Built for mainstream business users, Dell's 14-inch Latitude 5480 packs strong performance, and long battery life into a durable package. Starting at $769 ($1,562 as tested), Dell's laptop has the manageability and security options corporate IT departments require, along with deep key travel and an accurate touchpad/pointing stick. If you don't mind its dull touch screen, the 5480 has a lot to offer.
The Latitude 5480's matte-black design won't turn heads but it feels solid, thanks to a sturdy carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer shell. Its polycarbonate keyboard deck offers a comfortable surface to rest your wrists while typing.
Weighing 4 pounds and measuring 0.9 inches thick, the Dell Latitude 5480 is similar in heft and thinness to the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 (3.8 - 4.2 pounds, depending on the battery; 0.8 inches). However, it's heavier than the HP ProBook 440 G3 (3.4 pounds, 0.8 inches).
The Latitude 5480 has a USB Type-C port that it can use for charging, DisplayPort video out and data transfer, a USB 3.0 port, an SD memory reader and an optional SmartCard on its left side.
The headphone jack, another USB 3.0 port, a VGA port and Noble lock slot sit on its right side. Dell tucked the notebook's power jack, Ethernet port, SIM card tray and HDMI and yet another USB 3.0 port on the rear.
Security & Durability
Dell designed the Latitude 5480 to survive some punishment. The company says its laptop has passed 15 MIL-SPEC tests, including those that involve extreme temperatures, crashes, shocks, vibration and high levels of dust.
The Latitude 5480's durability features come standard, but you pay a little more for some of its added security features. You can upgrade the notebook with a Smart Card reader and Fingerprint reader bundle for $35 or just get the Smart Card reader for $21. Windows Hello fans will have to shell out an additional $91 for the infrared webcam needed to unlock the system with your face.
Our test laptop included a FIPS 140-2-certified TPM chip for secured storage, as well as Intel's remote management vPro technology. TPM comes standard, but you'll need to look for vPro when selecting a configuration, as it's included only on units featuring an Intel Core i5-7300U, Core i5-7440HQ or Core i7-7600U processor.
The Latitude 5480's 1920 x 1080-pixel touch screen provides crisp details and decent color, but it's a bit dim. As I watched a full-HD Logan trailer on the notebook, I noted that the baby-blue skies, dark-green trees and beige desert were somewhat muted. The screen's fine 1080p resolution allowed me to see each crooked, scraggly whisker of Wolverine's beard. As is the case with most other touch-screen displays, the Latitude's is so glossy that I could clearly see my own reflection during darker shots.
According to our colorimeter, the Latitude 5480 produces 71 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, which is below the 89-percent average for thin-and-light notebooks. The ThinkPad T460 (67 percent) and the ProBook 440 G3 (55 percent) offer even fewer colors.
Our Delta-E test for color accuracy (where lower is better) gave the Latitude 5480 a score of 1.6, which beats the 2.1 average. The ThinkPad T460 is even more accurate (0.5 for the touch screen, 0.2 for the non-touch), while the ProBook 440 G3 (3.6) and the category average (2.1) fall short of the mark.
The Latitude 5480 emits an average 202 nits (a measurement of brightness), making it dimmer than the 245-nit average, ThinkPad T460 (239-nits touch screen, 242-nits non-touch) and the ProBook 440 G3 (243 nits). The dimness only exacerbates its limited viewing angles, as the panel looks much darker from greater than 45 degrees to the left and right.
Our model of the 5480 Latitude features its optional touch screen, which speedily recognized my swipes as I scrolled through TweetDeck's many columns. It also recognized Windows 10 gestures for pulling up the Action Center and viewing open windows
Keyboard, Pointing Stick, Touchpad
The Latitude 5480's island-style keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience. When I tested it out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I click-clacked at a rate of 82 words per minute, beating my 80 wpm average. The keys feature an otherwise excellent 1.9 millimeters of travel and 60 grams of required actuation force (1.5 - 2.0mm and 60 grams are ideal), though the feedback isn't as strong as we'd like.
The Latitude's pointing stick provided very accurate navigation around the desktop, without forcing me to lift my fingers off the home row. However, Dell's coarse concave nub isn't as comfortable to push as the curved caps you find on Lenovo's TrackPoints.
The Latitude 5480's 4 x 2-inch touchpad speedily registered two-finger page scrolling swipes and three-finger app switching gestures. Its left and right buttons offered solid responses to each click, with the top pair of buttons requiring a bit more force to press than the bottom pair.
The Latitude's speakers provided enough warm audio to fill a large conference room. When I listened to Queens of the Stone Age's "Kalopsia," the track's bass hit hard, Josh Homme's vocals came through clearly and the warbling guitars sounded accurate.
The preloaded Waves MaxxAudio Pro audio adjustment utility lets you tweak EQ settings and increase bass, but the notebook didn't need such adjustment out of the box.
