One rung below the pinnacle of Dell's corporate laptop hierarchy (the Latitude 9000 series), you'll find the excellent if somewhat staid Latitude 7420 (starts at $1,589; $2,228.08 as tested). This 14-inch business laptop gets subtle improvements with each new generation. The latest version doesn't fix what isn't broken, adding Intel's latest silicon and little else. This means that for the time being, it's a superior alternative to our longtime favorite enterprise ultraportable, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (whose new Gen 9 edition, which matches the Dell's move to 11th Generation Intel processors, we haven't tested yet). Choose the Latitude 7420 if you want a competent workhorse with excellent computing performance, even if it is a bit heavier and more expensive than the ThinkPad.
The Latitude 7000 series was Dell's flagship until the introduction of the Latitude 9000 series a few years ago. Both are available in a range of screen sizes and form factors to fulfill pretty much any business computing need, as long as the business in question has deep pockets. The Latitude 7420 is available in either the conventional clamshell seen here or a 2-in-1 convertible version that offers more physical flexibility. Both have similar configuration options and are roughly the same size and weight.Our Experts Have Tested 131 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
Our 7420 review unit, clad in an attractive black carbon fiber finish, measures 0.68 by 12.7 by 8.2 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds. Those are impressive dimensions for the category, though the class-leading ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 is a bit trimmer (0.59 inch thick and 2.4 pounds). The Carbon is such a favorite among corporate execs and IT buyers that Dell may have felt compelled to add a carbon-fiber option to the Latitude 7420. But it can still be had in aluminum, which turns the chassis silver and brings the weight up to 2.89 pounds. (Carbon fiber saves ounces in addition to looking sleek.) If you opt for the convertible, you're looking at 3 pounds for the carbon-fiber version and 3.23 pounds for the aluminum one.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The Latitude 7420 steals the ThinkPad X1 Carbon's Editors' Choice award mostly because of its superior computing performance, which we'll discuss below, but there are a few ancillary reasons why some companies might favor the Latitude. One is that the Dell makes good use of its larger size and heavier weight—for instance, it boasts an SD card slot, which the ThinkPad lacks.4.5Outstanding$1,249.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 (2020) Review 4.0Excellent$1,279.93See Itat AmazonRead Our Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (M1, Late 2020) Review 4.0Excellent$1,089.00See Itat Dell TechnologiesRead Our Dell Latitude 7410 Review 4.0Excellent$1,358.99See Itat DellRead Our Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1 Review 4.0Excellent$1,299.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 Review3.5Good$2,409.84See Itat HPRead Our HP Elite Dragonfly Max Review
Price is also a factor. The Latitude 7420 costs more than $2,000 in the configuration reviewed here, while the X1 Carbon Gen 8 we reviewed is a few hundred dollars cheaper. But organizations that need lots of Dell laptops and other IT services can likely negotiate significant (and confidential) discounts, which could tip the value factor in the Latitude's favor.
One of the most business-friendly aspects of the Latitude 7420 is its extensive array of customization options. The base model has relatively pedestrian specs: a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB solid-state drive for a $1,589 asking price. Stay away from that one, because a similarly equipped consumer laptop like Dell's excellent XPS 13 should cost a little more than half as much. Our test configuration is better outfitted, packing an Intel Core i7 with vPro remote management support, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. All of the Latitude 7420's CPU options are from the latest 11th Generation "Tiger Lake" family, and all rely on Intel's Iris Xe integrated graphics.
While there are several screen options, Dell only offers a 4K display for custom bulk purchases of the Latitude 7420; the online configurator is limited to full HD screens only. (A 4K screen is a configurable option for online orders of the older Latitude 7410). The full HD resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) of our review unit should nevertheless be adequate for office tasks. It's available in either touch-enabled or non-touch variants; I find the non-touch display with a matte finish to be the best choice if you're worried about annoying reflections from ambient light. The base panel has 250 nits of brightness, while our unit has the upgraded 400 nits. It's plenty bright enough for viewing in a daylight-flooded room.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The borders on either side of the 7420's screen are minuscule, while the top and bottom borders are thicker. The bottom hosts a silver Dell logo, while a webcam is centered at the top. Buyers can choose from several different camera options, including a rare webcam that shoots 1080p video at 30fps. The other camera options, including the one on our review unit, offer the more common 720p resolution. Many can be equipped with Dell's proximity sensor, which detects when you approach the laptop and automatically logs you in using Windows Hello face recognition.
The keyboard and touchpad are slight refinements of the approach seen in previous Latitude generations. You won't find a pointing stick like the iconic red TrackPoint knob in the middle of ThinkPad keyboards, nor does the touchpad have dedicated buttons. But the keys (with optional backlight) and touchpad mechanism are sturdy and well-engineered. The touchpad is slightly larger than the one on the Latitude 7410, which gives oversized fingertips like mine more room to move. The X1 Carbon nevertheless offers a superior typing experience, with sculpted, full-size keys.
