twice as bright as the premium laptop average (321 nits), making this display easy to see even in the harshest environments.
The 14-inch display covers 108 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's a respectable result, even though the category average is slightly higher, at 117 percent.
The touch screen required more force than I'm used to, as I found out when I tried drawing with my fingers in 3D Paint. Fortunately, the included stylus felt much more responsive.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keys on the Latitude 7424 are comfortable to type on. A pronounced bump and 62 grams of actuation force offer a bouncy tactility without feeling stiff. The keys could be a bit larger, but spacing is adequate, so you shouldn't have issues pressing the correct letters when you're typing with gloves on. Also, bright LEDs underneath do a good job lighting each key to assist you when the sun goes down.
My biggest criticism with the keyboard has nothing to do with the keys themselves, but, rather, relates to the handle on the front of the laptop, which makes for an uncomfortable wrist rest.
I typed 118 words per minute with a 92 accuracy rate on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. Those figures are close to but short of my typical 119 wpm and 5 percent error rate.
Without Windows Precision drivers, the Latitude 7424's 3.8 x 2-inch touchpad is frustrating to use -- so much so that I wished there were a rubber pointing stick to fall back on. My cursor was sluggish to react to swipes, and it skipped around the screen when I tried pressing on links and icons. Eventually, I threw up my hands up in frustration and plugged in a mouse.
The touchpad on a replacement unit that Dell sent us was much more responsive, but we still needed a few extra swipes to get where we wanted. Interestingly, the Latitude 5420 Rugged, a lower-end version of the 7424, comes with Windows Precision drivers and, therefore, has a much more responsive touch.
The mono speaker on the front edge of the Latitude 7424 isn't the loudest -- capable of filling only a small room -- but it produces surprisingly crisp audio. Brandon Flowers' vocals in The Killers' "A Dustland Fairytale" sounded clear and refined. However, the electric instruments in the epic single were shrill at peak volumes, so you're better off listening at low to mid levels.
I was in the mood for something funky, so I threw on Devon Gilfillian's "Here and Now." It wasn't long before I was tapping my foot along to the pulsing bass emanating from the Latitude's speakers.
Armed with an Intel Core i7-8650U CPU and 16GB of RAM, the 7424 Rugged Extreme handled everything I threw at it. Two dozen Google Chrome tabs playing multiple 1080p YouTube videos were no match for the powerful components housed within the belly of this beast.
The Latitude 7424 did an excellent job on the Geekbench 4.1 test, which is used to determine overall performance. The Rugged Extreme's score of 16,054 cleans the floor with the premium average (12,856).
On our Excel macro test, the Latitude 7424's score and that of the average premium laptop were more even, but Dell's machine still had the upper hand. This durable machine matched 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 29 seconds, which is a few seconds faster than the premium average of 1:31.
It took the 512GB PCIe NVMe Class 40 SSD inside the Latitude 7424 just 11 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files, for a rate of 462.6 megabytes per second. That's speedy but not quite up to the demanding pace set by the average premium laptop (526.8 MBps).
The Latitude 7424 regained the edge on the Handbrake test by converting a 4K video into 1080p resolution in 20 minutes and 4 seconds, topping the average premium laptop (21:52).
The discrete AMD Radeon RX 540 GPU inside the 7424 Rugged Extreme offers enough graphics performance to run the majority of demanding programs and even play some modern games. The laptop scored a strong 116,233 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark, outperforming the premium laptop average (87,239).
In our real-world test, the Latitude 7424 played Dirt 3 at a smooth 153 frames per second, easily topping our 30-fps playability threshold and the premium category average of 74 fps.
Opportunities to charge your devices are few and far between when you're in the field, which is why it's so important for field workers to have a laptop that lasts a full day on a charge. Fortunately, the Latitude 7424 endured for an outstanding 13 hours and 12 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits).
It's important to note that our unit was equipped with a secondary three-cell, 51-Whr battery. You should expect shorter battery life without the optional battery.
The 720p webcam above the Latitude 7424's display captures a good amount of detail and accurate colors, but the picture I snapped under dim lighting appeared blotchy. In a selfie, I could make out the stubble in my lazily shaven beard, but my face was smeared like an Édouard Manet painting. On a positive note, the camera did a fine job capturing my fair skin tone and the dark blue streaks in my sweater.
The Latitude 7424 can be equipped with an IR camera for fast and secure login. The laptop also includes a webcam slider so you can shield yourself from prying eyes.
The Latitude 7242 does a good job dispersing heat over its massive surface area. The bottom of the laptop nearest the hinge was the only location that warmed beyond our 95-degree comfort threshold, reaching 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The touchpad (83.5 degrees), the center of the keyboard (86 degrees) and the underside of the machine (92.5 degrees) remained comfortably below that mark.
Software and Warranty
The Latitude features two pre-installed programs that are designed specifically for rugged laptops. The Rugged Control Center software pulls up a sidebar panel where you can quickly access speaker volume, display brightness, the on-screen keyboard and the camera. Speaking of which, there is a separate Dell Camera app you can use to take photos and videos.
Every laptop maker has a program that ensures that your laptop is up to date with the latest drivers, but few of these programs are as easy to use as Dell Command. Included on the Latitude 7424, Command checks for BIOS, driver and firmware updates. Other pre-installed programs courtesy of Dell include data-protection software called Free Fall and an app for managing power settings.
Windows 10 Pro is the default OS on the Latitude, but the laptop is inexplicably loaded with programs for children, like Candy Crush Saga and Minecraft. Other programs a business user probably won't need include Netflix, Fitbit Coach and an Xbox app.
The Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme suits its primary purpose -- as a durable machine that can be used in extreme outdoor conditions -- very well. The laptop's heavily protected chassis can withstand a laundry list of durability tests, and its incredibly bright, 14-inch display is easily visible on the sunniest days. Best of all, when equipped with a secondary battery, the Latitude 7424 doesn't need to be plugged in until deep into a second day of use.
My main complaints about the Latitude 7424 are its sky-high price and unresponsive touchpad. If you don't absolutely need a rugged laptop, you may be better off spending less on a premium machine, like a Dell XPS 15 or MacBook Pro. However, if you're a police officer, construction worker, soldier or someone else who works in a field where your laptop will be exposed to harsh environments, then the Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme is an excellent choice.
Credit: Laptop Mag