With this Dell, you get a familiar design, with great build quality and an impressive display.
The latest 8th-generation Intel Core CPUs justify the price.
The plastic keyboard and weak speaker are among the disappointing bits on this computer.
Gone are the days when enterprises issued their employees a clunky laptop. The old-school monolithic black notebooks have been replaced with modern looking 2-in-1 machines. These days, enterprises require their employees to work from remote places and the mobile workforce needs a device that is also mobile. With the introduction of detachable 2-in-1 devices with fold-up designs, the mobile workforce has been able to achieve more.
The trend began with the Microsoft Surface Pro lineup but Microsoft’s OEM partners have been successfully pushing the design into the industry. The Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1 is an attempt by the Texas-based company to make a Surface-style devices that caters to the need of the modern workforce. It pairs functional design of a detachable keyboard, tablet display with security features that enterprise customers would ask for as a priority. Dell has a proven record as a consumer and business PC company but the question is – will the Latitude 5290 2-in-1 deliver as an alternative to the Surface Pro or Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Tablet? We find out.
Design and Display
The Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1 is quite like the Surface Pro, but with Dell branding. There is not much difference in terms of design and the overall aesthetics match perfectly. Microsoft conceived the Surface brand with an idea that its OEM partners will do an even better job and Dell proves that point with the Latitude 5290. While the Surface is finished in silver for the most part, the Latitude 5290 is black with Dell logo in grey.
The Latitude 5290’s heart is a 12.3-inch tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard. The tablet supports a display with resolution of 1920 x 1280 pixels and a 3:2 aspect ratio. The kickstand can be adjusted up to 150-degrees and it automatically deploys when placed on a flat surface. You simply need to place the Latitude 5290 on a surface and press it down a bit. The kickstand extends outward and can be adjusted by pushing the display.
When held in landscape mode, the tablet has the power button at the top and magnetic connector for keyboard at the bottom. On the left side, there is a headphone jack, volume rocker, regular USB port and two USB Type-C ports. On the right, there is a Windows button to open the Start menu without touching the device. Dell also sells models customized as per customers that offer a smart card reader on the right alongside lock slot. Our review unit did not feature these options.
Our review unit also lacked any form of biometric authentication but customers can get models with both a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and a Windows Hello-enabled iris camera. One of the coolest aspects of this design is the microSD card slot, which is placed behind the kickstand. This is very clever use of space.
While you will forget that there is a laptop when you pack Surface Pro in your backpack, the same is not true for Dell Latitude 5290. The tablet hybrid is very heavy and you feel it right away. That could be because of its aluminum build and MIL-certified ruggedness.
Like all Surface devices, Dell is also using a panel that supports 3:2 aspect ratio spread across a 12.3-inch canvas. This is ideal for enterprise users, who will be using their machine for viewing and editing spreadsheets or reading policy documents. The taller aspect ratio really comes handy when you want to review two documents side-by-side, which most enterprise users would do as part of their job.
The display is also vivid, vibrant and offers one of the brightest panels in this segment. Dell says the panel covers 125 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is higher than the average in this segment. The display also works well in indoor situations where you have a number of lights over your head. The display is the central place of interaction here and Dell has managed to not disappoint even a bit.
Keyboard, TouchPad and Stylus
The Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1 comes bundled with a travel keyboard which works exactly like the Type Cover keyboard on the Surface Pro. It attaches with the tablet via magnetic pin connectors and even rises a bit to support the typing experience. Like the Type Cover, the Dell travel keyboard also has a shallow key travel and takes more force for actuation. In contrast, the Surface Book 2 keyboard has 1.55mm key travel and actuates without much pressure.
The keyboard is practically usable and can be used for tasks like editing presentations, typing out a document or replying to emails. However, it won’t be ideal for things like writing this review. If you type extensively on this keyboard then you will feel tired and start looking out for a better keyboard. If I have one major complaint about this keyboard then it is the material around the surface of the keyboard. The Alcantara mesh keyboard on the Surface Pro feels much nice and the plastic finish makes the Dell keyboard feel cheap for a business-convertible device.
The touchpad, on the other hand, is wider but smaller and the plastic finish does not help either. However, it delivers where it matters the most. The touchpad has perfect response to any kind of gesture supported by Windows 10. One of the more difficult gestures for most trackpads is to switch between multiple desktop or a virtual PC running in a different desktop. On Dell Latitude, it just works.
