If you need more evidence that this is a business machine, look at the keyboard: it’s a traditional unit that ignores fashionable Chiclet-style designs, and it’s backlit with several degrees of illumination.
We had no issues with the Latitude’s typing action. Every key hammers down with a consistent, snappy action that encourages rapidity, and the base is firm. The Return key and space bar are sensibly sized, the cursor keys aren’t shrunk, and there are shortcut keys and discrete buttons for common actions. The only downside comes from this laptop’s modest size, which means there’s no room for a numberpad.
The touchpad is wide, smooth and responsive, and supports Windows 8’s gestures, and there’s a pair of light buttons. The trackpoint is mixed: its buttons are high-quality, but the point itself has little clearance from the keyboard, which makes it tricky to use.
There’s no denying the high price of this particular E7440, but more modest specifications are available for smaller budgets.
The model beneath our sample in Dell’s range costs £1,367, and it’s got a slower Core i5 processor and just 4GB of RAM – but a touchscreen, which our review model doesn’t have. Dell’s £1,187 version has a Core i5 CPU, a 128GB SSD and a non-touch panel, and the most affordable 7000-series machine costs a reasonable £839 – but has a 1,366 x 768 screen and mechanical hard disk.
Every model can be customised with a multitude of service options. The three-year next-business-day warranty included with every 7000-series laptop can be upgraded with one or two extra years, and ProSupport can be added for these deals too – prices run from £30 to £226.
Accidental damage and theft protection options range from £36 to £109, and encryption, data protection and anti-theft tags and tracking options make this machine even more secure.
It’s even possible for Dell to tweak options in the BIOS before the laptop has left the factory. The docking station port on the bottom of the machine plugs into a £156 unit that serves up two USB 3 ports, three USB 2 connectors, audio jacks, DVI, DisplayPort and D-SUB outputs, an eSATA connection and another Gigabit Ethernet port.
The Latitude excels in several important areas. Its components are the match of its rivals, the screen has a high-resolution, great brightness and a matte finish, and it’s got excellent ergonomics and connectivity. It’s all contained inside a chassis that’s one of the sturdiest on the market – a key attribute for a business machine.
The screen’s mediocre colour accuracy means the panel doesn’t have the all-round quality of the Sony, though, and its battery didn’t last quite as long as the VAIO. Lenovo’s machine has a better keyboard and trackpoint.
The price, too, is a sticking point. The Dell is around £500 more expensive than the flimsier Sony, and the ThinkPad isn’t much pricier – but, if we craved a high-quality keyboard, we’d pay the difference.
It’s a three-way battle for the title of "best business Ultrabook", and the Dell is a top contender – anyone who buys this machine will not be disappointed. Examine your priorities before you take the plunge, though; the Latitude is a powerful, well-made all-rounder, but the lighter Sony has a superior screen, and the Lenovo has a slightly better keyboard.
Next, read our pick of the best laptops