The 14-inch Dell Latitude 5490 is built for work, with plenty of speed, durability and comfort. With an 8th-Gen Core i7 processor, the Latitude 5490 (tested at $1,509; starting at $799) enables you to blaze through your to-do-list, multitasking away with a keyboard that feels great to type on and a battery that will make it through the day. But if you're hoping for your work to look great on your screen or use your laptop to listen to any audio, the Latitude falls flat. Even with those caveats, though, this machine is a productivity powerhouse.
The matte black Latitude 5490 (with a carbon-fiber lid and underside, and a plastic keyboard deck) feels quite sturdy. Ever the minimalist , its silver Dell logo sits square in the middle of the lid, the keyboard is slightly recessed into the deck and a small sliver of its power button glows white when it's powered on.
Weighing 3.8 pounds and measuring 13.1 x 9.0 x 0.8 inches, the Latitude is heavier than the 3.5-pound Lenovo ThinkPad T470 (which weighs 3.9 pounds when upgraded to its six-cell battery), which is a slightly larger 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches.
The Latitude splits its ports among its left, right and back sides. Its HDMI port, optional SIM tray and first USB 3.0 port sit on the rear, while the left has its singular USB Type-C with DisplayPort, smart card reader, SD memory reader and second USB 3.0 port.
The right side has a VGA port, a headphone jack and a third USB 3.0 port. Businesses with old monitors and projectors will appreciate the VGA connector.
Security and Durability
The Latitude 5490 is built tough, so you don't need to worry about treating it with tons of care. The laptop passed 14 different MIL-SPEC tests, the same ones that U.S. military equipment must survive. That means the laptop has endured vibrations and drops onto the floor, withstood getting sand and dust blown at it and survived climates as cold as minus 20.2 degrees Fahrenheit and as hot as 140 degrees.
The Latitude 5490 offers several optional security features: an IR webcam for Windows Hello login, a fingerprint reader for additional biometric security and a smart card reader for a layer of security that many companies require. It also includes an FIPS 140-2 Certified TPM 2.0 chip for securing sensitive information, and the model we tested features Intel's vPro technology that enables remote access for IT professionals.
The Latitude 5490's dim, dull display is its weakest link. As I watched the Incredibles 2 trailer on this screen, I noticed how it rendered the superfamily's outfits in a lifeless burnt orange and pale yellow, taking all of the pop out of the hues. The 1920 x 1080 panel's crispness still managed to offer sharp details, including the leathery texture and stitching on a henchman's coat.
According to our colorimeter, the Latitude's display reproduces 65 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is far below the 107-percent premium-laptop category average and also beneath the Lenovo ThinkPad T470's 73 percent.
Those soft colors may also be tied to the Latitude 5490's relatively low brightness rating of 178 nits, which is less than the 234-nit rating from the ThinkPad T470 and the 284-nit premium-laptop category average. The display's poor range of viewing angles -- I saw colors darken severely when viewing the panel from 30 degrees to the left and right -- is attributable to both its lack of brightness and the reflections picked up by its glossy panel.
The Latitude 5490's touch screen speedily and accurately responded to my taps and gestures as I opened and closed windows and accessed menus. It didn't keep as fast a pace with my speedier input, as I saw a lag while doodling in MS Paint.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick
The Dell Latitude 5490's keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience. When testing it out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I click-clacked my way to 77 words per minute, which is close to my 80 words-per-minute average. This is due, in part, to the key mechanisms offering 1.9 millimeters of travel and requiring 70 grams of force to actuate. Those measurements are within or above the 1.5- to 2.0-mm and 60-gram standards we prefer.
The 3.9 x 2.0-inch nonclicking touchpad on the Latitude offers smooth, accurate navigation. The touchpad's dual pairs of left and right mouse buttons, though, offer almost too much travel and could stand to be a bit more clicky. The touchpad also supports two-finger scrolling and the standard Windows 10 navigation gestures for viewing all windows at once and jumping to the desktop.
The Latitude 5490's soft rubber pointing stick offers an additional way to navigate, with accurate input recognition. While some may prefer the convex Trackpoint found in the ThinkPad T470, this concave surface is still serviceable, with nubs that allow you to get a better grip.
