Review Dell Latitude E5500 Notebook
Latitude E6500 and E5500 – those are the names for Dells 15.4 inch workhorses. The first digit doesn't apply to various form factors, as you might presume. No, it stands for the case type. While the E6xxx models try to make bonus points with a robust aluminum case, the E5xxx notebooks set on a plastic case. This results in a slightly bulky chassis, but affects the price of the notebook favorably, though.
Not only die-hard business users, but even more buyers, who are summarized from notebook manufacturers as "consumers", appreciate the more of value in robust and for daily use conceptually designed business notebooks. Gladly one does without an efficient graphic card or a CPU for longer reliability.
This usually starts to hurt with the price, which stays in the upper field despite the already made restrictions.
For this reason many manufacturers offer their own series for particularly price-conscience customers, to which a substantial part of the consumer clients count. It comes to grasp in the case of Dell the E5xxx, which barely distinguishes itself optically from the E6xxx aluminum range but is already available for a few hundred Euros under the aluminum-counterpart.
The Dell Latitude E6500 would be mentioned here, as an in-house rival for the 15.4 inch E5500, which has already been tested by notebookcheck.com a while ago.
First of all the materiality of a case doesn't decide foremost over its quality in regards to haptic, stability and ergonomics. The used materials have a substantial influence on the design of the case, particularly on the component measurements, though.
It's not really surprising that the chassis of the E5500 turns out considerably bulkier than that of the E6500. While aluminum components can take over statical and optical functions simultaneously, plastic cases are always dependant on a metal frame inside which leads to a greater thickness. Apple brought this to perfection the opposite way with, for instance, the Macbook Air, or with the new Macbooks with an aluminum body.
The applied plastic in the E5500 seems very compact and robust, in any case. Moderate deformations, i.e., when lifting the notebook on the side edges, are still acceptable. In this exercise the aluminum – case leads by lengths.
We found the haptic of the case quite pleasing. The rough-textured plastic surface in the area of the wrist supports becomes enjoyably warm fast and the aluminum is barely missed.
Optically, the plastic case can't quite keep up with the aluminum case, though. Not only the plumper form but the surface finish shows obvious plastic charm. In order not to show all cards too fast in a closed state, the E5500 was given a varnished metal display lid. Don't worry, it's matt and fingerprint friendly. The classical "consumer" division is fortunately still far enough away…
A not unimportant difference to the Latitude E6500 you can find in the offered connection options. The E5500 does without an eSATA port, with which an efficient external hard disk can be connected. Also a digital display port for connecting a high resolution external monitor to the notebook has been omitted.
Nevertheless, a serial port on the left side edge has been added to the notebook. This, in the meantime very rarely found port, might be of importance for a few selected users, though. It gives the E5500 an increase of value and makes it a preferred purchase in the end.
Even before WLAN, USB and co., data was sent serially over a D-sub socket via cable. Today this port is still used in single cases for communication with various machines and components. For the average consumer this is barely of importance.
To the rest of the usual port suspects count, for instance: a total of four USB ports, 3.5mm audio ports (headphones and microphone), Firewire, S-Video and an analog VGA-out.
The docking port on the bottom side of the notebook is also of special significance. While, for instance, the Lenovo in its low-priced SL500 series goes without a docking port, this is found in the even most low-priced notebook from Dell – the consumer is pleased.
The position of the ports can be described as thoroughly user friendly since these are placed on the sides and further towards the back. However, slight advantages for righties remain because the drive placed here. We were pleased to see that Dell goes without any ports on the back side, which are usually hard to reach. In the end, with an adequate docking station, it is possible to remove almost all ports from the sides and therefore to regain valuable working space beside the notebook.
The Latitude E5500 offers a gigabit ethernet port (Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Controller) as well as wireless LAN with the options of either an in-house module from Dell (Dell wireless 1397 802.11g or 1510 802.11a/g/n) or from Intel (WiFi 5100 or 5300) as communication modules.
Communication with your mobile phone or PDA is secured by a built in Bluetooth module (standard 2.1).
Those who fancy the E6xxx series notebook will notice a further important difference to the E6xxx series. There is no hint of an UTMS option far and wide. Dell clearly distinguishes the higher quality E6xxx Latitude series in this aspect, as well.
The savings program goes on further. Therefore, it's not very surprising that the E5500 has to go without an integrated smartcard reader as an effective security measure. Not only that, but you hunt for an ExpressCard slot on the device in vain. Instead you have to be content with a PCMCIA slot and a multimedia cardreader on the front side.
Therefore, the "only" way to secure your data is to use the TPM chip or to exhaust potential BIOS and hard disk passwords.
A glance on the length and type of guarantee shows the next savings item. Merely one year "Collect and Repair Service" is given in the standard configuration of the E5500. With its three year "onsite" service, the Latitude E6500 clearly leads here, too. You'd have to optionally pay just a bit less than 300.00 Euros surcharge in order to call a comparative insurance protection yours. The price advantage of the E5500 has almost been used up with that.
