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Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme review

A £2,500 machine designed to handle the toughest conditions

Screen

The Latitude includes a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution screen with a resistive touchscreen so it can be used with gloves or the attached stylus as well as fingers. It's matte, and viewing angles are superb. Made from Gorilla Glass, the display is also as strong as the rest of this system.

This isn't a panel designed for high-end colour work, so it's no surprise quality was mixed. The brightness level of 571cd/m2 is outstanding, and beats most desktop screens as well as virtually every laptop on the market. The Latitude has a solid black level and this combines with the brightness to deliver a stunning 1,730:1 contrast ratio.

That's important for working in the field the panel is bright enough to remain visible beneath scorching sun, and with suitable contrast to make web pages, documents and applications look good no matter the conditions.

Colour accuracy is average but this machine isn't designed for complex graphical work loads.

Ergonomics

The Dell's Scrabble-tile keyboard benefits from the Latitude's solid construction. The keys have a snappy action and they're big enough, but the real boon comes from the rock-solid base. You can get up to speed typing after a few minutes of familiarisation.

The keyboard can drain away water spillages, and it can be backlit with four different colours. The layout is fine but a numberpad is missed and the Return key is narrower than we'd like.

The trackpad is also resistive allowing it to be used with gloves. The buttons are great, with a consistent, responsive motion. The pad itself is usually fine, but we were irritated by occasional delays when registering our touches.

Different specifications

Dell sells two models. The fully-maxed out spec is 2,975 inc VAT and beefs up several components. It's got a Core i7-4650U processor with a mighty Turbo Boost top speed of 3.1GHz, along with an Nvidia's GeForce GT 720M discrete graphics card, albeit a modest, low-end chip.

Elsewhere, the upgraded model has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and a nine-cell battery that should provide an extra couple of hours of longevity when compared to our sample. The pricier machine has a three-year ProSupport warranty, but the cheaper system has a five-year coverage period.

Dell's spec sheet touts several upgradeable components, but none of these options are made available when configuring the laptop. Instead, there's more versatility in software and accessories.

Multiple flavours of Windows 7 and 8.1 can be chosen, and the Latitude can be augmented with up to five years of accidental damage protection, data protection and hard disk data recovery.

Overall

Dell set out to build the ultimate rugged machine with its latest Latitude, and it's succeeded. It's got every feature we can imagine for staying safe in the field, and its top-notch build quality is matched by good security features.

The screen serves its purpose. The resolution, stunning brightness, matte coating and Gorilla Glass material all ensure it's good to go no matter what the conditions, even if its colour accuracy disappoints.

It's not a workstation, so the processor and graphics are serviceable rather than benchmark-busting, and battery life is middling enough for a few hours rather than a whole day.

This is a niche product and at 2,567, the Latitude is in the same ballpark as workstations. If you need a system that can survive challenging conditions it's definitely worth looking into.

Verdict

A rock-solid system crammed with rugged and secure features, this expensive laptop justifies its cost if you need a system that can survive life in the field.

Display: 14in 1,920 x 1,080 resistive touchscreen

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Processor: 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400

Memory: 8GB DDR3

Storage: 256GB SSD

Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0; Gigabit Ethernet

Ports: 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x RS-232 serial, 2 x Ethernet, 1 x headphone, D-SUB, HDMI, SDXC card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot

Other: Stylus; DVD writer; Optional fingerprint scanner; optional GPS; 5yr ProSupport RTB warranty

Dimensions: 356 x 247 x 52mm

Weight: 3.86kg

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