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Dell Latitude 13 review

Ardjuna Seghers



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Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13
  • Dell Latitude 13


Our Score:


It's a sad reality that little in the laptop world can match the likes of Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air when it comes to that metal-clad look and feel. Some of the few alternatives are Dell's Adamo and Adamo XPS, but with prices starting at £1,000, neither is exactly affordable. That's why we were excited about last year's Vostro V13, which wasn't quite as sexy but a lot cheaper. The Latitude 13 we're looking at today shares the same 13.3in, ultra-slim, metal-clad chassis, so let's see if it's the ultra-portable for you.

Starting off with that design, while no Air killer it is very attractive by PC laptop standards. First there's its thinness, which goes from 16.5mm at the front to an almost equally svelte 19.7mm at the rear, comparing reasonably well against the original MacBook Air, which was 19mm at its thickest (though that has now slimmed down to 17mm). The Latitude's starting weight is a light 1.5kg too, so it's eminently portable.

While Dell doesn't go as far as Apple in making its laptop's entire body metal, the majority of the outer shell is thick, machined aluminium with tapered edges and a smooth finish. This is easy on the eye, doesn't pick up dust or fingerprints easily, and means build quality is superb. Even the lid's hinges are zinc-reinforced. In these regards it's easily the best chassis we've seen on a non-ruggedized, business-oriented laptop. The only exceptions to the metal outer shell are two strips of thick black plastic on the front edges, and a strip at the back which houses the Latitude's connectivity.

Opening it up, the entire inside is the same matt, sturdy plastic as the edges. Both the screen's bezel and the palm-rest/keyboard surround are beautifully clutter-free, with nothing breaking the smooth lines. The optional webcam and a glossy strip just above the keyboard (with white-backlit icons and the chromed power button) are subtly integrated, and we love the simple but elegant overall effect.

As usual with Dell, the Latitude 13 is completely customizable, starting off at £359 (excluding VAT) for a base spec of a 1.3GHz single core Celeron, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive running Ubuntu. Our sample was thankfully a little more powerful, sporting an Intel CULV Core 2 Duo SU7300, which though it runs at the same 1.3GHz clock speed is considerably faster thanks to its architecture, dual cores and extra cache.

It still only sports 1GB of RAM though, which might be a tad restrictive for the installed 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Though not quite Apple-esque, the £30 (excluding VAT) Dell charges to up this to 2GB is not cheap either, but we would recommend it as essential. On the other hand, the £109 4GB demands is simply too much.

The hard drive is a more generous 250GB model, and better still, runs at a speedy 7,200rpm. Upgrading to 320GB costs only £12, while £78 gets you a 64GB SSD. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi N are part of the base spec, but a webcam isn't, and will set you back another £16. All-in then, you're looking at £618 excluding VAT for our sample configuration, bringing the total with VAT and delivery to £746.13.


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.


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.


November 16, 2010, 3:01 pm


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


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.


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.


November 16, 2010, 4:27 pm


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...)


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.


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.


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.


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.c... to be superb.


November 16, 2010, 9:32 pm

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

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).


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.


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.


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.


November 18, 2010, 2:38 pm


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


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


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


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.


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


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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