Dell Latitude 12 7000
If one thing has helped Apple get into the business laptop game it’s because its products are simply marketed – there’s basically only three laptops to choose from. Dell has, in recent years, lost its once-firm stranglehold on the business laptop market and this may be down to its overly confusing range of products.
What’s certain is that if you, or your business, needs a laptop to work on all day away from a plug, yet with a certain robust portability, then we can thoroughly recommend the Dell Latitude 12 7000 ultrabook – despite it not having a catchy name.
The Latitude 12 7000 is an excellent modern interpretation of the poweruser business laptop. It’s black, with a matt finish, and is pleasingly sleek given the powerful specs on show. It’s not the most lightweight laptop on the market but at 1.26kg you’ll be able to slip it into your briefcase or rucksack and not notice it weighing you down too much.
When open, the Dell measures 310.5x215. 5x18.9mm, which is one of the most portable premium business laptops we’ve ever come across. It’s not as thin as the MacBook Air when closed but considering it packs more ports and connectivity options, we don’t mind that.
The matt finish means fewer fingerprints and less obvious dinks and scratches on the laptop, while the metal detailing of the hinge belies its premium price. There’s also a slot on the bottom of the unit for the optional dock connector, which allows you to instantly hook up to a monitor when at your desk.
There are no creaks and give in the plastic frame here, and typing at the full size keyboard is comfortable for several hours of work when we were using it with a raised desk stand. There’s also a fingerprint reader to the bottom right of the keyboard. Unfortunately, we were unable to test this as the function requires additional business software and installation, but it’s great to see technology that has graduated to smartphones stay on laptops, where they were first seen.
The speakers are located on the underside of the front of the machine, but when on a desk this helps to amplify the sound projection rather than muffle it. For extended video watching or long Skype conference calls though, we’d recommend a decent pair of headphones or headset.
When it comes to connectivity, the Latitude 12 7000 really shines. Despite the recent insistence from consumers and enterprises alike that cloud computing is the future, Dell has wisely ensured that, aside from a CD drive, you’ll have every port you need for whatever work throws at you.
The Latitude 12 7000 packs in a headset connector, memory card reader, USB 3.0 connector with PowerShare, SIM port network connector, HDMI connector, DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 connectors, power input, security cable slot and an optional smart card reader. Evidently, you’ll have everything you need for every trip, presentation, download and more with this laptop.
The support for dual-band 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi is also important here, meaning the laptop can process higher speed wireless connections as and when they are available. Today, laptops without this capability built in are at a severe disadvantage, and you’ll definitely notice the difference.
As a laptop designed for all-day working, the Dell Latitude 12 excels with its keyboard and trackpad layout. This is one of the best laptop keyboards we’ve ever come across; the keys are excellently sturdy and responsive and have a satisfying feel to them. They are not flat but ever
so slightly concave, which helps with touch typing as the edges of the keys are that bit more defined.
As this is a small 12in machine there is no numberpad (few laptops under 15in have them), but Dell has designed the keyboard with extensive extra function keys when the blue ‘Fn’ key is used. There’s a numberpad, controls for volume, screen lock and screen brightness as well as commands such as Home and End that are useful when word processing.
Our review unit’s keyboard is backlit, though this is optional at point of purchase. It only has two level settings and there is a degree of light spillage out the sides of the keys, but it does the trick if light is low in the room or on the tray table of a train or plane.
Debatably, Apple has perfected the trackpad and unfortunately sometimes rival laptop trackpads can feel less responsive. Luckily, the trackpad on the Latitude 12 7000 is one of the better Windows laptop trackpads we’ve used in the past couple of years. It does opt for the more traditional two mouse buttons underneath the pad rather than having a mechanical click beneath the surface, but it doesn’t make input any slower. The mouse is extremely reactive and there were no signs of screen lag.
The display on the Latitude 12 7000 is a non-touch 12.5in LCD screen with an HD 1366x768 resolution. Along the wide top bezel when opened is a webcam for conference calls. In order to fit everything on the screen for working requires the fonts to display perhaps a tad smaller than is comfortable, but that is usual for machines with smaller screens of this size. You can adjust the size of texts and windows in the Control Panel if needs be.
We are seeing more and more business laptops with touchscreen functionality, but this particular model does not have one. Depending on your preference this is not necessarily a drawback – in fact, unless the device is a 2-in-1 we often prefer non-touchscreen models. Of course, you can ignore the functionality if it’s there, but it can often add bulk to the screen and figures to the asking price, so its absence here is no bad thing. With a full PC operating system, we much prefer using a trackpad or mouse rather than jabbing at the tiny icons with our fingers.
The brightness of the LCD’s backlight is highly adjustable, and we were happy to type, browse and work away on the machine for long periods. Given that the screen is LCD,it has a matte finish, which actually tones down the brightness and sharpness of the display somewhat, unlike other ultrabooks that have crisper but more negatively dazzling backlights.
Our review unit came with Windows 7 Professional preinstalled. This particular operating system launched in 2009 along, has become the Windows of choice for business users the world over, such was its classic Microsoft feel when compared to the overthought, app-based mess that was Windows 8 and 8.1. On booting up, we were prompted to install Windows 10, and if you are a business owner looking to provide your employees with a laptop, then which operating system you use will be your own administrative decision. There’s no charge to choose Windows 10 even though the free upgrade period has ended.
We did not install Windows 10, but the machine runs excellently on Windows 7. If you’re a little unsure of the differences between the operating systems and want to find out more, here are some of our most useful articles on the topic.
Be aware that as with many PCs these days, you don’t get Microsoft Office for free. The programs do not come preinstalled and you’ll have to purchase a subscription. We’d recommend Office 365 as it is a pay monthly, non-contract method of having the latest Office software with continuous updates.
For the price, you’d expect excellent performance, and the Latitude 12 7000 delivers. Our model had the standard specifications on offer for this range, which is an Intel Core i5 processor (the 6300U to be precise) 2.4GHz, with integrated HD Graphics 520. There’s also 8GB RAM, which when paired with the i5 absolutely blitzed through an average working day, with several Chrome tabs open alongside email, Spotify, Slack, and many other programmes besides.
Multi-tabbing between Google Docs, Sheets and other third party programmes was smooth with no noticeable lag unless we had near to 25 Chrome tabs open at once. This is normal stuttering for any machine but in real-life use this is a slick-running computer.
We ran standard benchmark tests on the Latitude 12 7000, alongside its sibling in the same line, the Latitude 14 7000.
We were impressed with what the Latitude 12 7000 can cope with when it’s away from a charger. In our battery test running a continuous loop of a film on Windows Media Player, it lasted nine hours 24 minutes, which is excellent for a 12in machine. You would, of course, get less with constant use and Wi-Fi connectivity.
In day-to-day usage, it also impressed, and using it alongside a desktop for general tasks saw it last two days away from the plug.
The Dell Latitude 12 7000 won’t win any beauty contests but then again, for what it is designed to do it is very good. It is the smallest form factor a business laptop can take without any compromise on functionality and if you can afford the £929 asking price, it’s a very good choice. Henry Burrell
Specifications 12.5 in (1366x768) LCD screen; Windows 7 or 10 Pro; 2.4GHz Intel Core i5; 8GB DDR4; 128GB SSD; Intel HD 520; Wi-Fi 802.11ac; Gigabit ethernet; Bluetooth; 2x USB 3.0; DisplayPort; HDMI; media card slot; headphone jack, mic; HD webcam; 55Wh Lithium-ion battery; three-year warranty; 310.5x215.5x18.9mm; 1.26kg