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Dell Latitude 13 - Performance, Battery Life, Value and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

5

Intel's Core 2 Duo architecture, which is still the only option for the Dell Latitude 13, is getting on a bit and it shows - especially when compared with the processing power of currently available, similarly-priced laptops such as the HP ProBook 5320m's Core i5 and Toshiba Portege R700's Core i3. Having said that, the 1.3GHz SU7300 dual core should still be fine for the average workload, and isn't badly balanced with this Latitude's other (equally underwhelming) specifications.

You can categorically forget about any kind of 3D gaming on the Latitude 13, with a pathetic 12.9fps in TrackMania Nations Forever making for a particularly poor showing.

We weren't expecting amazing battery life considering this Latitude's slimness, but its result of just three hours and twenty minutes was even lower than we had feared. Combined with the fact that the battery is non-removable and that battery life will degrade over time, it dramatically limits this Dell's appeal, and anyone who works away from a socket for three or more hours at a time will want to give this laptop a wide berth.

So there we have it. The Latitude is undeniably attractive and build quality is superb, but it's not a machine for anyone who prefers substance over style. At £746.13 for our review model, it's overpriced, underpowered, suffers from a severe lack of connectivity and features, and tops it off with woeful battery life.

If you're looking for a 13.3in laptop that's a little more rugged than your average consumer laptop and looks fairly stylish, the ProBook 5320m is a good choice and gives you a 2.4GHz Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive for less money. The Portege R700 also offers excellent build, better specifications, a boatload of connectivity and features, and battery life that's over twice as long, again for less. Both of these also sport metal lids and palm-rests, and extra protection such as drive sensors.

If on the other hand style is your primary concern, spend a bit more to get an Adamo or a MacBook Air.

Verdict

If you can live with its limitations and can't stretch your budget beyond £750, Dell's ultraportable Latitude 13 offers looks, sleekness and build quality that few PC laptops can match. However, for most people it suffers from far too many shortcomings for us to recommend it.

ffrankmccaffery

November 16, 2010, 1:21 pm

Although I couldn't care for anything by Dell it's still nice to see the power and Ethernet ports on the back of a notebook where they belong.

GherkingTR

November 16, 2010, 2:50 pm

Odd, this isn't just similar to the Vostro v13, it IS the v13 by a different name!





I considered picking up one of these, as I like something a bit different, but that price/performance issue is a right bugger.

TechVegan

November 16, 2010, 3:01 pm

@ffrankmccaffery:


"I couldn't care for anything by Dell" - Dell makes some pretty awesome stuff (http://www.trustedreviews.com/... and http://www.trustedreviews.com/..., to give but two examples), any reason for this brand hatred? :)





@GherkinTR:


It's certainly the same chassis, which unfortunately means the same lack of HDMI.


In terms of design (build and looks) the price is very reasonable, but sacrifices on the performance front are too dramatic for our liking.

Steve

November 16, 2010, 3:52 pm

Dell sent me one of these a few months ago to play with. I found the keyboard/palmrest became uncomfortably warm after around an hours use.





And as with all Dell's, I'd never spend my own money on one nor could I ever recommend them.

TechVegan

November 16, 2010, 4:27 pm

@Steve:


We didn't find this to be the case with our test sample: it became warm but certainly not uncomfortably so.





As to never recommending a Dell, like ffrankmccaffery, could you give some insight into why? (I've personally owned a Dell laptop and never had any problems with it...)

Steve

November 16, 2010, 4:51 pm

I just find Dell PC's to be fairly unreliable. I've had no end of grief supporting their awful D range of laptops, the E series are a more reliable to be fair and they are easier to open up.





Dells support website is crap and NBD engineer visits are pretty hit & miss and we are paying extra for this service!





But who designs these things? They weigh a ton, almost always looks atrocious and feel extremely cheap and nasty (even pricey premium models such as the E4310).





As I said, I'd never spend my own money on a Dell as there's better options available, for often less money. And quite why anyone would pick up one of their budget consumer models when a better specced VAIO E series is available (often for peanuts) is a mystery.

Ed

November 16, 2010, 4:57 pm

@Steve: All manufacturers have good and bad models and in fact Dell seems to produce more of the former than the latter. Your experience seems to be a massive over generalisation. Certainly from my support days they seemed no worse. Sure, if you're going to compare to a ThinkPad then they come up short but then they're a third of the price generally.

jingyeow

November 16, 2010, 7:26 pm

I bought a Dell Vostro from their business range and I have to say a lot of the comments here are based on misconceptions or bad experiences perhaps 4 years ago or more.





The unit is easy to access through the case, small and relatively light and is surprisingly easy to upgrade. There is zero clutter inside the case. Excess cable is nicely tapered off. Plus support options and their website have yet to be bettered. Please tell me of a consumer manufacturer with a better support site, and support options for the price? I used Dell chat to get a DVD drive replacement, and it was no hassle. They asked me if I could install it myself and it was received by courier in 2 days.





