|Introduction and Specifications|
|The Dell Latitude E7440 is not quite as sexy as some of the sleek ultrabooks out there, but it’s also not as square as most business notebooks we've been subjected to over the years. The Dell Latitude E7440 thus continues a trend we’ve been noticing lately of companies gussying up their business-class laptops, while maintaining a professional look so as not to distract in the conference room.
It’s tough trying to straddle two worlds with a product line, offering a business notebook with consumer features to entice end users, but Dell has been doing as good a job of it as any company. Primarily, that’s because it’s been rolling out a ton ultrabooks, and the slim and light machines just tend to be attractive.
The Latitude E7440 is indeed thin at just 21mm, and with a 3-cell battery it weighs in at just 3.6lbs. If the chassis doesn’t do it for you, some of the specifications and features surely will, starting with the centerpiece of this computer: the beautiful HD display with which you’ll be just as comfortable watching a movie as you’ll be creating a PowerPoint presentation or typing up a document.
The Dell Latitude E7440 ships with Windows 8 Pro (of course you can easily upgrade to Windows 8.1 any time) and runs an Intel Core i5-4300U (1.9GHz) processor with Intel HD Graphics 4400.
There’s 4GB of DDR3-1600MHz RAM inside, although it’s just a single 4GB DIMM; there’s an open slot if you want to configure your order from Dell with more or simply add it later yourself. For storage, Dell went with a 256GB SSD, which is somewhat common in ultrabooks and offers a nice bump in storage performance over traditional HDDs while sacrificing a bit of capacity.
There are three USB 3.0 ports, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet, stereo headphone/mic jack, Kensington lock port, and a docking connector that supports some existing laptop docks. There’s also a WiFi toggle on/off switch on one side and an SD card slot on the other.
Business notebooks tend to take as much if not more of a beating than personal machines (especially as some laptops perform double duty at work and at home), and so they need a little extra in the endurance department. Dell slogs its 7000 series notebooks through MIL-STD-810G testing, exposing them to high altitudes, high pressure, high and low temperatures, humidity, dirt and dust, vibrations, spills, and shocks to ensure that they’re sufficiently durable to withstand the abuses inflicted by the most careless and clumsy employee.
Let’s take a closer look at the overall design and other features of the Latitude E7440.
|The Latitude E7440 isn’t meant to be particularly eye-catching from across the room, but because this machine is after all still an ultrabook, it has that svelte overall look and feel. Further, Dell skinned the lid with a woven carbon fiber cover for added durability and a certain look--although we’d personally prefer perhaps the rubberized finish of the Latitude 6340u or the brushed metal lid of the Latitude E6430S.
Nearly the entire machine is black, from the lid to the keyboard to the ports themselves. Only a small I/O panel around the back is different, sporting a dark gray brushed metal finish. Again, the dark design doesn’t pop as much as the silver accents we’ve seen on previous Dell business ultrabooks, but the all-black-everything look is its own thing and keeps a low, professional profile in a business environment. To each his own.
The touch display, which has sensitive and lightning-fast response to touch input, has impeccable viewing angles and offers a wonderfully crisp viewing experience. Not everyone is as concerned about ultra-high screen resolutions on a relatively small-screen notebook, but anyone would have to admit that the 1920x1080 afforded by the Latitude E7440 looks superb.
The touchpad layout is the same as other business-oriented Dell notebooks we’ve seen lately, with a trackpad and mouse buttons below the keyboard area and a soft rubber pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard with a trio of mouse buttons immediately below the spacebar.
The keyboard is backlit, which is a nice touch, and there’s a key to toggle the feature on or off. The keys have a pleasing amount of travel without much noise, although they’re rather blocky and not particularly attractive. There’s no separate numpad, although you can awkwardly use all your numpad functions using the Fn key and the main keyboard.
The Fn key also gives you quick access to the sleep function, extending or adding a display, media playback controls, screen brightness controls, and more. Across the top of the keyboard area are dedicated volume control buttons and the power button.
One simple, subtle design element that’s actually a huge breath of fresh air is the beveled underside of the chassis. This gives you an easy grip every time you lift the machine, and it’s a fetching part of the laptop’s profile, too. The front of the notebook is also angled a bit, and the stereo speakers are hidden under there.
The right side of the Latitude E7440 houses the WiFi on/off toggle switch, the audio jack, the Kensington lock port, and one of the USB 3.0 ports; the left side has a fan exhaust grill and a (rather hard to access) SD card slot. (We suppose the upside of the SD card slot being tucked away under the beveled edge of the chassis is that an inserted card won’t stick out as far.)
