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Dell Latitude 13 - Connectivity, Usability and AV
With its stylish design, superb build quality and reasonably flexible specification, the first area where Dell's Latitude 13 really falls down is in its connectivity – or rather, lack thereof. Unlike the MacBook Air, you do get a Gigabit Ethernet port and one of its two USB ports doubles as eSATA for hooking up fast external storage, but for video you can only output over analogue VGA. While this is more forgivable on a laptop that isn't primarily consumer-oriented, it doesn't gel at all well with the machine's premium looks and pricing. At least headphone and microphone jacks are conveniently located at the front.
Unfortunately, in use the keyboard isn't as good as that found on the far cheaper Inspiron M301z, but it's good enough that typing is still fairly pleasant. Layout is what you would expect, though some of the secondary functions could have been spaced better. The large, tile-style keys offer positive if rather shallow feedback, except for the spacebar which was slightly loose and too loud for our liking. The touchpad doesn't support multi-touch but is still nice to use, with a smooth surface and two distinct buttons which offer great feedback.
Getting onto visual performance, the Latitude 13's 13.3in screen is on the good side of average, as it's not particularly strong in any area but doesn't suffer from any glaring faults either. Its 1,366 x 768 resolution is standard for the screen size, and it's reasonably sharp. In our greyscale test it failed to distinguish either the lightest or darkest shades, meaning you'll inevitably lose out on some subtle detail in films. There was little banding and backlighting was slightly uneven, though light bleed was almost unnoticeable. While vertical viewing angles are predictably poor, horizontal ones are halfway decent by business laptop standards.
Sonically, meanwhile, this ultraportable is impressive. While there is a slightly hollow, tinny quality to the speakers, they pump out a decent volume with a fair amount of detail and no obvious distortion. The one caveat is that, since they're facing down, having the machine on your lap or a couch might muffle the sound.
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