Introduction, Design Features
We consider ourselves genuine fans of the 13.3-inch notebook form factor. These computers are just large enough to fit a full-size keyboard and a screen that’s big enough to get work done, while retaining excellent portability.
The variety of choices in the 13.3-inch business laptop market indicate that professional buyers (and those who just like business-grade equipment) seem to share our sentiment. One of the current top choices is the Toshiba Portege X30-D that we recently reviewed.
Dell’s top-shelf offering, which we’ll be reviewing here, is its Latitude 7380. This 13.3-inch member of the company’s elite Latitude 7000 series slots in between the 12.5-inch Latitude 7280 and the 14-inch Latitude 7480. It’s extra thin and light, as you’d expect a high-end business machine to be, although it’s still heavier and thicker than Dell’s own 13.3-inch Latitude 7370. That machine uses a power-sipping 5-watt Intel processor to achieve its trim profile, whereas the 7380 has a more powerful 15-watt CPU, and thus needs a little extra circuitry and cooling.
The Latitude 7380 starts at $1,199. You get a fairly minimal loadout for that kind of dough, consisting of an Intel Core i3 dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and just 128GB of storage, although the system does come standard with a three-year on-site warranty and a Pro license of Windows 10. Our $2,178 tester added most of the available bells and whistles, including a Core i7 processor with Intel vPro remote management technology, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and a beefier 60 watt-hour battery. The Toshiba Portege X30-D is about $100 cheaper with a similar level of equipment, but that kind of difference shouldn’t be a deal-breaker if you’re spending this kind of money. Let’s take a deeper dive and see if the Latitude 7380 has any real negatives that you should know about.
Dell XPS 13 (2016) makes a more convincing fashion statement.
Despite the narrow display bezel of our Latitude 7380, it still managed to keep its 720p Webcam in its proper place on top of the display, unlike the infamous up-your-nose camera of the XPS 13. In terms of size, that narrow bezel allows this Dell to be closer in size to a notebook sporting a 12.5-inch screen. Indeed, the 12 by 8.2-inch base of the Latitude has a noticeably smaller footprint than the 12.4 by 8.9-inch Portege X30-D, which has an average-size display bezel. Both notebooks have the same 0.6-inch profile, but the Toshiba is lighter at 2.3 pounds as opposed to the Dell’s 2.6 pounds. The lightest 13.3-incher we’ve tested is the 2.1-pound LG Gram 13 (2017). That model, however, isn’t a business-class machine like our Dell.
The Latitude 7380 has a strong internal frame made of magnesium alloy. That’s what much of the exterior is made of as well, although the lid and the palm rest area are covered in a soft-touch silicone finish. This finish provides a measure of durability and minimizes fingerprint marks.
Although the lid can’t be opened one-handed, the hinge does allow the display to tilt back a full 90 degrees past its upright position. That kind of flexibility can come in handy if you want to hold the notebook so its screen is vertical without having to worry about the base jutting out in front. (For instance, if you were in an airplane and wanted to show something to someone across the aisle.) As a reference, the hinge design of most of the notebooks we test only allows them to open 45 degrees past vertical. (That’s the minimum we expect.)
Two long rubber feet run parallel along the underside of the Latitude 7380 to keep it from sliding around. Otherwise, all you’ll find under here are some grates to let cool air flow in. The whole bottom cover comes off for access to the internals. (Look for a photo of that a little later in the Components section.)
Our review unit included the optional two-level keyboard backlighting. The island-style keys felt a bit soft for our tastes, but the feedback they provided was communicative and enjoyable. The keyboard deck was free of flex or unwanted movement. Unlike the larger Latitude 7480, the Latitude 7380 includes dedicated Home and End keys at the top right of the keyboard. Dedicated Page Up and Page Down keys straddle the up-arrow key. The arrow keys, although half size, are in the preferred inverted-T arrangement, and slightly divorced from the main keyboard area.
Although there are no dedicated volume or muting controls on the Latitude 7380, you can press the keyboard’s Function and Escape keys to engage Function Lock. This makes the secondary functions printed in blue on the F1 through F12 keys the primary functions. The F1 key becomes mute, the F2 and F3 keys become volume up and down respectively, and so on. We like the on-the-fly flexibility. We’ve seen this kind of functionality on Lenovo ThinkPads, too.
If you’re looking for a ThinkPad-style pointing stick in the center of the keyboard, you can stop looking. One of those is only an option on the larger 14-inch Latitude 7480. The touch pad of the 7380 is, however, more than up to the task of dealing with your fingers. It has a smooth surface and two dedicated buttons. No linear stiff clicks here; the buttons have nearly silent action and great progressive feedback.