Most of the action, port-wise, is happening around back. There you’ll find the remaining two USB 3.0 ports--one apiece on the left and right sides--as well as the Ethernet port and video ports. The power input is back there, as well, and a docking port is on the underside of the machine.
We’re liking the trend of being able to remove the battery and access the guts of ultrabooks, and Dell gives you those options with the Latitude E7440--which only makes sense for a business-oriented notebook, as it will mostly be IT people handling out whole fleets of these things. Being unable to simply swap out a bad battery or add more RAM would be terribly annoying.
Sometimes notebook audio will offer poor clarity but a lot of volume, and sometimes you’ll get better overall audio quality but not much volume. The Latitude E7440 is the latter. We were impressed with the balance and fidelity of the audio, with highs and mids that were crisp and distinct. There’s not much bass response, but the balance is so good that the lack of bass isn't quite as glaring as you might normally expect.
The downside to this audio system is that it just isn’t very loud. Even if you’re jamming to pop music that’s mixed specifically to be loud, you could partially drown out the sound emanating from these speakers with a hearty shuffle of papers. A quieter classical piece? Forget about it; you’ll need to plug in your headphones.
While the Latitude E7440 remained silent through all of our use and most of our testing, the fans did kick on at times when under load. The fan noise is by no means loud, but it is clearly audible, and the system did seem to have to expel a bit more heat than we expected from an ultrabook like this one.
|To its credit, Dell didn’t load down the Latitude E7440 with really any bloatware at all, save for McAfee security software. There’s a free trial of Microsoft Office installed along with all the standard fare that comes with Windows, as well as Intel’s vPro management software.
Intel vPro includes several functions such as Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), Intel Anti-Theft (Intel AT), and Intel Management Engine. Intel AMT allows IT pros to fix the computer remotely, and Intel AT (which you have to pay for) can remotely brick a stolen laptop. The rest is all Dell’s own tools, utilities, and programs, most of which are designed for business environments.
Dell Backup and Recovery lets you--well, set backups and recover data from past backups--and it also allows you to delete, merge, or archive backups. From this application, you can also create bootable backups and reinstall disks.
However, note that you have to upgrade to a Premium option to unlock some of the Backup and Recovery tool’s features, such as continuous data protection.
Dell also has several enterprise features that are available to companies that deploy these machines, including Dell Data Protection’s Encryption, Security Tools, and Protected Workspace.
|Cinebench and SiSoft SANDRA|
|In order to get a feel for how the Latitude E7440 compares to other ultrabooks on the market, we ran a few established benchmarks. We began our benchmark testing with Cinebench and SiSoft SANDRA.
Cinebench R11.5 is a 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation suite used by animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.
Although the Latitude E7440’s CPU score in Cinebench is tops, that OpenGL score is relatively weak. The primary cause is the single 4GB DIMM; 4GB is a sufficient amount of RAM, but with a lone DIMM, it runs as single channel which really kicks certain performance aspects in the teeth. Why Dell (and Lenovo, which did the same thing with the ThinkPad T440s) didn’t spend a few extra bucks to put another stick of RAM in there is a mystery.
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, File System).
All of the Latitude E7440’s SANDRA scores landed about where we expected them. The storage score is nice and high thanks to the SSD inside, and the Memory Bandwidth score is somewhat weak at 10.07GB/s--again, because of the lone 4GB stick of RAM.
|PCMark 7 and PCMark 8|
|Futuremark’s PCMark 7 is a well-known benchmark tool that runs the system through ordinary tasks, including word processing and multimedia playback and editing. Graphics and processor power figure prominently in this benchmark, but graphics power doesn’t play as big a role here as it does in another Futuremark benchmark, 3DMark (which is designed for testing the system’s gaming capabilities). This test also weights heavily on the storage subsystem of a given device.
In PCMark 7, the Latitude E7440 posted a score in a very tight grouping with the similarly-appointed Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad T440s, all of which bested the field--except for the Toshiba KIRAbook and its Core i7 chip.
Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several built-in benchmark tests. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks such as web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The Creative test offers similar types of tasks, but has more demanding requirements than the Home benchmark and is meant for mid-range and higher-end PCs. The Work test measures the performance of typical office PC systems that lack media capabilities. Finally, the Storage benchmark tests the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
Our system’s scores in PCMark 8 were strong, hanging right with the other systems in our test bank. Its Work score in particular was excellent.
Futuremark has updated PCMark 8 to version 2, which produces scores that are not compatible with those from version 1, so we ran a second set of tests with version 2 just to have that data on hand. In PCMark 8 v.2, the Latitude E7440 posted the following: Home Accelerated (2057), Work (2442), and Storage (4909).
|Ultrabooks such as the Dell Latitude E7440 aren’t designed to be serious gaming machines. However, even though these machines don’t have discrete graphics cards, they can still handle casual gaming. To see how the E7440 fares, we fired up 3DMark11, Cloud Gate, and Far Cry 2.
