Dell’s Latitude series of notebooks have long been their premium series of business workhorses, and for 2014, the new top of the range 7000 series are the first Ultrabook Latitudes. Dell calls them “pinnacle of Latitude performance”, and models are available in both 14-inch and 12.5-inch.

We got a chance to look at the 12.5-inch E7240 model, and it is manufactured from premium materials and has a sleek business-ready design. It has matte carbon fibre top that both looks great and doesn’t show any fingerprints, and the bottom and insides have a nice black soft-touch finish that also resists marks. The E7240 has what Dell calls a ‘Tri-Metal’ chassis, and it is third-party MIL-STD 810G tested, so is very durable. However, it is not exactly the slimmest or lightest machine here, despite the fact that it is a 12-inch notebook, but that is the price you pay for the additional connectivity options and upgradability expected of a business-class Ultrabook.

It is available with an optional gorgeous Gorilla Glass covered Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen. Sadly, this screen option adds a lot to the E7240’s cost. The standard HD (1366 x 768) screen available on most pre-configured models is a TN panel with poor viewing angles, contrast and colour reproduction.

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The E7240 has lots of ports – three USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, full-sized HDMI and Ethernet. Unfortunately, since it is a 12-inch notebook, in order to fit the all the ports, the power jack, two USB ports, the Ethernet and the HDMI are on the back side of the chassis, so depending on the space you have to use it on, this layout may cause issues. The Latitude has full docking station connectivity. The optional E-Port Plus dock adds DVI and VGA video-out, two more USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, eSATA, a serial port, and a parallel port.

The E7250 has an excellent backlit and spill-proof keyboard, with concave stepped keys that simulate well-spaced island keys. The touchpad is not as nice though as some of the other notebooks in this list, such as the glass one found on the Dell XPS 13 (which is next). It is also a little small, but that is to be expected, given that the E7240 is one of the smallest machines here. There also isn’t a trackpoint pointing stick for those who prefer that kind of mouse control on their notebooks, but at least the touchpad has physical mouse buttons.

The E7240 can be configured with an optional fingerprint reader and SmartCard reader for enhanced security. It would, however, have been nice if these were standard, since it seems like a lot of the better features of the E7240 (such as the 1080p screen) are expensive options not available on any of the pre-configured models shown on Dell.ca.

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The Latitude does have a removable 4-cell battery and has an easily accessible interior to upgrade the SSD and RAM if need be. Unfortunately, the battery-life is not the greatest where compared to some of the other models here, measured to last only 5.5 hours with regular use. Like the touchpad size and port placement, this is partially due to its small size, which doesn’t leave much room for a higher capacity battery to be included. Still, perhaps Dell could have compromised a little more somewhere else instead to bring us a longer running time.

Even though the Dell E7240 is packed full of many of the features that business users need, and it comes with a 3-year warranty, it is still an expensive machine. The base model with a low-end Core-i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD and an HD screen is still $1425. Fully spec’d out models with the FHD screen and i7 CPU can run for over $2,000

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Dell Latitude E7240 Specs

  • 12.5″ LED backlit display, either anti-glare HD (1366 x 768, TN), or FHD (1920 x 1080, IPS) touchscreen
  • 1.7 GHz Core i3-4010U CPU (no vPro) – 2.1 GHz Core i7-4600U CPU
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 500 GB HD or 128 GB – 256 GB SSD
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • 31.05 x 21.1 x 2 cm (12.2 x 8.3 x 0.79 in)
  • 1.36 kg (2.99 lb)
  • Windows 8 Pro 64 (8.1 Pro pre-installed on touch model) w/Windows 7 Pro downgrade (pre-installed on non-touch model)
  • 3-year warranty
  • Models from $1,425 – $2,828
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