In addition to a full-sized HDMI output (great for connecting to an external monitor once you're back in the office) and SD card reader, the edges of the Latitude 7420 are peppered with additional ports. They include two oval USB-C ports which support Thunderbolt 4 speeds and DisplayPort video output via an adapter. You'll find a third USB port with the rectangular Type-A connector on the right edge, handy for connecting older peripherals. There's also an audio jack and a wedge-shaped slot to accommodate a security locking cable.(Photo: Molly Flores)(Photo: Molly Flores)
The Latitude 7420 can also be configured with a micro SIM card tray for an optional LTE modem, and a SmartCard slot for IT departments that require users to login via that security method. If your IT department uses SmartCards, you probably won't need the proximity sensor for face-recognition logins, since the two methods serve the same purpose but the former is more secure.
Standard wireless connectivity comprises an Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) chipset with built-in 2x2 MIMO support and Bluetooth 5.1. The Latitude 7420 supports eSIM, so if you opt for the optional mobile broadband and your carrier supports eSIM as well, you won't need to use the physical slot. First responders and public safety organizations eyeing the Latitude 7420 may appreciate that the LTE version supports the dedicated, high-capacity FirstNet LTE bands.
Sound quality is basic for such an expensive laptop. With a mic integrated into the webcam assembly and dual stereo speakers, videoconferencing and voice calls are clear but not exceptional on the Latitude 7420. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon also offers a basic audio experience; even Dell's flagship Latitude 9410 uses a similar audio setup.
Security and manageability features are a key reason why IT departments choose Latitude laptops, but end users will want to ensure that the Latitude 7420 has enough computing power to get their work done. Our well-equipped review unit certainly obliges. I noticed the cooling fan spool up to a clearly audible level while I was installing apps and browsing resource-intensive websites, but encountered no discernible lags or sluggishness. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Comparing the Latitude 7420's benchmark scores against a few key business laptop competitors helps quantify its computing performance. In addition to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, I'm also using the HP Elite Dragonfly Max, HP's flagship business 2-in-1 and nearly $2,800 in the configuration we reviewed, as a comparison. The less expensive, straight-up HP Elite Dragonfly is the Latitude's most direct competitor, but we haven't yet tested the most recent version.
I'm also including the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, a 2-in-1 that competes with the convertible version of the Latitude 7420. Finally, since our Latitude is a clamshell laptop without a touch screen, a comparison with the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro is also useful. Many corporate users covet Mac laptops, too.
From the get-go, we can see that the Latitude 7420 equipped with Intel's latest CPU performs slightly better than the ThinkPads with previous-generation Core processors. The difference in the PCMark 10 test is roughly 20%. PCMark 10 measures different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows; we use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing.
Storage performance as measured by PCMark 8 proved roughly equal across the Latitude 7420 and its competitors, since they all use speedy SSDs as their boot drives.
In more intense multimedia content creation tasks like video conversion and image editing, the Latitude 7420 also delivered competitive results. It finished second to the M1-equipped MacBook Pro in Maxon's CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
The results of our Handbrake video editing trial are clustered close together, and although the Latitude 7420 tied for last place the differences were negligible. Handbrake is another tough, threaded workout that's highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image, timing each operation and adding up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The Latitude 7420 finished in about the same amount of time as the Elite Dragonfly Max, significantly ahead of the 10th Gen Core i5 Carbon.
Flagship business laptops aren't meant for hardcore gaming, and the Latitude 7420 is no exception. It's nice to see Intel's newer Iris Xe integrated graphics outperform the older UHD Graphics of the ThinkPads, but the Dell's scores in our 3DMark and Superposition gaming simulations are nothing to get excited about.
On the other hand, the Latitude excels at lasting a long time away from a wall outlet. It lasted nearly 18 hours in our video playback marathon, behind only the MacBook Pro. Our test is fairly forgiving, since it involves looping a locally stored 720p video at 50% screen brightness with Wi-Fi turned off, but the result still suggests you should be able to get a full workday out of the 7420’s battery.
We strongly recommend springing for the upgraded 4-cell, 63-watt-hour battery in our review unit, since the base model comes with a 3-cell, 42-watt-hour battery that likely won't last as long.
Thanks mostly to Intel's latest silicon, the Dell Latitude 7420 outperforms the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8. It's slightly bulkier, but for now it takes the crown from the venerable ThinkPad as the best business ultraportable laptop you can buy. With the X1 Carbon Gen 9 starting to hit retail shelves, we await the rematch.4.0Editors' ChoiceSee It$1,619.00 at Dell TechnologiesBase Configuration Price $1,589.00View More
Highly customizable and sporting an attractive carbon-fiber chassis, the Dell Latitude 7420 is our new favorite ultraportable for businesses.
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