As a synthetic gaming benchmark, 3DMark 11 puts extra emphasis on your system’s handling of DirectX 11. However, 3DMark 11 measures more than just the graphics card’s performance; the processor has a definite influence on the score. As a result, this benchmark is a good way to get a feel for how well the system can handle gaming and general computing tasks.
The Latitude E7440’s 3DMark 11 score wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was predictable, which is to say that (again) it stood tall amongst other systems with similar CPUs and GPUs. Note that it posted a nearly identical score to the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s.
3DMark is the flagship benchmark in Futuremark’s catalog. As a result, it is a popular choice for testing all types of computers. Recognizing the technology differences between different types of PCs are significant, 3DMark has a separate test suite for each device category. The Cloud Gate test is aimed at entry-level PCs and laptops. It has two subtests: a processor-intensive physics test and two graphics tests. Cloud Gate uses a DirectX 11 engine but the graphics are designed to be compatible with DirectX 10 systems. We ran the test suite at its default 1280 x 720 resolution and at default rendering quality settings. It’s important to remember that 3DMark Cloud Gate scores aren’t comparable to scores from other categories such as 3DMark Fire Strike (gaming PCs) or Ice Storm (smartphones and tablets).
The story here is much the same as its been in all of our benchmark tests up to this point, although the Latitude E7440 posted a 4122 score that was a step or two better than similar systems.
Far Cry 2 uses high-quality texture, complex shaders, and dynamic lighting to create a realistic environment. Using the game’s built-in benchmark, we can get a better look at a system’s performance with DirectX 10 level gaming graphics.
We don't expect much in the way of gaming prowess from ultrabooks with integrated graphics, and so we're not surprised to see that the Latitude E7440 couldn't manage playable framerates even at a lower resolution. Still, we were disappointed to see that this rig posted a score lower than most of the field, even though it's just a few FPS lower than the majority of the group.
|There’s a 4-cell battery in the Dell Latitude E7440, and we tested the system against the others in our test bank to see how much work time the Latitude E7440 would offer before the battery gave out.
In an attempt to quantitatively measure the Latitude E7440s' battery life in a controlled benchmark environment, we ran Battery Eater Pro. This test is designed to tax a laptop’s resources to give a feel for how long the laptop’s battery will last under heavy use. For the test, we set the T440s' display to 50% brightness and enabled Wi-Fi.
The Dell Latitude E7440 has been hitting solid marks in our tests so far, and the BatteryEater Pro is its first disappointing score. 107 minutes of battery life isn’t much no matter how you slice it, but this system finished down near the bottom of the pile. It did much better in the web browsing test, though, delivering 457 minutes of juice which was good for second place in our test bank.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: Predictability is not a bad thing in a business notebook, and the Dell Latitude E7440 delivers on that front. With the exception of a couple of tests that were affected by this machine's relatively low available memory bandwidth, the Latitude E7440 matched or exceeded other systems in our test bank that had nearly identical CPU and GPU combos. Dell also designed it for durability, which ostensibly means that one of these rigs should keep on ticking in virtually any work, school, or home environment for a good long while. The company is offering a 3-year warranty, to boot.
No, the Latitude E7440 isn’t quite the head-turner that some ultrabooks are, but it has a classy, professional design that’s ideal for the workplace. Dell slipped in some attractive design features, though, including the beveled underside for easy gripping (and a cooler profile) and the backlit keyboard. The display is also quite notable, with a beautiful finish, sharp 1920x1080 resolution, great viewing angles, and 10-point multitouch capabilities.
That lone 4GB stick is something of a head-scratcher, as the Latitude E7440 costs a lot of money; it would cost next to nothing to double the RAM capacity and run the system in a dual-channel configuration, which would in turn goose performance.
More confusing is that Dell built otherwise great specs into this rig. It has a slightly better CPU than some other ultrabooks we’ve tested recently, and it has twice the SSD storage as some of them, too. And as we already mentioned, the display is a particular strength of the Latitude E7440.
This is a great business ultrabook, but the price may be a tough pill to swallow at $1,949. That’s significantly more, for example, than the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s ($1,309) and the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro ($999). Even though some of its specs are better, that's a big jump in price.
If you can handle the high cost relative to other similar systems that lack a few of the business-class features of this machine (like Intel vPro support), and learn to love the overall design, the Dell Latitude E7440 offers great specs, features, and performance for the workplace, classroom, or home.