Our review unit didn’t include any of the Latitude 7380’s available biometric features. It’s unfortunate that not even a fingerprint reader is standard, but the upgrades are nominally priced. On configurable models, a biometric fingerprint reader is a $21 option (which also gets you the SmartCard reader), while an IR camera for facial recognition is $14. A 720p/30fps Webcam is standard equipment. It had good image quality and sharpness in our testing.
The Latitude 7380 is offered only with 1,920×1,080-pixel displays, which is fine by us. That’s probably as high as you’d want to go for productivity purposes, as you’d need to bump the text scaling up a few notches if the resolution were any higher. Our eyes were comfortable with the 150 percent out-of-the-box zoom.
A touch screen is available on configurable models, but our review unit had the non-touch display. It had very good brightness; we didn’t have a problem seeing the screen outdoors, even in semi-direct sunlight. Reflections were kept to a minimum thanks to the anti-glare surface coating. Furthermore, the wide viewing angle support meant that looking at the display from an off-angle didn’t result in a distorted image. The well-saturated colors and deep contrast made for a lively picture.
The Latitude 7380’s speakers are inside the palm rest. The sound they produce is less than inspiring, but they’re just loud enough for the occasion you forget your headphones.
Connectivity-wise, the Latitude 7380 has a good selection of ports for a 13.3-inch laptop. Along the left edge are the AC power jack, a Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C USB) port, an HDMI video output, and a traditional Type-A USB 3.0 port. A SmartCard reader, absent on our review unit, would have sat further towards the front. Note that the Thunderbolt 3 port isn’t standard; it’s a $56 upgrade on configurable models with the Core i5 processor. In the base Core i3-equipped model, you still get a Type-C USB 3.1 port that supports DisplayPort over USB-C, though.
Unlike older Latitude E-series notebooks, the 7380 doesn’t support snap-in docking solutions. However, you’re far from out of luck. The Thunderbolt 3 port can be used to connect to Dell’s Thunderbolt 3 docks—assuming, of course, that your Latitude 7380 is equipped with Thunderbolt 3. When equipped with the optional Intel 18265AC wireless card, the Latitude 7380 can also connect wirelessly to Dell’s WiGig docks. WiGig is a high-bandwidth connection that works from short distances away (a few feet at most). Have a read of our Dell Latitude E7250 review for a rundown of the Dell Wireless Dock.
The right side of the chassis has the remainder of the ports. From left to right are the audio combo jack, a MicroSD card slot on top, a USIM slot on the bottom (for use with the optional mobile broadband; our review unit wasn’t so equipped), a second and last USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet jack, and a Noble Wedge lockdown notch. There is no native DisplayPort connector on this notebook, but you can get a USB-C to DisplayPort adapter.
The Latitude 7380 is powered by Intel’s seventh-generation (“Skylake”) dual-core processors. The lowest-priced configuration starts with the Core i3-7100U, a 2.4GHz chip with enough horsepower for day-to-day tasks. Our test unit came with the priciest option, the Core i7-7600U. It runs at a higher 2.8GHz frequency, and unlike the Core i3, it can Turbo Boost its way up to 3.9GHz. The middle-of-the-road Core i5 processors offered in this notebook, such as the Core i5-7300U, are more affordably priced, though. The Core i5-based units we configured tended to come in at up to a few hundred dollars less than the Core i7 models.
In our benchmarks, we found that the Core i7-7600U chip was competent enough for demanding tasks, though you’ll want to leave 4K video editing to powerful desktops and notebooks with four or more processing cores. That also goes for 3D design and related work. The Intel HD 620 integrated graphics inside the Latitude are good for basic 3D usage only.
Our review unit was equipped with 16GB of memory, the maximum amount supported in the Latitude 7380. That ceiling is there because there’s only one DIMM slot on the motherboard. It’s fortunately not soldered to the motherboard, so you can always upgrade later. The 8 screws holding in the magnesium-alloy base cover of this notebook are simple to undo. The screws have retainers on them so they won’t fully come out of the cover.
Opening the cover also grants you access to the M.2 Type-2280 (80mm) slot for solid-state storage. The 256GB Samsung PCIe drive in our review unit had excellent performance.
As you can see in our photo, above, the Latitude 7380’s active cooling is handled by one fan. The exhaust air is aimed out the back of the notebook toward the display hinge. The fan seldom came on during our day-to-day usage testing, although it did while we were running CPU-intensive benchmarks. Its whisper-quiet operation was a pleasant surprise. The chassis of the notebook became lukewarm to the touch at most after extended usage.