Being a long-time Dell Latitude user, I jumped at the chance to review Dell’s new Latitude 6430u Ultrabook. I used and loved my older Latitude notebooks for their performance and reliability but finally gave them up in favor of a newer, more powerful and portable Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook about a year ago. At the time, Dell wasn’t offering any Ultrabook models, so I was excited to see how the new Dell Latitude 630u Ultrabook would stack up.

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The Ultrabook I reviewed was equipped with a dual-core Intel Core i5-3427U processor running at 1.8GHz. The unit had 6GB of DDR3-16000 MHz RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 card, and a 128GB SSD drive. The 6430u model supports up to 16GB of RAM and can be purchased with an optional 256GB SSD drive. The Ultrabook also had a 14” WLED backlit monitor with 1366 × 768 resolution and a built-in 1-megapixel webcam. It also sported 802.11n Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth capability. What I really liked about the unit was the ports that were available. The Dell Latitude 6430u provided both a full VGA port and a 1GB Ethernet port on either side of the Ultrabook, eliminating the need to mess with annoying dongles that can be easily lost. The left side of the Ultrabook had the power port, the VGA port, a USB 3.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and an external Wi-Fi power switch. The right side of the Ultrabook provided a security connector, a 1GB Ethernet port and a second USB 3.0 port. The back of the unit also provided an eSATA port and an HDMI port. The Latitude Ultrabook had the same great keyboard layout and feel that I remembered from my earlier Dell Latitude models. The 6430u’s keyboard was also backlit. The backlit dual-pointing keyboard was supposedly spill resistant, but I wasn’t brave enough to test that. Oddly, the keyboard’s backlight function was disabled out of the box and needed to be manually enabled. The Ultrabook weighed in at 3.72 pounds—almost a pound heavier than my Samsung Ultrabook—but its extra ports and more solid feel were definitely worth the extra ounces. You can also get the unit with an optional SmartCard Reader/Fingerprint Reader.

The test unit was also equipped with an external 8X DVD drive that connected to a USB port. As you would want with a business laptop, the system came loaded with Windows 8 Professional Edition. Another really nice point was that the system wasn’t loaded down with a lot of unnecessary bloatware. It had a trial copy of Microsoft Office 2012 Home Edition and the CyberLink Media Suite. The Cyberlink Media Suite was particularly welcome, as it filled in for Windows 8’s missing DVD support by providing a DVD player in addition to DVD-burning capabilities.

To test the unit, I put my normal Samsung Ultrabook away and went travelling with the new Dell Latitude Ultrabook. The unit didn’t disappoint. Although a bit heavier than my normal system, it was still much more portable than a standard laptop. Unlike some Ultrabooks, the Dell has a very sturdy and solid feel. The case was covered with a thin rubbery coating, making it smudge resistant and easy to hang on to. I found the keyboard to be very usable, but I missed the ability to scroll using the mouse pad. The system had a TPM chip, which let me take full advantage of BitLocker drive protection. As you would expect, the battery life of the unit was excellent. The battery lasted over 7 hours in real use, working with Microsoft Word and other various Microsoft Office 2013 documents. Seven hours of continuous use is enough to work through the duration of most international flights. The power charger was also much smaller than those of the previous Latitude units. However, it still used a three prong plug, which can sometimes be a problem when traveling. The time required to charge the battery was fast compared with the Samsung. Although the backlit keyboard didn’t automatically adjust to room lighting conditions, it did automatically turn off during periods of disuse to save battery power.

I would definitely recommend the new Dell 6430u Ultrabook to anyone looking for a new laptop. My only hesitation, and I must admit I would not have had this concern before Windows 8 was released, is that the unit did not have a touch screen. Of course, my Samsung Series 9 doesn’t have a touch screen either, so that didn’t hinder my productivity, but Windows 8 seems to almost demand the touch interface. In any case, the Dell Latitude 6430u is a great choice for business users looking for a new laptop.

 

Dell Latitude 630u Ultrabook
PROS: Sturdy aluminum construction, fast startup, great keyboard, built-in VGA, Ethernet and USB ports, TPM support
CONS: No touch screen, a bit heavier than other Ultrabooks, no scrolling support in the mouse pad
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
PRICE: $1327.79 (as tested with external DVD drive)
RECOMMENDATION: The Dell Latitude is a great choice as a business-ready laptop for users who don’t need a touch screen.
CONTACT: Dell