Hands-on review: CES 2016: Dell Latitude 13 7000 (2016)

In the Ultrabook world it’s a race to the bottom for who can make the lightest, thinnest, and smallest notebook of all. Last year, Dell pulled out all the stops with the XPS 13, which jammed a 13-inch screen into an 11-inch frame. Now the Round Rock-based company is hoping to make a splash on the enterprise front with the Latitude 13 7000.

Although we’ve seen a grow space of fanless, Intel Core M-powered business notebooks, the new Latitude comes as 12.5-inch notebook packing the full power of an Intel Core i7 processor. On top the beefier processing power, thin and light rig also looks promising thanks to its unique Infinity screen, carbon fiber body and $1299 (about £880, AU$1,785) starting price.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

Design

Much like Dell’s recent enterprise-oriented Chromebook 13, the Latitude 13 features a completely carbon fiber-lined chassis. The material helps make the 12.5-inch laptop lighter than other Ultrabooks and at the same time gives the screen lid an attractive woven-finish look. The surface is also coated in a resin clear coat that’s soft to the touch and manages to repel fingerprints fairly well.

Still if you’re not a fan of the carbon fiber, Dell also plans to offer the Latitude 13 with a magnesium alloy lid, making it similar to the XPS 13.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

The interior is made up of a flat, hard piece of semi-glossy carbon fiber composite. Though it looks like a simple plastic panel, it doesn’t feel cheap at all and there’s hardly any flex. Still I would have much rather preferred the interior to have the same weaved finish as the screen lid and it would have been a fitting touch since this 7000-series machine is Dell’s highest-end Latitude model.

Where this 12.5-inch laptop truly impresses is the keyboard. The keys travel noticeably deeper than those on the XPS 13 and they also produce a satisfying click when pushed down. Each key has also been molded with a fantastic concave curvature for your fingertips to fill. Similarly, the trackpad features actual buttons rather than being a clickable pad – though I wish it were lined with glass rather than being made of a high-grade plastic.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

Dell has implemented the magic of its Infinity Display with the latest line of Latitude machines, and like the XPS line before it does an amazing job of shaving down the screen bezels. However, the same tradeoffs are present as the webcam has been moved down to the lower left of the machine.

This positioning of the camera will make your nose hairs ever more visible during web calls and forget about typing while you’re on a meeting as it will look like a fleshy tarantula is attacking the keys. Still if you’re willing to put up with this small caveat, the shrunken bezels are a treat and they help draw your eyes to the pleasantly colorful and bright display.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

Small, but not the smallest

Measuring just 12.22 x 8.47 x 0.74 inches or 310 x 215 x 19mm (W x D x H) and weighing in at 2.77 pounds (1.26kg), the Latitude 13 is one of the lightest business laptops to come out beating even the 2.84 pound (1.28kg) Lenovo Yoga 900 and the 2.96 pound (1.35kg) MacBook Air.

That said, it’s not the smallest device around. It has some noticeably generous dimensions that make it bigger than the Yoga 900 and even the 14-inch screen Lenovo X1 Carbon. It’s especially noticeable when you place it next to the 11.97 x 7.87 x 0.35 – 0.59 inches (304 x 200 x 9-15mm) XPS 13, which remains as one of the most compact Ultrabooks ever created.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

The Latitude 13 is that much larger thanks to its extensive array of ports including three USB 3.0 ports, USB C for docking, SD card, Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort a slot of a SIM card and an optional smart card reader.

The most interesting addition is this will be the first Latitude to introduce a USB type C port as its docking connector. Using a single cable, users will be able to connect their laptop to a block-shaped dock to push data and power as well as driving two external 4K monitors.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

Specifications and pricing

At its core, the Dell Latitude 13 7000 features Skylake Intel Core I-series processors upgradable to a Core i7 chip. Users will also be able to configure their system with up to 16GB of DDR4 memory and a 512GB SSD.

For screen options, the base Latitude 13 comes outfitted with a 1,366 x 768 resolution display at its $1299 (about £880, AU$1,785) base configuration. However, you’ll most likely want to bump up to the FHD 1080p panel, and there’s also a touch display option which throws in a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass.

Dell has also made two battery options available and you’ll be able to customize your 12.5-inch notebook with either a three or four cell battery, the latter of which should last for 10 hours.

Dell Latitude 13 7000 review

Early verdict

The Dell Latitude 13 7000 is a well built and handsome business laptop but it’s not breathtaking in any sort of way if you’re looking for a machine to sweep you off your feet. While the Lenovo Yoga 900 impresses with its ability to transform, the MacBook with its thinness, the Latitude 13 merely exists. It’s not the smallest and just slightly lighter than other Ultrabook options out there.

That said, this 12.5-inch notebook is a solid option complete with excellent keyboard, decent display and competent trackpad. And more power to you if you’re looking to update your business’ fleet of Dell machines.

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