Armed with a 7th-Gen Intel Core i7-7600U, a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM, the Latitude 5480 is a multitasker's best friend. I saw zero slowdown when I split my screen between a dozen Chrome tabs (including TweetDeck, Google Docs and Slack) and a 1080p YouTube video. The system retained its speedy response after I launched a full system scan in Windows Defender, started taking selfies with the camera and began a round of Candy Crush Soda Saga.
The Latitude 5480's powerful processor enabled it to score a strong 8,530 on the GeekBench 3 general performance test. The ThinkPad T460's (Core i5-6300U, 16GB RAM) score of 6,708 and the ProBook 440 G3's (Core i5-6200U, 8GB RAM) score of 4,990 are predictably lower, thanks to their last-gen Core i5 CPUs. The 8,088 average for thin-and-light notebooks is also lower than the Latitude's mark.
The 256GB M.2 SATA SSD in our Latitude 5480 took 37 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files. That translates to a speed of 137.6MBps, which is slow for an SSD and below the category average (184.45MBps). Still, it was enough to top the ProBook 440 G3's score of 103.8MBps, but not the T460's 175.5MBps.
Productivity power users should appreciate the Latitude 5480 as it needed only 3 minutes and 12 seconds to match 20,000 names to addresses in our OpenOffice Spreadsheet macro test. That's shorter than the times posted by the ThinkPad T460 (4:13), the ProBook 440 G3 (4:55) and the 4:45 average.
The 5480's integrated Intel HD 620 GPU notched a score of 73,623 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That beats the Intel HD 520-based ThinkPad T460 (65,981) and the ProBook 440 G3 (58,077), but it's just shy of the average (77,510).
You can game on the Latitude 5480 when you get to take a break, but you can't push it that hard. It ran Dirt 3 (1920x1080 pixels, medium graphics) at 32 frames per second, which is just barely above our 30 fps playability threshold, but below the 42 fps average.
The Latitude 5480 has enough in the tank for a full work day and several hours of overtime, lasting 11 hours and 37 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That beats the 8:03 thin-and-light average as well as the 440 G3 (7:31) and the 3-cell battery versions of the ThinkPad T460 (8:26 with non-touch, 6:40 with a touch screen). However, with a 6-cell battery, the ThinkPad T460 put up some impressive times of its own, with 13:12 for a touch screen and 17:04 without a touch screen.
Our model features a 4-cell, 68-watt-hour battery, the largest size Dell offers. However, Dell doesn't always offer battery options when you're customizing your system on its site. Make sure to check the size of the battery (larger is better) when you're constructing your system.
The 0.9-megapixel webcam in the Latitude 5480 is fairly standard for what we see in most laptops. My test selfie had a grainy texture and flat colors, as the red of the wall behind me and the dark blue in my shirt both appeared muted.
Certain parts of this machine can spike a slight fever. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video, the underside of the laptop measured 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad (85 degrees) and G&H keys (91 degrees) were noticeably cooler.
Business notebooks shouldn't come with apps that don't help with productivity or security. Not only does the Dell Latitude 5480 include Candy Crush Soda Saga, Minecraft and Royal Revolt II, it also packs Houzz, a home-renovation tool.
Dell also includes its own tools for managing your system. For instance, Command Power Manager adds battery settings, while Command Update centralizes firmware updates from Dell. You also have SupportAssist, which houses system info and tech-support links.
Our review configuration costs $1,562 and features a Core i7-7600U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD, a 1080p Full-HD display and a 4-cell 68 WHr battery. The Latitude 5480 starts at $769 with a configuration that includes an Intel Core i3-7100U CPU, 4GB of RAM, a non-touch 1366 x 768-pixel display, a 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive and a 3 cell, 51 WHr battery.
Customizable units start with the $879 model, which includes a Core i5-7200U CPU, and upgrades to 8GB of RAM ($63) and to SSD storage (starting at $42 for 128GB). You can get a full HD, 1920 x 1080-pixel panel ($70) and an Nvidia GeForce 930MX GPU ($69.30).
If hardware security matters, make sure to look for a section called PalmRest when you're checking out at Dell.com. Not all models will have it, and some offer either just a Smart Card reader ($21) or both a Smart Card reader and a fingerprint reader ($35).
We like the durable Latitude 5480 for its lengthy battery life and speedy performance, which make it a fantastic machine for plowing through a day's work (even when it extends into the evening). It's unfortunate that all that brawn is hindered by the notebook's lifeless touch screen.
The ThinkPad T460, which will soon be replaced with a Kaby Lake version, has a brighter, more colorful display, longer endurance and a better keyboard. However, if you're looking for a powerful, well-made business laptop, the Latitude 5480 should be near the top of your list. Just make sure you get the extended battery.