We all have that innate fear of breaking our expensive technology. That iPhone you only just got on contract; the fancy TV you just bought; the laptop you took to university that you now have to eat noodles for 2 months just to offset the cost of.
I like to feel I’m one of the more careful ones with my expensive items. I have only ever dropped a phone on the pavement once in my life, and my current phone is crack free. I look at some of my friends’ phones and laptops, held together with a mix of duct tape and hope.
Well, even my most clumsy friends could only hope to dent this beast. The Dell Latitude 7414 is beyond rugged, beyond strong, and probably closer to unbreakable than is needed for your everyday laptop user. This is the laptop you take to work if your commute runs through a designated warzone, a laptop which has sacrificed nothing and yet maintains a hard-to-beat toughness compared to the flimsy plastic laptops of today.
As with several other Dell products, the 7414 comes with a range of customisation, with a choice of 6th generation dual-core processors, up to 32GB of RAM and over 1TB in storage. While you get the option of adding a graphics card to it, one would question why, as this thing is very much not designed for gaming, as discussed later. The model sent for review has an i5-6300u with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, a few hundred pounds of enhancement over the basic model.
Overall the 7414 is a well-rounded laptop, the power inside gives smooth performance, and there are a lot of I/O ports all around the body. The list is quite long, but plentiful, and you get modern staples including 3 USB 3.0 ports and HDMI, as well as an extra 2.5′ drive bay to extend the internal memory. The odds are you won’t need a lot of the extra ports and the ports are grouped sensibly, with most of the USB ports together on the right and the video and Ethernet ports placed on the back.
But you are not buying this thing just for the power inside. The 7414 is designed to withstand everything before open gunfire. The body itself is built to military specifications and is IP65 certified. In layman terms, the 7414 is pretty much invulnerable to anything you can throw at it day-to-day. Water, dust, sand, impacts whether on or off, and adverse weather and temperature are not enough to stop you from browsing your Twitter feed or catching up on your emails. For a user like me, I will never really push the limits of what this laptop can physically withstand; for my mate in Kuwait for a year, this may be more his speed.
Let us forget about the near-indestructible factor of the 7414 and take a moment to consider its qualities as a regular laptop. The 14 inch screen is a paltry 1366×768 and while not hitting 1080p is a definite negative the screen is still crisp and clear. The SSD means that the computer is quick to boot and runs smooth as butter. Quite a surprise to myself is the laptop has a touchscreen, with a stylus built into the body and attached with a rather robust removable cord. The touch sensor is a little janky towards the edges of the screen, and the cable is a little too short, meaning that you need a little force to use the stylus on the right-hand side of the screen. Plenty of my right handed friends also noted the strange placement of the stylus on the left of the laptop, as well as the rather sticky catch holding the stylus in. Battery life is also plentiful, and for business use, you will get well over 10 hours out of it with no issue.
Now being a rugged laptop, it does bring some advantages beyond the obvious imperviousness. The screen itself has very little flex, and the hinges are nice and thick also. You get an NFC reader and a fingerprint reader, and while the placement of both places them under the right hand while typing, I’ve not had any problem with the fingerprint scanner picking up my palm accidentally. The touchpad and mouse buttons feel solid, and while the buttons are a little too soft the touchpad has not flexed no matter how much effort I put upon it. I had some difficulty with trying to get it to respond to multi-touch functions such as scrolling and I have yet to figure out why.
The real benefit of the rugged design is the typing experience. Typically laptop keyboards are awful, membrane keyboards built on a cheap plastic frame which means that typing means dealing with the body flexing making the whole experience quite awful. The more rigid body of the 7414 means that there is no flex in the keyboard frame so the typing experience is much more akin to a rigid peripheral keyboard than a typical laptop keyboard. The overly bulky body means that you have plenty of room to rest your arms which are comfortable when sitting upright but slouching on the couch puts pressure on the wrists. You may not be doing much sitting with it on your lap though, as the extra durability means this beast weighs almost 9 pounds (4KG.)
The rugged aesthetic of the laptop is pleasing to the eye personally, and it really feels like it came out of Call of Duty. But being rugged comes with many extra features. For a start, the screen latches onto the body, which I have no feeling about either way although it requires a rather special touch to get open. You also have a rubber handle built into the body which gets in the way less than you think and you’ll feel very comfortable swinging the laptop around by it. Also, every I/O port on the body is locked away, literally. Three sides of the main laptop body are covered with latches covering everything from the battery and extra drive bay right down to the charging port. The latches, much like the screen latch, require a certain finesse, but it’s nice to have that extra sense of durability in the product and the ability to ‘put away’ the ports you don’t need.
If this review so far has ticked all of your boxes and you’re just waiting to hear that this thing can also game I have some bad news for you, it is pretty bunk in that department. The internal graphics are enough to run the screen and little more, and even with the R7 M360 which can be added, you won’t be blasting through much more than small indie experiences. Just to be certain I ran 3DMark’s Cloud Gate test and the machine barely held 30 FPS on the graphics test and basically failed the physics test, bombing down to 10 FPS. This laptop was never really designed for gaming in mind, however, though it is a shame there are no real options when it comes to adding graphics cards, especially with the ridiculous cooling system inside. CPU runs idle at around 25 degrees with the hard drive running at 30. Cloud Gate pushed the CPU to 50 degrees but in minutes it was back down to idle temperatures and at no point did I ever really feel the heat bleed through the body.
After running it around for a few days, taking it to University and back and generally trying to use it as intended I found nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with it overall. The 7414 has no real defects or failures, just annoyances, and personal annoyances at that. The screen cannot be pushed past 1366×768 and not having at least 1080p is an annoyance, and while a touchscreen is good the precision is a little too iffy and I did have to calibrate the thing after turning it on most times. The keyboard also has no £ symbol, which made typing that very pound symbol more hassle than necessary.
The biggest bugbear though is trying to recommend this thing. Let us strip away the rugged factor for a minute. This is an i5 laptop, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. A laptop with this will set you back probably around £800, and with that, you will probably get a bigger screen and a graphics card. This means that the rugged factor is adding around £2000. Now even if you were clumsy, you would have to break 3 laptops before you would have equalled the cost of the 7414, and if you have to replace your laptop 3 times you are far too affluent and probably should not be allowed a laptop as you cannot be trusted.
The score of the laptop does not reflect this. Difficulty recommending it does not mean this is not a good laptop. The 7414 is a good quality laptop, well suited for any environment and probably a little too equipped if you plan to leave it on your desk. Assuming you are looking at this because you need something rugged this is very much the laptop for you. If you are looking at this because you want a cool looking laptop then this is very much the laptop for you too. The 7414 is robust, powerful, and sensibly designed, with decent upgradability. While I can fault it personally I cannot fault it objectively. This is a 10/10 laptop.