- Dimensions: 13.31 x9.04×0.82 inches
- Weight: 4 lbs.
- CPU:1.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3427U
- Operating System: Windows 8 Professional
- RAM: 8GB
- Hard Drive Size: 128GB SSD
- Display Size:1 4-inches
- Resolution: 1366×768
- Graphics Card: Intel HD 4000
- Ports: Combo Headphone/Mic Jack; Gigabit Ethernet; HDMI; Smart Card Reader; USB 3.0; USB 3.0/eSata; VGA; 3 USB
- Great battery life
- Monster performance, even for an ultrabook
- Comfortably cool
- A little big-boned
- Keyboard is shallow and a bit soft
- I’d swap my current laptop for this one in a heartbeat.
We have reached a point in computing where laptops are no longer compromise devices. They can give you all the endurance you need to get you through a whole work day while still being convenient enough to carry around when you need to untether yourself from the cramped space of an office. These fast, light, powerful ultrabooks are now available to almost anyone, not just those in the market for top-tier devices. Dell is no stranger to the ultrabook, and many of their laptops are quite well-received in a market that is saturated with options. The Latitude 6430u is one of their offerings. With its requisite fast boot times, svelte profile and bag-friendly weight, we were more than excited to give the lappie a quick run, at the very least to give my aching back a break from the dumbbell of a laptop I normally lug around.
The Latitude 6430u is dressed in a nice, rubbery matte finish that is soft to the touch, and gives a fair bit of traction, without being an absolute fingerprint magnet, though oily fingers tend to leave some pretty gnarly marks. The laptop measures in at a height of 20.9mm, just shy of the 23mm cutoff, and tips the scales at 3.71bs, making it a little big-boned by ultrabook standards. Still, it meets the minimum spec, so it remains worthy of the title. The chassis of the laptop is magnesium, as Dell is known to do on their more premium devices, the inclusion of which is likely reason for the device making the weight division. This results in a robust, rigid machine that can take a little more than the average laptop.
The hinge is true to Dell’s solid built, and won’t easily give up, even with daily use. The display on this particular Dell is a comfortably large 14-inch 1366×768 deal that is quite bright, doing just fine even in the bright outdoor area of the office. The anti-glare screen did a decent job of keeping the screen visible even in the presence of strong ambient light, which is a great plus if you are the kind that works better with the fresh air blowing through your hair.
The keyboard on the device is full-sized and comfortable, though a little softer and shallower than I would personally prefer. Those who are looking for a nice, clacky set of keys may be a little disappointed, particularly given the extra thickness of this particular Latitude, but it is totally usable, given a little time.
At the center of the keyboard is a little eraserhead-type mouse pointer that is concave, with bumps on the inside, to provide traction. While its presence is a nice bonus, I found myself skipping it altogether, save for the slightest mouse movements, since the trackpad just below the keyboard was more than sufficient for basically everything that needed mouse input. There is also a set of soft keys on the flat area just before the hinge for volume and muting the audio, right alongside the main power key. The layout is nice and plain overall and won’t require any getting used to.
Being an ultrabook, this lappie has a 128GB SSD that cuts boot and loading times and keeps them well inside Intel’s standard. From a cold start, the laptop can power up much faster than many other ultra books we have tested in the past, becoming active in just under 12 seconds. Transferring files was equally fast, though for many 128GB might be a little on the anemic side for long-term storage.
The Latitude 6430u performed very impressively in real-world usage tests. A Chrome browser with about a dozen tabs open, some with HD streaming video, a large spreadsheet, a separate HD video on VLC and a large PDF did nothing to faze the monstrous 8GB of RAM and i7 processor, and while it isn’t a gaming laptop, you can probably get a few older or less demanding titles in, even with simple Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics.
Battery life on this machine is pretty impressive. From a full charge at the top of my workday, at medium brightness and a constant Wi-Fi connection, I was able to get through almost the entire workday at just about seven hours. Had I taken time to plug it over lunch, I have no doubt in my mind that it would see me through the whole nine-hour span at work. This is great news for those on the road a lot, or for those who don’t like the added bulk of a power brick encumbering their daily carry. This is above average battery life, even by ultrabook standards, and easily justifies the extra bulk in my book.
The extra room also allows the Latitude 6430u to stay a little cooler. Some of the much thinner ultrabooks have problems with heat dissipation to the point where the wrist rests would be all sweaty over extended use. This laptop stayed comfortably cool throughout the test, even when playing resource hungry HD video, or staying on for extended periods.
Overall, the Dell Latitude 6430u is a winner. It’s a little bigger, and a little heavier than some ultra books out there, but makes up for it with greater battery life and heat management. If you can spare a little extra space and weight, the extra power will mean you won’t get left out in the cold, even when you’re on the move.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara