The Dell Latitude E4310 is an ultra-portable that's targeted at business users who need a small and light machine for use on the road. Priced at around £1,400, it's quite expensive, so does it do enough to justify its high price tag?
While we understand that most business users want a laptop that feels like it'll stand up to a fair amount of abuse -- and the E4310 certainly does feel sturdy -- we doubt they're happy to lug around a model that looks like it was knocked together in the pre-Glasnost USSR. This really is a horribly boxy ultra-portable, and the fact the battery sticks out about an inch from the rear doesn't help matters, either. In fact the only 'stylish' element is the brushed-metal effect used on the lid.
As with most business machines, the E4310's screen has a matte rather than glossy finish, which helps to cut down on glare, making it less tiring on your eyes when you're putting in long hours working on spreadsheets and Word documents. As with most 13.3-inch displays, the resolution only stretches to 1366x768 pixels, but the screen's smaller dimensions mean text still looks razor-sharp and there's enough real estate on offer to allow you to work on two documents side by side. Colours aren't as in-your-face as they are on the glossy displays you find on most consumer laptops, but pictures and videos still look fairly punchy and the display's viewing angles are good, both on the horizontal and vertical axis.
Tiny wee trackpad
Rather than opting for an isolated keyboard design, Dell has instead used a keyboard with traditional tapered keys. The keyboard feels very sturdy and doesn't suffer from the flex you sometimes get on ultra-portables. Its layout is also excellent and the keys have a fair amount of travel, so they feel responsive under your fingers. The trackpad, however, is a different matter. Although its matte finish means your finger glides effortlessly across the surface, it's just far too small, even by ultra-portable standards. That said, the E4310 does have a pointing device nestled in the middle of the keyboard with an extra set of buttons mounted above the trackpad, so if you're a fan of pointers you may not find the small trackpad such an issue.
Despite the Latitude's bulky frame, Dell hasn't used the space all that well when it comes to ports. There are just two USB ports, although one of these does double up as an eSata port. You get a VGA socket, but there's no HDMI port. There is a little room for expansion thanks to the ExpressCard slot, and the security-conscious will also be pleased to see the Smart Card reader found on the left-hand side of the laptop.
On the storage front, our review sample had a 250GB hard drive, which is a tad small, but you can configure it with drives of up to 500GB in size when buying it from the Dell site. Our model also had a DVD writer, but again there is an option to add a Blu-ray drive if you'd prefer.
The biggest difference between this model and the older E4300 is that Dell has switched from ultra-low-voltage chips to more powerful standard mobile processors. Our machine had a dual-core Intel Core i5-520M processor, clocked at 2.40GHz. This was backed up by 2GB of RAM and, like most business laptops, Dell had preloaded the Professional version of Windows 7 rather than the Home Premium one you find on consumer laptops. The i5 processor is certainly speedy and helped the laptop post a pretty potent score of 6,238 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, so it'll easily handle even more demanding business applications.
Abysmal battery life
In saying that, the processor takes a large toll on battery life. In the Battery Eater test, it only kept running for an hour and 34 minutes. We expected it to last a good deal longer than this, especially given the size of the battery that protrudes out the rear of the laptop.
Good 3D performance isn't such a big necessity on business machines, and the E4310 makes do with integrated Intel HD graphics, which never perform particularly well in our 3D Benchmark. It was no surprise, then, that it only posted a score of 2,091 in 3DMark06. You definitely won't be using this laptop for a spot of after-hours gaming.
Overall, although the Dell Latitude E4310 is a fairly speedy machine, the big and boxy design and shortish battery life are disappointing, especially when you take into account the high asking price.
Edited by Emma Bayly