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REVIEW: Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1

Dell Latitude 5290

Earlier in the year at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Dell unveiled a suite of new products to address the myriad ways people play and work, including a 4K-enabled XPS 13 laptop, an XPS 15 2-in-1 laptop with a unique Radeon RX Vega M graphics chipset, and an updated Latitude portfolio that promises more productivity for mobile professionals. The Latitude 5290 2-in-1 is Dell’s latest Surface Pro clone designed for business professionals looking for a secure, small-and-light laptop that offers dual functionality thanks to its detachable keyboard.

Design

Designed for the mobile workforce, Dell’s Latitude 5290 2-in-1 (starting at £1,205.36 ex. VAT) has been fully refreshed with the latest quad-core 8th-Gen Intel Core vPro 15W processors, delivering performance improvements most noticeable on company networks when IT is running encryption, malware scans and other background apps to secure and connect employees.

The Latitude 5290 has the usual specifications bump you’d expect on a new laptop, helping you to be more productive, but the machine also includes a variety of attractive materials including machined aluminium and magnesium alloy to make it light and durable (1.2kg with the bundled Travel Keyboard).

The Latitude 5290 also features a unique hinged design that that allows the device to be operated in multiple modes to improve collaboration with colleagues and presenting to customers. The hinge also reduces the product’s overall ‘z-height’, allowing the system to be opened fully while working on an aeroplane or other constrained space environment.

This is a great usability improvement as Dell’s first-generation detachable 2-in-1s were top heavy and a little awkward to set up when returning to a flat surface. It’s a simple fix, but makes it easier for corridor warriors to move around the office and work seamlessly between a desk, meeting and presentation setup. And it’s pretty firm too, so you don’t have to worry about the display slipping and sliding on a flat surface. But as with all detachables, the Latitude and its keyboard are much happier on a flat surface than on a lap in laptop mode with the kickstand balancing precariously on your knees.

Dell Latitude 5290

Specifications & connectivity

The Latitude 5290 replaces last year’s Latitude 5285 and really packs in some impressive technology. It boasts a choice of 8th-Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs (i5-8250U/i5-8350U/i7-8650U), 8/16GB RAM and a 128/256/512GB Solid State Drive. Maxing the machine out with the top-of-the-line features will cost £1,579.41 (ex. VAT), but you do get Next Business Day On-Site Service on all models.

The Windows 10-powered convertible tablet has a 12.3-inch 1920×1280 (3:2 aspect ratio) display that supports touch and an optional Dell PN557W Active Pen (£61.91 ex. VAT). The display is extremely bright (532nits) and has better than average colour gamut. Colours are also vivid and the screen has wide viewing angles, making it practical when presenting.

The removable backlit Travel Keyboard (Dell’s version of the Surface Type Cover) easily snaps onto the bottom of the machine using magnets. Doing so toggles between standard Windows 10 or tablets environments. The keyboard is good and matches the Latitude 5290 perfectly, but the trackpad is noisy when clicked and doesn’t have dedicated mouse buttons. The trackpad can’t be turned off either, and there isn’t a choice of colours like the Surface Pro. But we really liked the option of two levels of backlighting.

The machine’s compact design doesn’t compromise its connectivity and it’s quite amazing how much Dell has managed to squeeze in. The full rundown comprises a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, two USB Type-C ports (supports DisplayPort over USB Type-C, optional Thunderbolt 3 on Core i7 models), microSD card slot, volume controls, Windows Home button, audio jack, 5MP webcamera (for video calls), Near Field Communication (optional), Noble Wedge Lock Slot, fingerprint reader (optional), and Smart Card reader (optional). Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are of course included, and there’s optional 4G LTE too (£78.65 ex. VAT) – a necessity for frequent travellers.

Dell Latitude 5290

Security & performance

Security and manageability are where the Latitude 5290 excels and this is what you’re paying for. IT managers can protect the hardware when accessing a company’s network thanks to the FIPS 140-2, TCG certified TPM 2.0 and optional smart card reader, fingerprint reader and NFC.

Dell’s Client Command Suite is a brilliant set of automation tools that assists in device monitoring, deploying images, updating and more, to help maximise the performance of the hardware and software – but also to save time. The Client Command Suite also allows flexible and automated BIOS and system configurations to make it easier to deploy, monitor and update a Latitude fleet.

The fans aren’t particularly noisy, but they do run a lot of the time – even more so with the Core i7 models. Battery life is the biggest disappointment with the Latitude 5290. In real-world usage we only managed to get around 5.5 hours with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both turned on, with minimal activity besides Web browsing and working with Google Docs. Other than intensive video editing (and gaming is also a complete no-go), the Latitude 5290 is more than capable.

Would we recommend the Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1?

There isn’t a better 2-in-1 hybrid for enterprises prioritising security, manageability and reliability. The Latitude 5290’s built-to-last chassis has undergone extensive testing to achieve MIL-STD certification against shock, vibration, temperature extremes, and other torture tests to ensure it can withstand real-world conditions. There are plenty of security options and configuration choices, but it is more expensive compared to regular 12- or 13-inch laptops that also have the edge in terms of visual appeal. Battery life is disappointing and also remember that Thunderbolt 3 is only available on Core i7 models, and that the Active Pen is an optional extra. All things considered, Dell’s Latitude 5290 detachable 2-in-1 hybrid will definitely satisfy business users and IT managers alike and is a more powerful and manageable alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

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Christian Harris is the owner of BCW and PrizeTopia (an incredible prize giveaway site). Christian has over 20 years’ publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.