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The Dell Latitude 6430u is a solid business-class ultrabook. The chassis is good-looking and rock solid, the keyboard feels good, the port selection is as good as it gets, the battery is long-lasting, and the system feels nice and zippy.
But it is going up against some stiff competition, namely the Lenovo X1 Carbon, which is similarly-spec’d and similarly-priced, but substantially thinner and lighter. So does the Latitude measure up to our current top laptop pick?
Price and features
Dell sent me a 6430u with 8 GB of memory — twice the standard 4 GB. From what I can tell, this would cost just under $1,460 on Dell’s website. That much memory is not strictly necessary, but it is nice to have. And in sending me a unit with boosted memory, I don’t think Dell is cheating. If I were ordering a 6430u for myself, I would definitely boost the memory to the max, since it only costs $72 to do so.
At some point, I always max out the memory in my computers to keep them going for as long as possible.
Other than the plentiful memory in my review unit, the 6430u has fairly standard features for an ultrabook. The processor is a Core i5 running at 1.8 GHz, and the hard drive is a 128 GB solid-state drive. The display is 14.1 inches, but it is, disappointingly, sporting only a resolution of only 1366×768. In addition to 3 USB ports, a VGA and HDMI port, and an ethernet port, the 6430u comes with an external CD/DVD drive. Well, it’s a regular laptop CD/DVD drive in a slick housing so it functions as an external CD/DVD drive.
For just over $1,400, the Latitude is priced at a premium. And while it is a really nice piece of hardware, I can’t think of any good reason to recommend it over the thinner and lighter Lenovo X1 Carbon. I also can’t think of any reason not to get the Dell, however. It may be nearly a pound heavier (.8 lbs, to be precise) and a bit thicker than the Lenovo, but it is still a very good ultrabook.
Hardware and design
The keyboard on the Latitude 6430u is not the same keyboard found on Dell’s XPS ultrabooks. While the XPS keyboards are fantastic and among my favorite keyboards, period, the keyboard on the Latitude is still very good. The chiclet-style keys have excellent feel and action. They are a sort of cross between a traditional laptop keyboard and the chiclet-style keys that have become standard issue. If forced to find fault, my only complaint would be that the keys feel a bit too small. I felt like I was always nearly missing the keys I was looking for.
Like Lenovo’s ThinkPads, the Latitude 6430u has a pointing stick. On a ThinkPad, the TrackPoint is a terrific pointing utility, which lets you navigate around the screen without lifting your fingers from the keyboard. On the Latitude, it is not as well-executed. The pointing nub is too recessed, and the buttons aren’t well-defined enough to find without looking down. While I use the TrackPoint on my ThinkPad all the time, I barely used the pointing stick on the 6430u at all.
The display is good, if a bit lower-resolution than I am used to on a 14” screen. But it is bright and crisp, and displays colors well.
What I like most about the Latitude 6430u, however, is the chassis. The shell is magnesium, and it feels rock solid. It may weigh more than the X1 Carbon, but that weight just makes it feel strong, not bulky. Nothing about this laptop is flashy, but everything about it conveys a feeling of solidity and durability.
(As an aside, loosely related to design, check out the box this shipped in. You could fit 5 or 6 ultrabooks in there, even in boxes!)
Ugh, Windows 8. The more I use Windows 8, the more I dislike it. It is, however, even less well-suited to non-touchscreen PCs like the Latitude 6430u. Windows 8 demands to be touched, and
In my last review of a Dell, the XPS 12 hybrid ultrabook, I noted that “Windows 8, fortunately, is much less friendly to crapware than its predecessors.” This is true, but that doesn’t mean Dell has stopped trying to include it.
Out of the box, wake times were disappointing on the 6430u, and it was flaky and slow to reconnect to wi-fi. It seemed like the built-in Windows networking utility was conflicting with the bundled Intel PROSet/Wireless WiFi Software, so I removed the Intel PROSet software (which I will henceforth remove as a matter of course from any new laptop). After I did, the wi-fi reconnection problem disappeared, and to my surprise, so did the hanging I was experiencing after waking up the laptop.
This just demonstrates the stupidity of crapware (or “bloatware,” if you prefer). The PROSet software has an ugly, outdated UI and limited functionality. It adds nothing to the built-in Windows networking utility, so it just functions as a drain on resources and an opportunity for things to malfunction.
Since nearly every ultrabook on the market sports the same specifications, it should come as no surprise that I have run out of interesting things to say about the way they perform. Like its competition, the Latitude 6430u is zippy and responsive. Apart from the software issue I just mentioned I did not have any complaints.
Once the PROSet software was gone, it woke quickly from sleep, started programs in a flash, and zipped around Windows 8 without hesitation, although I kept wanting to touch the screen, as Windows 8 constantly begs you to do. I don’t love touchscreens on laptops, but without one, Windows 8 feels even more awkward than usual. Although if the Latitude included one, I doubt it would get the 7-hours-plus battery life it gets now.
Who should buy the Dell Latitude 6430u?
The Dell 6430u has three advantages over the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon:
- The included CD/DVD drive.
- A VGA port.
- An ethernet port.
In other words, there is really nothing wrong with the 6430u. It even has a few small advantages. But overall, it does lack luster compared to the similarly-priced and similarly-spec’d Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which sports a better display, trackpad, and keyboard, is substantially thinner, and weighs nearly a pound less.
So while there is no reason not to get the 6430u, there are some very good reasons to look at the X1 Carbon, instead.
Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook
Reviewed by Sam Glover on .
Summary: The Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook is a solid, good-looking business laptop, but there is no compelling reason to get it instead of the Lenovo X1 Carbon.
- Price and features: 4
- Hardware and design: 5
- Included software: 3
- Performance: 5
Overall score: 4.5 (out of 5)