REVIEW: Dell Latitude E6520

Reviews 13444 views

Dell’s Latitude series has long been a favourite of corporates. Sitting in-between the Vostro series for small businesses and the Precision series for mobile workstation users who need top-end performance for demanding applications, the Latitude is akin to BMW’s 5-Series cars―boring perhaps, but best in class for hard-working business persons.

The entire Latitude E-Family was recently refreshed with the Latitude E5420, E5520, E6520, E6420, E6320, E6220, and E6420 ATG laptops and the Latitude XT3 convertible tablet. The new Latitude family of laptops includes more than 100 design improvements and a range of new features to meet evolving business needs, including an increasing demand for security and manageability.

The biggest selling point of a Latitude is its build quality and support options. The Latitude E6520 reviewed here, like all Latitudes, includes outstanding access, manageability and security for organisations of all sizes. And with Dell Services, the company can help you to efficiently deploy and manage these laptops across your network (for a fee of course!).

Built for business

To address the needs of an evolving workforce that demands anytime, anywhere access to business applications and data, the Latitude E6520 sits at the top of the range and “goes above and beyond standard laptop features with advanced manageability, durability, and security specs”. Similar to all Dell machines purchased online, the 15.6-inch machine (smaller screen sizes are available on different Latitude models) is available with a range of options that bump the price of the machine.

For instance, the base model (from £659 ex. VAT) comes with a 15.6-inch (1366×768) LED-backlit display, Intel Core i3-2330M processor (2.20GHz, 3MB cache, dual core), 2GB (1,333MHz) DDR3 dual-channel memory, Intel HD Graphics 3000, 250GB (5,400rpm) Serial ATA hard drive and Windows 7 Professional (32-bit).

Upgrade the specifications to include a top-flight 15.6-inch HD+ (1600×900) LED-backlit display, Intel Core i7-2760QM processor (2.40GHz, 6MB cache, quad core), 8GB (1,333MHz) DDR3 dual-channel memory, nVidia NVS 4200M (512MB discrete graphics), 256GB SSD, integrated Full HD camera with microphone and Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) and it’ll cost a less palatable £1,463 (ex. VAT).

Swapping the standard 6-cell battery to a 9-cell will add a further £89.99 (ex. VAT), and Dell even charges an additional £50 (ex. VAT) for a FIPS Fingerprint Reader/Contactless Smartcard Reader and £96 (ex. VAT) for a mobile broadband SIM. Considering the target market for this laptop and the highly mobile nature of their work, Dell really should include these features as standard.

A port for every occasion

Specifications are personal to your business needs and budget, but ergonomics of the business-rugged Latitude E6520 remain unchanged, with an anodised aluminium display back, tough powder-coated base, reinforced steel hinges, magnesium alloy internal frame and zinc alloy latch. The Latitude E6520 is also equipped with a spill-resistant keyboard and protective LCD seal. There’s no denying the Latitude E6520 is built to be mobile.

The most noticeable design trait of the machine is its large full-size keyboard which makes typing for long periods comfortable. Dell even offers a backlit option. There’s also a dedicated numerical keypad for number crunchers and two navigational devices―a touchpad and touchpoint. Uniquely, each pointing device also has its own mouse buttons, so there’s actually a total of five mouse buttons. Each mouse button is quiet when pressed too, which is great. What’s also neat are three dedicated volume buttons (up/down/mute) under the screen. Dedicated screen brightness buttons would also have been appreciated, but it’s not the end of the world.

The Latitude E6520 is a large laptop (384x258x28mm, 2.50kg), so it’s no surprise that it caters well for I/O ports. There’s a tray-loading DVD+/-RW drive that’s easily removable to shave off a little travel weight, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, Mobile Broadband and GPS options, along with stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jack, noise-reducing array microphones (good for videoconferencing), and optional Web camera.

Ports and slots are plentiful and include four USB 2.0 (one doubles as a eSATA combo), memory card reader, 54mm ExpressCard, FireWire, Docking Connector, VGA, HDMI, SmartCard Reader, and optional Contactless SmartCard Reader/Fingerprint Reader or FIPS Fingerprint Reader. USB 3.0 is only available via an optional optical bay but there’s no support at all for DisplayPort or Thunderbolt.

Enterprise ready

To help companies quickly deploy and manage new Latitude E6520s much easier, Dell provides commonality across all 26 Latitude models―1 dock, battery and keyboard footprint. Furthermore, IT managers can sleep easier at night knowing the machines have improved security with Dell Data Protection, Remote Data Delete and a Free Fall Sensor to protect data loss caused from drops. There’s also support for pre-integrated Citrix and VMware remote desktop clients.

Also available is Dell’s Data Protection, a flexible, manageable and auditable endpoint encryption solution that helps simplify data protection and comply with security regulations. The solution is designed to help companies protect endpoint devices, which serve as the “front door” to sensitive information.

Where Dell really excels is support for large organisations. The company offers a comprehensive set of services that help automate the deployment and management of commercial laptops, mobile devices and desktops, as well as the ability to securely dispose of outdated or retired assets.

For example, Dell’s Deployment Services includes everything from order consolidation to coordination of deployment resources, while ProSupport Services is designed to minimise disruptions and maintain high levels of productivity across end-user PCs. Lastly, Dell Support Services frees businesses from IT maintenance so they can focus on running their business.

Summary

Dell’s Latitude E6520 is a solid, all-around laptop for corporates. It’s far from sexy and some might even say the orange stripe around the keypad is goofy. But this isn’t a machine designed to compete with an Apple MacBook Pro. This is a machine designed to be part of a corporate laptop pool that sits effortlessly on a Windows network and runs typical Windows applications with ease.

But for all its merits―including solid construction, splash-proof keyboard, first-rate stability, excellent performance and 5+ hours battery life―the Latitude E6520 is not without its shortcomings. The top LCD cover finish looks nice but quickly accumulates fingerprints, the audio system is under-powered, and many users will have a usability problem with the off-centre keyboard and pointing devices caused by the inclusion of a number pad. Furthermore, the slope of the case makes it hard to reach the DVD drive eject button.

The Latitude E6520 is also big and heavy, so it’s probably not the best choice for road warriors or other users who frequently carry their laptop around. But for executives who occasionally need to take their office system home or to another site, it’s a powerful and secure machine that works well. And with many interfaces and options (module bay, docking port, 3G, USB 3.0), the Latitude E6520 can be modified to suit individual business needs. If your business is set on Dell, the Latitude E6520 is a solid choice. Others might find the class offered from a ThinkPad too irresistible.