The Dell Latitude 5490's speakers filled a medium-size conference room, but the sound quality was disappointing. When listening to a variety of content (including the Black Panther soundtrack and clips of talking YouTubers), I noticed the vocals sounded blown-out and hollow, missing their bass. As I played instrumental music from the band And So I Watch You From Afar, the sound profile felt too warm, and drum cymbals didn't clash crisply.
The Waves MaxxAudio Pro audio utility allows you to adjust bass and other settings, but I couldn't right the wrongs of the Latitude's sound, no matter how many tweaks I made.
Armed with an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8650U CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Latitude we tested is powerful enough for serious multitasking. With the Videos app and the audio preset utility open in the background, I saw no lag after splitting my display between a 1080p YouTube video and more than 15 Google Chrome tabs. Windows stayed responsive, TweetDeck columns moved smoothly as I scrolled and Google Docs didn't stutter as I wrote sections of this review.
The Latitude scored a mighty 14,838 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, beating the 9,316 category average. It also towers above the 6,739 from the Lenovo ThinkPad T470, though that machine uses an older, less-powerful Intel Core i5-7200U CPU.
The 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in the Latitude duplicated a DVD's worth of multimedia files in 19 seconds, for a speed of 267.9 megabytes per second. That score is almost identical to the 267.8MBps we saw from the 256GB PCIe SSD in the ThinkPad T470. Both speeds exceed the 259.9-MBps category average.
The Latitude also performed admirably on our Excel spreadsheet test, which measures how long it takes to match 65,000 names to addresses, finishing in 59 seconds. The 1:55 average is nearly twice as long.
On the Ice Storm Unlimited gaming test, the Latitude 5490's integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 card notched a solid 89,735. That beats the 62,912 from the ThinkPad T470 (Intel HD Graphics 620) and the 78,997 category average.
The Latitude also performed well on the Dirt 3 racing game, hitting 69 frames per second (at Medium graphics at 1080p) and speeding past the 48 fps from the ThinkPad T470 and the 55-fps category average.
If you're looking for a long-lasting laptop, the Latitude 5490 will definitely satisfy your demand. The notebook made it 9 hours and 54 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which continuously browses websites on a local server at 150 nits of brightness, outlasting the 8:16 category average. The ThinkPad T470 lasted a shorter 7:33 with its default 3-cell battery and a longer 16:01 with its optional 6-cell battery.
I've grown to have zero expectations for internal webcams, and the 0.9-megapixel shooter in the Latitude 5490 does nothing to change that.
While I can see myself in the test, the image blew out the white on my sweater, left my co-workers barely visible in the background and captured barely any detail of my hair.
The Latitude stays cool up top but gets a little too hot underneath. After we streamed 15 minutes of full-HD video, its touchpad and keyboard (89 degrees Fahrenheit)) registered measurements below our 95-degree comfort threshold, but its underside ranged from 98 degrees in the middle to 103 degrees in the lower-left corner of the underside.
Software and Warranty
The Latitude 5490 ships with the same amount of bloatware you'll find on most PCs, as well as some Dell-branded system utilities. That means you get free-to-play games such as Bubble Witch 3 Saga and Disney Magic Kingdoms, as well as apps such as Autodesk SketchBook, which locks its premium features (distort transform, color adjustments and text overlays) behind a pro version that costs $4.99 per month.
Actually useful preloaded tools include Dell Command Update for getting system updates from the computer-maker and SupportAssist for getting tech support and diagnostics.
The Latitude 5490 comes with a one-year hardware warranty from Dell, which will provide on-site or in-home service after a successful remote diagnosis.
Dell sells the Latitude 5490 in a variety of configurations, and we tested the $1,509 Core i7-8650U model with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The $799 entry-level model features a Core i3-7130U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive.
If you don't need the fastest system possible but you like everything else about the Latitude 5490, look at the $1,279 model, which rocks a Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
The Dell Latitude 5490's speed, longevity and typing experience combine for an excellent laptop, complete with a zippy SSD and better gaming performance than we expect from a business notebook. But the system is ultimately hampered by high temperatures and subpar screen and speakers that dampen video and distort audio.
Instead, you might want to check out the $1,113 configuration of the Lenovo ThinkPad T470, which offers a brighter, more colorful display and a 6-cell battery for much longer battery life. But with that machine, you're trading away performance, and it's hard to argue with the brawn of the Latitude 5490, which provides tons of support for demanding users.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag