When we reviewed the Dell Latitude E7270 a few months back, we deemed it a worthy replacement for the renowned Latitude 7000 line of business notebooks. Just the poor color space coverage, touchpad performance, SSD variety, and webcam quality were determined to be faults with this incredibly portable computer; it lacked the style of top-rated consumer-grade models (like the XPS 13). With the release of the Latitude 7280, Dell has started moving further in the direction of dispelling the long-held belief that business computers do not need to have the svelte style and opulent sensibilities of high-end consumer-grade goods.
The Latitude 12 7000’s case has shrunk slightly since then, but the 7280’s case still seems substantial. Almost no flex is present across the base unit’s width, and torsion (twisting) resistance is also rather high. The display cover, which provides the display panel with exceptional protection despite being fairly thin, is the same. When the back of the lid is pressed, there is little to no Display distortion visible.
The 7280’s case is mostly made of magnesium and painted in the same soft-touch black that Dell has applied to its most recent Latitude 7000 iterations, giving the exterior an almost rubbery feel that makes it easy to hold. The drawback of this paint is that it tends to gather and hold onto skin oils and fingerprints, which can be a little annoying to anyone paying careful attention. The 7280 is a joy to use on the lap thanks to the placement of the CPU in the middle of the device and the relocation of the exhaust vent to the hinge cavity, but we’ll go into more depth about this later. The XPS 13-style solution, which consists of two broad, horizontal strips of rubber that elevate the laptop slightly for improved cooling and ergonomics, has replaced the old (small) rubber feet, and as a result, the notebook rests on a flat surface with considerably more assurance.
To minimize space, the Ethernet port uses a spring-loaded flap design.
To minimize space, the Ethernet port uses a spring-loaded flap design.
Any way you look at it, the Latitude 7280 has slipped a little bit behind its predecessor in terms of connection. There are now just two full-sized USB 3.0 Type A ports left, however one USB Type-C Gen 2 / Thunderbolt port fills in for the other. Nevertheless, the mini-DisplayPort is also missing, maybe because it was thought unnecessary in light of the new Thunderbolt connector and the existing HDMI port (which remains). The MicroSD card reader has also been reduced in size, however it is not nearly as functional. Due to the Ethernet adapter’s transition to a slimmer edge, a bottom flap design has been introduced (see the next section for more details on this). The E-Port docking station connector on the underside is completely gone, which is possibly the most significant change (for business customers, at least)—again, undoubtedly in anticipation of a switch to Thunderbolt docking hardware instead.
A Touch Fingerprint Reader, FIPS 201 Contacted Smart Card, Contactless Smart Card, NFC, and Control Vault 2.0 Advanced Authentication with FIPS 140-2 Level 3 Certification are all included in our Latitude 7280 setup. The Dell Client Command Suite with Optional Dell Data Security and Management Software is additionally included. Latitudes are designed for corporate and enterprise-grade administration, just as other professional devices available in their market.
The majority of the essential replacement parts are all accessible from behind the bottom cover, which is simply removed by unscrewing eight Phillips-head screws. The battery, WLAN/WWAN adapters, one RAM slot, the M.2 SSD, the heatsink/fan assembly, and the CMOS battery are all located inside. Thankfully, a single screw and a plug still make it possible to replace the DC jack without soldering in the event of a break.
The Latitude 7280 maintains a comparable keyboard feel and quality despite having a slimmer design, which is something we think is crucial for business computers. Key travel on the keyboard of the 7280 is noticeably more than that of the XPS 13. (one major advantage over the latter, whose case is also consequently quite a bit slimmer). The Latitude 7000 series’ earlier versions’ actuator force and feedback are mostly unchanged, and as we have long hailed those keyboards as some of the best in the business, nothing has changed in that regard. The arrow key/Page Up/Page Down combo is still present in the lower right corner, and the layout, key size, and spacing all feel comfortable. The keys are attached snugly to prevent rattling and have a smooth, pleasant surface that appears to be of great quality. Despite the superb sensation of feedback, typing is silent and inconspicuous.
The keyboard in our review device has backlighting as well, and compared to earlier models in the series, the backlighting is noticeably more evenly spread. As usual, there are two brightness levels and the option to turn the light totally off.
The Latitude 7280 continues the tradition of our longstanding admiration for touchpads that have two very comfortable (and quiet) hardware buttons, especially on business models. The Alpine Electric touchpad, however, has fallen behind some of its competitors over time, including numerous touchpads under the Synaptics brand and even the Elan touchpad on the Dell XPS 13, which we found to be great despite having built-in buttons. But, it’s still passable, and pointing and other gestures usually work quite fine. The finish isn’t as cozy as the XPS 13, which has a touchpad made of smooth glass, but it’s comparable to that of earlier Latitude models, which have proven to hold up well under heavy use for years. It’ll do, but we’re hoping this will be one of the parts updated in newer models, hopefully without removing the physical buttons.
The Latitude 7280 is available in a variety of configurations, including Core i3 and Core i7 dual-core processor options, 4 GB to 16 GB of single-channel DDR4-2133 MHz RAM (there is only one RAM slot available), and M.2 form factor solid-state drives with capacities ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB (both PCIe and conventional SATA).
Core i7-7600U dual-core processor, 8 GB of single-channel DDR4-2133 MHz RAM, and a 256 GB M.2 SSD are the components of our particular review configuration. Due to the relatively straightforward maintenance design, both the RAM and the storage drive can be readily changed aftermarket if the user so wishes.
The Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-7600U is a brand-new CPU that was initially introduced in January 2017 and is quickly establishing itself as an excellent piece of hardware. It is produced using a 14 nm process and has enhanced turbo clock rates that go up to 3.9 GHz (for both single and dual-core operation). Moreover, it supports Hyper-Threading while yet having a TDP of under 15 W. The Core i7-6500U, a competitor from the first generation of Skylake, can only reach single-core speeds of 3.1 GHz and dual-core speeds of 3.0 GHz. There is a significant speed differential there.
With scores of 4957 and 4662 in PCMark 8 Work and Creative, respectively, our simulated benchmarks undoubtedly show a quick machine. Overall system performance is just as outstanding. These results outperform the HP EliteBook, which includes a Samsung NVMe SSD, though only somewhat (a PM951). We both agree that the Latitude 7280 is quick to accomplish almost anything, including boot, launch applications, go to sleep, and resume.
Since the Latitude 7000 series’ launch a few years ago, the Latitude 7280 is arguably the most important update. Although the trend has been developing for a while, the 7280 goes further than any of its predecessors in integrating consumer-grade amenities into the pool of business-grade sensibility for which these computers are recognized. The end result is a product that still has a highly professional appearance and feel despite having a leaner and more portable form factor, but it does come with some significant trade-offs.