Optically as well as in regards to the typing feeling the keyboard barely differs from the one used in to the E6500. It offers a clear layout and for all keys an agreeable size. Typing proves to be a bit jerky but after a certain accommodation period is found to be pleasant. A feasible bend of the keyboard unit wasn't noticed.
The touchpad/trackpoint combination is probably the same unit as used in the E6500, too – at least what the subjective response behavior concerns. The surface has good gliding qualities and above that two scroll areas. Especially both accompanying touchpad keys turned out as quite pleasant. These let themselves be pressed with an agreeable resistance and can be used with just one or even with both hands.
Alternately, the mouse cursor can be controlled with the trackpoint. The shape of the trackpoint didn't really completely convince in the test, though. The smooth frame led to the finger sliding off of it. The fact that the trackpoint needs a certain amount of pressure to react didn't make it easier, either.
There are three varieties of screens to choose from for the Latitude E5500. The basic configuration comes with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. The high resolution display in WXGA+ format seems to be considerably more attractive with its resolution of 1440x900 pixels, giving a much better layout and more work space.
You are also spoilt of choice for the surface finish of the display, which is available either in a reflecting TrueLife version or as a matt "non-glare" screen. The unreflective version is to be favored for office applications because this allows working even in adverse light conditions without straining the eyes as much.
Our test sample was equipped with exactly this display. The display didn't show itself from its best side in the brightness test, though. While the maximal brightness in the middle bottom area was still decent with 218cd/m2, the decrease of the brightness in the area of the upper corner edges of down to 129.8 cd/m2 dimmed the impression greatly.
This means nothing good for the illumination. The Dell Latitude E5500 reached a mere 62.3% in our measured results, a value considerably below average. It looks very much better for the maximum possible contrast ratio. With a minimum brightness of 0.34 cd/m2 in the middle display area, the WXGA+ screen reached a maximal possible contrast of 548:1 – very good.
That a matt display surface in an office notebook proves to be the only sensible alternative shows itself here, as well as so often in our tests. With these, the individual working position can be chosen very freely and independent from the lighting conditions. Even outdoor use in sunshine is thinkable with the Latitude E5500, whereas you should prevent the sun shining directly on the display, partly due to the moderate brightness.
Dell at least refers in the online configurator to the particularly wide viewing angle of the chosen display. This can be confirmed to some degree for the horizontal area, even if it can come to distortions with an increased slanting of the viewing angle.
However, the situation in the vertical viewing area proved to be a great deal hairier, where prematurely a very strong alteration of the displayed image has to be counted with.
The options regarding performance turn out meager, not only because of its rank as an office notebook, but also because of the significant weighting of the low retail price. Concerning the graphic chip you have to practically rely on the built in Intel GMA 4500M HD chip in almost every possible configuration. This offers only the basic functions for notebook use in office applications. The GMA 4500M HD chip finds it limits fast in 3D visualizations. An advantage of this graphic solution: low energy consumption, minimal emissions.
However, in choosing the CPU you can draw on abundant resources for the Latitude E5500. While the Intel Celeron CPU with 2.0 GHz marks the starting level with special attention on the retail price, it is also possible to equip the device with current chips of the Intel Core 2 "Penryn" range. The performance peak is defined by the T9400 CPU with 2.53 GHz, 6MB L2-cache and 1066 MHz FSB. Approx. 270.00 Euros have to be paid just for this CPU upgrade, it is even 315.00 for the identically built but more energy saving P9500 chip from Intel.
The offered T7250 CPU with 2.0 GHz and 2MB L2-cache or even the P8400 CPU with 2.26 GHz and 3MB L2-cache can be seen as a quite reasonable alternative to the Celeron CPU. The surcharge here is justified through the surplus of the CPU. As long as no intensive computing applications are planned with the E5500, you should abstain from the more efficient processors in favor of the price.
A very acceptable office performance was already given from our test sample with the T7250 CPU. In connection with a total of 2GB RAM all upcoming office basics such as word processing, simple spread sheets, internet and mail were completed to our full satisfaction. Not even the rather sobering result of 4615 points in the PC Mark Benchmark test could change that.
You have also an equally abundant choice of equipment in the mass storage for the notebook. Models with 80 to 250 gigabyte with a velocity of 5400 rpm or 7200 rpm are offered.