Highlighting the prices you pay relative to other companies, my computer is a Core i7-860, 4gb ram, x64 Windows 7, 160gb hard drive, DVD drive costing only £430 in Feburary earlier this year. I've checked Amazon and my CPU ALONE costs £200 (current prices). With upgrades to the graphics card and hard drive, I now have a pretty much multimedia/gaming pc for just short of £650.





Sure they might not look fanciest, but when you're actually using a laptop or desktop, you don't actually look at the base unit. You may as well spend your bucks on a nicer screen as that is what most of your time will be spent looking at.

TechVegan

November 16, 2010, 8:21 pm

Thanks for your feedback Steve, but I'm with darkspark on this one, based on personal experience. Issues like build quality and chassis design aside, sometimes Dell's prices are simply unbeatable for the hardware you're getting.


Also, we found the build and finish on the E-series (like the http://www.trustedreviews.com/... to be superb.

TechVegan

November 16, 2010, 9:32 pm

>Link above is broken due to the ')', so it's: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Brian Carter

November 16, 2010, 9:38 pm

Dell have appalling customer service (possibly always, possibly just some of the time).





I bought a laptop from Dell and paid a bit extra for a 6-cell battery (6800mAh say). I didn't check that I'd received the 6-cell battery and just used it. After a few months and getting annoyed with having to plug it in after 90 minutes or so I decided to check the battery and it said it was 4500mAh. I double-checked online and determined I'd been sent a 6-cell battery.





It took about 3 hours on the phone with Dell before they a. admitted their mistake and b. agreed to do something about it. Some of the "better" moments were:


- "The 4500mAh means the speed at which the battery charges, not the energy that the battery can hold" (at which point I gave an abrupt explanation of SI units).


- It's been more than 1 month so we can't accept returns or faults of this nature. I pointed out that it wasn't a fault, it was just a case of not being given the correct item.





Delivery/pickup was equally incompetent (wrong address/wrong day etc.). To their credit they eventually swapped it for a 9-cell battery (although they probably didn't mean to).





The laptop was £350 (1 year ago or so) and is doing nicely, colourful screen etc (video, email, farcry with low detail etc. all good). The only issue with the laptop is that the fan is either loud or off with no option to change it (saves the battery I guess).

ffrankmccaffery

November 17, 2010, 12:04 am

@Ardjuna: One word - Thinkpad. And it's not a hatred for Dell but a dislike for compromises, even in the example you've shown in your follow up comment. Ed may point to the price of Thinkpads but than notebooks are important tools after all.


@Brian Carter: I had a problem with my IBM desktop which I reported to the customer service helpline - they offered to send a repairman with the replacement part the next day.

jgsm

November 17, 2010, 12:42 am

You can pick this machine up on the outlet store as the V13 for peanuts. I paid £430 for a Core 2 Duo machine with 320gb HDD and 2gb of RAM, brand-new with full warranty. There always seem to be a good selection on there.

GoldenGuy

November 17, 2010, 3:27 pm

This review reminds me of an EastEnders Christmas special where the build up is made abnormally happy and delightful for no other reason than to emphasise the impending misery.

TechVegan

November 18, 2010, 2:38 pm

@ffrankmccaffery:


Good point but not everyone can afford a more expensive option even if they wanted to.





@jgsm:


Wow, that's an excellent price! What are your thoughts on your V13 after owning it for a while?





@GoldenGuy:


I've never seen EastEnders but surely not - I already start with the grumbling on page 2, after all :)

ffrankmccaffery

November 18, 2010, 4:08 pm

@Ardjuna: Thinkpads certainly are expensive - I can't argue to the contrary. However they're worth every single penny to anyone who's ever used one. That said you can get good prices on refurbished models and with a considerable period of the standard 3 year warranty still remaining on some.

Ertan Ozturk

November 18, 2010, 5:41 pm

Dell D520's we've used in one of our projects for 4 years are like rock, we've had only 1-2 small issues in like 25 laptops. The new project's Latitude 13's are unbelievably unreliable. 12 of them had issues, 6 of them with hard drives, some with power supplies, some with network cards. I'm even thinking to send them back. My harddrive went to the service twice because of %100 busy harddrive (even right after coldboot to install new Windows).


I have been extremely happy with my old-trusted Inspiron 9300 and gave to my mum (she needs a dependable one rather than a performance king), but this Latitude 13 is another beast, I guess.

Penguin

November 29, 2010, 12:27 am

Arrrgh! I've been trying to watch the video, but somehow it aint working! and I hoped yu guys would notice, but apparently not. I'm using Safari and only this video aint working :S

Ed

November 29, 2010, 2:02 am

@Penguin: Thanks for pointing that out. There was a typo in the video player so it wasn't working for anyone. :-/

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