A solid typing experience
Like many people, my day-to-day work is performed upon a laptop keyboard, where I prefer comfortably spacious keys and medium key travel. While the Latitude 7400’s keys are a bit small for my taste, I found the laptop’s keys pleasingly springy.
Dell’s keyboard layout is pretty standard, using the conventional “cross” of arrow keys in the lower right-hand corner, with the Print Screen, Home, End, Insert and Delete keys left for the function keys in the upper row. Of note is a key to disable the mic—a personal concern of mine—with a small LED to alert you when that particular function is active. Each key is backlit, with a two-step gradation: on, brighter, and off.
The Latitude 7400’s precision touchpad is a bit small because of the compact chassis. Clickable throughout all but a fingerbreadth at the top of the trackpad, it proved both smooth and comfortable to use. I performed a number of two-, three-, and four-finger gestures easily.
As you can see in the spec list above, the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 ships with a generous selection of ports. Though our review unit didn’t include either, the Latitude 7400 can be configured with a fingerprint reader embedded in the power button, as well as a smartcard contact reader within the chassis. Instead, the webcam doubles as a Windows Hello biometric login, and includes infrared sensing. There’s no privacy shutter, however, though many competing notebooks now include this feature.
If you buy the Latitude 7 400 2-in-1, consider investing in a dedicated webcam for your monitor. Images taken with the webcam (0.9MP still images, 720p video) were fuzzy, and areas of the image were overexposed, even with HDR capabilities turned on. I’d like to see a bit more attention paid to the webcam inside a notebook designed for business users.
Though Dell designed the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 for business users, its audio is comparable to, or better than, what you may find on a consumer laptop. That's thanks to the MaxxAudioPro by Waves enhancement technology, which serves as both a graphic equalizer and a positional sound feature.
Turning on the MaxxAudioPro equalizer, along with its MaxBass technology, boosts the low-end audio to a pleasing level that evens out the listening experience from lows to highs. Additional features like Width widen the stereo experience using just the laptop’s speakers. Though PCWorld hasn’t performed a side-by-side comparison to evaluate one audio-enhancement technology compared to another, some form of audio enhancement goes a long way to improve the typical laptop audio experience, and MaxxAudioPro offers one of the most sophisticated feature sets available.
With headphones in, MaxxAudioPro also provides the option to turn on the nx positional audio, which uses the Latitude 7400’s user-facing webcam to track your head’s position and route the sound accordingly. Turn your head to your left, and Waves routes more audio to your right headphone speaker, and vice versa. In all, the nx technology generates the illusion that the audio is coming directly from the screen—a nifty trick, though one you can live without.
In all, I only found two things I didn’t like about Dell’s MaxxAudioPro experience. By default, the software asks you to specify what sort of headphones you plugged in: true headphones, earbuds, or over-the-ear earbuds. That gets old, though you can opt out. The Waves MaxxAudioPro nx technology also refuses to work with UWP apps, which excludes both the Microsoft Store Netflix app as well as any audio played back within Microsoft Edge. Though nx may be a bit of a gimmick, the restrictions are annoying.
Add-ons and accessories
Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1 ships with the usual contingent of Windows bloatware, along with three Dell-branded utilities: Dell Command | Update, its utility for updating the BIOS and drivers; Dell Digital Delivery, a digital software storefront, and Dell Power Manager.
The latter utility is a fantastically well-thought-out app with provisions for managing the laptop’s power consumption, monitoring and controlling the charge status, and even maximizing the longevity of the battery. Another provision even allows your laptop to run on battery power during certain predefined periods to minimize the load on the power grid. The only thing I’d like to see is the number of charge cycles that the battery has been subjected to. Otherwise, Dell Power Manager stands out as an example of what an OEM app should be.
As many PC makers now do, there’s an available ecosystem of accessories that you can also purchase. Dell shipped three to us to review:
The $84.99 Dell PN579X Premium Active pen;
The $43.99 Dell WM527 Premier Wireless Mouse;
And the $329.99 WD19TB Dell Thunderbolt Dock.
Dell’s PN579X active pen registers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, with a 240Hz report rate. Though the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 doesn’t include a dedicated holster to stash the pen, both sides of the 7400 are magnetized to grip the pen when not in use. There’s also a lanyard in the box, as well as a SIM removal tool.
While the PN579X does offer tilt support, it wasn’t functional on the Latitude 7400. It’s an odd pen, too: The top-mounted shortcut button serves as an app launcher, configurable within Windows, but there’s no erasure capability. The only way to “erase” e-ink is to slightly depress the top of the barrel-mounted button. Otherwise, though, the e-ink latency was minimal.
Dell’S WM527 is essentially a Microsoft arc mouse, though with a thumbwheel and without the ability to fold flat. A mouse that balances fore and aft rather than with a solid base sort of creeps me out, but it’s truly ambidextrous, with a side-mounted button on either side. You can connect either via Bluetooth or with an included wireless dongle. It runs on a pair of AA batteries.
Dell’s WD19TB Thunderbolt dock, meanwhile, demands a sizable portion of your desk for the expansion ports it offers. Weighing 1.29 pounds, the dock requires a footprint of 8.1 x 3.5 inches. Though the Latitude 7400 supplies a number of ports, the WD19TB provides many more: a pair of DisplayPort connectors, an HDMI connector, two USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 ports, 1 more generic USB-C port, and a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) connector, too. Unfortunately, you’ll need to figure out which is which, as they’re marked with somewhat cryptic glyphs (an “SS10,” a DisplayPort “D” and a lightning bolt) that don’t quite make clear what should be plugged into what. There are also three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type - connectors, Gigabit ethernet, and a 3.5mm mic/headphone jack.
Keep reading to see the amazing performance and 18 hours of battery life.