The laptops in Dell's business range may not be beautiful, but they are generally well put together and available in a wide range of configurations. The Dell Latitude E5410, which costs around £689, fits in nicely to the current Latitude line-up.
In terms of design, the E5410 is not exactly what you'd call a looker. It has a very boxy, industrial-looking chassis with harsh angles. To give it its dues, though, it does feel like it could go ten rounds with David Haye and come off none the worse. It's not as boring-looking as Dell's E4310, either, with a two-tone colour scheme of gunmetal grey on the lid and wrist rest, and matte black on the rest of the chassis.
Although the laptop isn't overly large for a 14-inch model at 338 by 22 by 244mm, it is quite heavy, weighing in at a hefty 2.36kg. As a result, it's not a great option if you need a machine to use on the move.
As with most business laptops, this model uses a display with a matte rather than glossy finish. This helps to cut down hugely on reflections and makes the screen more comfortable to use indoors under bright lights for longer periods. The 14.1-inch display has an older-style 4:3 aspect ratio and a pretty pedestrian resolution of 1,280x800 pixels. Nevertheless, the screen is quite bright and its viewing angles are good. Colours don't look quite as vibrant as they do on many consumer laptops, but this won't be an issue for most business users.
The keyboard features traditional tapered keys and, although the layout is decent, Dell hasn't managed to squeeze in a numerical keypad. While the keys do have a suitable amount of travel and feel responsive under your fingertips, there is a little more flex towards the middle than we would have liked.
As with most of Dell's business laptops, this one has both a pointer and a trackpad. The trackpad is not overly roomy, but it is fast and accurate. That said, the two bottom-mounted trackpad buttons are very spongy and have too much travel, so you find your thumb pressing against the edge of the chassis when you're tapping on them -- which makes them slightly uncomfortable to use. As you would expect, there's a second set of buttons at the top of the trackpad that are designed to be used with the speedy and responsive pointer. These buttons are actually much better to use, as they are more rigid and responsive.
The E5410's chunkier frame has allowed Dell to kit it out with a decent, if not overly generous, line-up of ports. You get four USB ports as well as a mini FireWire socket. There's also a PC Card slot and SD card reader as well as a VGA output. Unfortunately, the laptop doesn't have a DisplayPort or HDMI socket, and there's no eSata port. Storage is taken care of via a reasonable 250GB hard drive, and there's also a DVD writer on the right-hand side of the chassis.
The brains of the machine are taken care of by a dual-core Intel i3-350M processor, which is clocked at 2.27 GHz and backed up by 2GB of RAM. The laptop is available in a range of different configurations, including one with a more powerful Core i7 processor. The Core i3 chip may be the entry-level spec, but it still managed to turn in a respectable score of 5,303 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, so it'll have no problem chomping through day-to-day business applications.
Perhaps predictably, the E5410 is fairly rubbish when it comes to 3D graphics. It relies on on-board Intel HD graphics, which only managed to push it to a score of 1,873 in the 3DMark06 benchmark test, so it's not much cop for gaming. That level of 3D performance will, however, be enough to handle the lighter 3D work a business machine is expected to perform.
On the battery front, the laptop put in a good, but again not spectacular, performance. It managed to keep running for an hour and 40 minutes in our Battery Eater test. That said, this test maxes out the processor to simulate worst-case-scenario battery life, so under normal conditions the battery should last significantly longer.
Overall, the Dell Latitude E5410 is a well-built machine that offers decent levels of performance and battery life. Business users will also appreciate the wide range of configurations available from the Dell website. It has to be said, though, this isn't the most inspiring machine to look at and is a little heavy for lugging around.
Edited by Emma Bayly