We were pleased to see that Dell has stuck with a matte finish on the 14in screen. This helps reduce glare caused by overhead lights reflecting off the screen.
By default there's no webcam built in to the screen's bezel, which will please administrators in security-conscious workplaces where cameras are banned. For workplaces that need webcams for video conferencing, Dell will happily build one in at ordering time for 12 more. Oddly, while a smartcard reader is included as standard, a fingerprint reader isn't and costs 17 extra if you want one. While Dell offers the option of EFI freezes for customers that want it, the EFI curiously lacks the ability to block the use of certain ports to prevent data leakage if you want this ability then you'll need to use separate data leakage prevention software with the E6420.
There's no built-in 3G modem as standard, but it is available as a build-to-order extra at 81. If you'd rather not pay Dell's prices or later decide you do want one, it's easy enough to buy versions that plug into one of the four USB2 ports or the ExpressCard/54 expansion slot. The ExpressCard slot can also be used to add USB3 ports if the eSATA connector, which also doubles as a fifth USB2 port, doesn't suit your needs.
The three year warranty with next business day service is lengthy. If you need onsite service, this is available for an extra 116.
The Dell Latitude E6420 is a good, if slightly odd laptop. It's fast with plenty of ports, a reasonably comfortable set of input devices and a lengthy warranty. It also has surprisingly good battery life, even though it's relatively heavy. It's also very configurable, with lots of options to customize it to suit your needs. However, it's a shame those extras cost more on an already pricy laptop. If you don't need this flexibility or Dell's guarantee of EFI freezes, the 15.6in HP ProBook 4530s is a similarly specified alternative, but with a more comfortable keyboard at a lower price. Its battery life isn't as long as the Latitude's, but for most potential buyers that's of secondary importance in a laptop of this size and weight.
SPECIFICATIONS Processor: Intel Core i5 2540M, 2.6GHz Memory: 4GB 667MHz DDR3 RAM Graphics: Intel HD Graphics Hard disk: 320GB hard disk Display: 14in 1,366 x 768, LED-backlit screen Features: microphone, stereo speakers, smartcard reader Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 Ports: 3 x USB2, 1x USB2/eSATA combo, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, 1 x ExpressCard/54, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo audio socket Dimensions: 353x243x31mm (WxDxH) Weight: 2.39kg Warranty: three year C&R warranty with next business day service OS: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit BENCHMARK RESULTS Image editing 48 Video encoding 56 Multiple apps 54 Overall 54 Light usage battery life – 7h13m POWER CONSUMPTION Sleep 1W Idle 24W Active 45W