The Latitude 5290 supports active stylus but it does not come bundled with one. You will need to buy the Dell Active Pen separately for Rs 4,500 (excluding taxes). The stylus comes with 2048 levels of pressure and it seems good enough for tasks like taking notes or freestyle sketching on the tablet. While it is not as sensitive as the Surface Pen with its 4096 levels of pressure, I did not really observe any lag or slow text input. Dell could have made the Active Pen a bit smaller and bundled it with the device.
Performance and Battery Life
The Latitude 5290 comes with the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8650U processor, which is a quad-core model with 15W TDP and supports features like vPro, which enables remote management. The tablet-convertible device is ideal for tasks like web processing or remote data analytics, and can be easily plugged into peripheral devices for procuring test data.
On synthetic benchmarks, the Dell Latitude 5290 managed to score better than the Surface Pro, which actually comes as a surprise. It also handles multiple tabs with Google Chrome effortlessly. I once had around 20 Chrome tabs running; the YouTube videos running on two of those tabs streamed smoothly and I could resume one of the videos where I left off, without having to reload the web page.
In terms of battery life, the Latitude 5290 lasted for around four hours on a single charge. While, it does not sound like a lot, it closely matches the average battery life that I have seen on most other laptops with traditional design and a considerably larger battery as well. The Latitude 5290 is meant for on-field applications, particularly situations where you would need the device to work without any issues for around four or five hours off-power.
Dell also offers a hybrid adapter power bank that features a USB Type-C port at one end and a laptop plug point on the other end. The power bank can keep the machine running easily for another four hours and is also capable of charging your other peripherals like smartphones and tablets. Dell has built an interesting mix of accessories to cover for the shortcomings of the form factor.
Software and Security
Our review unit came with Windows 10 Pro and was running version 1803, which is the version shipping as part of April Creators Update. In terms of software, Dell has tried to keep the machine closer to what Microsoft intends to do with its Surface products. There are two major apps that you won’t find on Surface: Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Dell SupportAssist. The Waves MaxxAudio Pro is a neat utility tool for changing the audio setting and beam the audio for different environments. However, those settings have been let down by Latitude 5290’s weak speaker, which lacks clarity. The SupportAssist is a really useful tool when you wish to run diagnosis of the machine and sends alerts whenever there are updates for drivers and other components.
Almost two weeks after I got the device for review, Dell pushed out an update to address System BIOS and improve performance of Intel HD 620 Graphics. The updates were notified by the SupportAssist app, and download and installation happened within the application. This somewhat mitigates Windows 10’s aggressive stance on security updates.
The Dell Latitude 5290, like most other Windows 10 machines, comes with a number of apps pre-installed that I consider bloatware. The machine comes pre-installed with Candy Crush Soda Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords and few others. While you can uninstall them, it would be nicer to not include them as part of the software package to start with, particularly considering this is a serious business-first device at its heart.
Speaking of software, the most important aspect of the Dell Latitude 5290’s experience is the ease with which an IT administrator can set up the machine for their work profile. The machines come with a Windows 10 image that an enterprise can configure, most policy documents can be remotely configured and the overall time frame from receiving the device to deployment is a mere 30 minutes. This is much better than the five hours it would take for IT folks to configure older Windows for their work environments.
Dell’s product management team told me that the Latitude 5290 has passed a number of MIL-STD-810G durability tests, where the machine is tested for environments including vibrations and extreme temperatures. In order to facilitate factory workers, it comes with a dedicated Windows button, which Dell says is easy to click and reach when you don’t want to touch the keyboard. While our review unit did not feature a fingerprint sensor or Windows Hello cameras, I would recommend getting the models featuring biometric authentication, rather than the regular variant we tested.
Watch: Microsoft Surface Book 2 First Look Video
The Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1 that we tested costs Rs 1,09,990 excluding taxes. For that retail price, the Latitude 5290 comes bundled with the travel keyboard but does not include the Active Pen, hybrid adapter power bank or the DA-300 USB Type-C Adapter. The price seems justified especially when you compare with the retail price of the more expensive Microsoft Surface Pro, which comes with the older 7th generation processor.
The Latitude series is aimed at business and enterprise customers, and the 5290 2-in-1 does not falter as a business machine. It is ideal for executives who live out of a suitcase and spend a lot of their awake time at an airport coffee shop. Such executives need a laptop that is extremely portable, can be set up on the tray table of an airplane and used at the counter while drinking coffee.
I will say it lacks the design appeal of the Surface Pro and the keyboard does not feel premium, but it does offer the latest Intel Core processor and has decent battery life. If you are an executive who needs a portable computer with certified security features, the Dell Latitude 5290 seems like a great choice.