The hard disk from Hitachi (HTS543216L9A300) built in to our test device offered a gross capacity of 160 GB at a velocity of 5400 rpm. The achieved benchmark values, especially the comparatively slow access time, of 20.6 milliseconds couldn't really convince. This was only possible with its exeptionally low noise during processing.
|PCMark 05 Standard||4615 points|
|PCMark Vantage Result||2699 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||1206 points|
|3DMark 06||973 points|
|Rendering Single 32Bit||2069 Points|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit||3822 Points|
|Shading 32Bit||848 Points|
The moderate hardware equipment of the Dell Latitude E5500 could score above all in the test criteria emissions, especially in system noise of the notebook. The system fan was either barely heard (32.2 dB(A)) or stayed completely deactivated in ordinary office use. For this, the energy profile had to be changed to energy savings mode.
Even under load, better said under selective load of the CPU and the GPU, the notebook was content for a long time with a barely audible idle rotation speed. The velocity raised somewhat after quite a while and ends with a maximum system noise of merely 35.8 dB(A), which is still absolutely inoffensive.
29.7 / 32.2 / 0 dB(A)
||38.2 / dB(A)|
||32.2 / 35.8 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
The surface temperature of the notebook presents itself quasi like a mirror image of the noise emissions. These scratch minimally past the 30°C mark.
The bottom side turns out, as usual, a bit warmer but always stays with approx. 35°C within an absolutely uncritical frame.
The loudspeakers are found left and right of the keyboard, protected by a perforated coverage. They deliver a fairly passable but nevertheless very thin sound, lacking bass. Groovy boogie-woogie piano tunes came out best in the test. To elicit a more sophisticated sound high quality headphones should be fallen back on, which can be fed over the 3.5 mm socket. This provided for a flawless sound in the test.
Dell provides three different alternatives for the mobile energy supply. The Latitude E5500 is, therefore, equipped with a 4-cell (37 Wh), a 6-cell (56 Wh) or a 9-cell (85 Wh) main battery.
Depending on the basic configuration attention has to be paid to the chosen battery, whereas it is usually the good positioned 6-cell version in consideration of value for money, as in our test device. For increased mobility requirements the 9-cell battery eventually may be recommended, which is available for a surcharge of 133.00 Euros and brings a runtime extension of approx. 50% compared to the 6-cell option.
Our test sample could already reach good battery runtimes with the 6-cell battery. For instance, the BatteryEaters Readers Test which is substitutional for the maximum expected battery runtime of the laptop without load at maximal energy savings options. The Latitude E5500 reached 359 minutes, approx. 6 hours, after all.
The E5500 could reach in the "worst case" simulation 92 minutes as the minimal expected battery runtime in the BatteryEater Classic test.
The office device could convince in the practical WLAN surf mode at maximum display brightness in the energy savings mode. The notebook reached a runtime of a good 260 minutes in this test. More than enough was also the dvd play time: with 175 minutes most movies should be able to be watched.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 12.3 / 17.3 / 19.7 Watt|
46.5 / 51 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||5h 59min|
|WiFi Surfing||4h 20min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||1h 32min|
For those who are hunting for a low-priced but reliable office notebook, might very well find it in the Dell Latitude E5500. However, the specifications of the notebook shouldn't be set too high considering that Dell had to obviously save in many areas because of the immense cost pressure.
The smallest cut back in this consideration is still the plastic case. It turns out a bit thicker than its Latitude colleagues with an aluminum chassis and loses points here in regards to ergonomics. It still provides a good stability and allows a mobile use of the notebook, though.
The supply of ports were also economized. A digital display port, an eSATA connection as well as a UMTS option have been omitted in comparison to the E6500. The serial port can't replace these but may be of particular interest for a small group of consumers. The placement of the single ports turn out very user friendly, as usual.
The offered input devices don't rank behind the significantly more expensive Latitude models. They are suited for intensive daily use without further ado. We weren't quite satisfied with the trackpoint as a mouse substitution, which gave too little hold in the test.
With the 1440x900 pixels resolution WXGA+ display, our test sample probably had the most interesting display alternative for the E5500. The good maximum brightness of the matt and outdoor useable display faces the just awful illumination and moderate viewing angel.
In regards to performance you shouldn't await too much from the Latitude E5500. This notebook is a classic office device, thought primarily for basic office applications. In case of higher performance requirements there are more efficient contemporary Intel processors available, but these affect the price of the system disadvantageously. It might make more sense to invest in a faster hard disk and a quicker RAM from which you can generally profit more from in standard applications.
Our test device managed to convince with very low emissions, in regards to system noise as well as the surface temperature of the notebook. The battery life of the test system with the 6-cell Li-Ion battery profited from the modest hardware components, too. With more than 4 hours in WLAN mode, a mobile use of the notebook is achievable without further ado.
Generally, the low-priced notebook from the Dell business starter-series delivered a very good show. In direct comparison to the higher quality E6500, the E5500 cuts off quite a bit poorer, but at least the book offers the possibility of a lower price.
But as soon as you try to update the laptop to the E6500 level (various services, three year warranty, …) you come quickly to the same price level of over 1000.00 Euros which, in turn, brings the consumer quickly close to the E6500.