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Dell Latitude E3 Refresh (E6420, E6520, E5420, E5520)

All's made new in February. Rumors have been around for a while, but now it's official. Dell is redesigning its business notebook range and will launch a completely new lineup. Inside: Sandy Bridge, outside: a great amount of aluminum and magnesium pressed into a round shape. We've taken a close look at the first pre-samples for you.

For the start, Dell will ring in a complete model refresh with four models of the "Advanced" and "Premier" product range. In detail the E6520 and the E6420 of the high-end business range, as well as the E5520 and the E5420 of the somewhat less expensive Advanced Line.

Dell speaks of an intended retail start of the 14 and 15 inchers on March 1st, 2011. According to Dell, this date is to be kept upright despite the disclosed problems with Intel's chipset. The Latitude E6320 will follow on March 8th, 2011, which is the family's 13 inch device and the E6420 ATG, the particularly rugged 14" version. The first notebooks will all be equipped with Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU. Moreover, a Montevina base is supposed to still be offered and can be recognized by an added -m (5xxxm).
Then, the E6520 and E6420 /ATG configurations are to follow on March 15th, 2011. The first mentioned laptops all can utilize the Intel HD Graphics 3000 incorporated in the processor.
The compact 12 inch model, Latitude E6220 is supposed to finally be released on May 24th, 2011. Interesting: Dell also mentions an XT Convertible refresh called Latitude XT3 as a pure tablet. It is supposed to be based on Windows in regard to the operating system and is to be exclusively conceived for professional use. Dell speaks of a display with a 10 inch diagonal in terms of form factor.

Prices for the mentioned devices haven't yet been stated. However, it can be assumed that they will follow the current product range, especially since Intel has also matched the prices for the new Sandy Bridge to the predecessors.

Dell Latitude E6520, E6420

Dell especially wants to have success with financially strong clients who put value on both exterior design as well as bare functionality, as with the predecessors Latitude E6510 and Latitude E6410.

The outfits of the new Latitude models are hardly recognized again when compared with the old models. Conservative geometric shapes and colors have been completely banished. It rather looks like the XPS consumer range model has been acknowledged – a thought that almost involuntarily turns up when looking at the rounded edges and side parts with the interfaces. 
In regard to colors, we discover a mix of silver and black metal surfaces and a red keyboard bezel. Every user will have to decide for himself if he likes it or not. Nevertheless, the approach towards the compliant consumer line management is instantly recognizable.

We experience a complete metallization of the case in terms of used materials. It's not easy to find plastic surfaces. The displayed pre-samples bestow a foretaste of the new business notebooks' outstanding stability. Twisting the case has practically become impossible and the devices even resist selective pressure to a great extent – a major improvement in comparison to the previous Latitude case. This is made possible by a so-called "inner-frame" which is an aluminum-magnesium alloy structure made of one piece. Additionally it is extended to the side edges around the top. This provides an exceptional stability and makes an overall rugged impression.
Alike the predecessors, the display hinges are made of steel and the display latch is made of a zinc-magnesium alloy.

Maintenance has also been considered. The new Latitudes now have a "single access door", that is a large maintenance cover on the device's bottom. It grants access to all main components and facilitates upgrading. A guaranteed product life span of 12 – 14 months and special support in view of central maintenance (advance information in case of necessary modifications for each image) will likely be appealing for many businesses. Windows XP will at least be provided via drivers, albeit the dated OS won't be configurable anymore. 

If we look at the E6420's and E6520's side edges, we notice the interface grouping in the back corners positively. Dell explicitly states this as a feature. Permanently occupied ports, such as power cable and LAN port, move to the rear just like the E6420's HDMI port. It merely finds its place at the far back right on the E6520. Talking about HDMI: We see the use of a HDMI port on both notebooks, in place of the display port usually found on business laptops, as yet another acknowledgment in direction of consumer and multimedia use. We couldn't determine if HDMI 1.4 has been installed from the preliminary documentation. That would however be the prerequisite in particular for connecting high definition 30" displays and multi-monitor setups. USB 3.0 is not to be found.

Connectivity: Dell Latitude E6420
Connectivity: Dell Latitude E6520

A key feature in terms of connectivity is the docking port on the notebook's bottom. Now here's a good tiding for all current Latitude users: Existing docking stations (E-Legacy extender, E-Port and E-Port Plus) can also be used with the new Dell Latitude notebooks. This could save you a lot of money under certain circumstances and should be one of the new Latitudes' strongest pro arguments also for businesses with key-customers. 

Dell apparently goes even a step further in view of compatibility. Thus, the various configurations available for the modular bay (additional 30W battery, HDD adapter, optical drive, USB 3.0 adapter) can be swapped throughout Dell's E6x20 notebook range. This generally applies to the batteries, whereas Dell points out numerous incompatibilities with the previous Latitude E2 platform (Exx10).

As to batteries, Dell offers a wide range of internal batteries with various capacities, an additional battery for the modular drive bay and slice solutions that can be strapped underneath the notebook. Additionally, you can choose if you would prefer having a standard battery, a battery with a special quick charge function (loaded more than 80% after two hours) or a mobile power supply with a warranty of 3 years to operate in the device you fancy.

As for the display, the showcased pre-samples weren't convincing in terms of viewing angle stability (pictures). Either the 1366x768 pixel basic panel or even a display not intended for retail was likely used. High quality display units, such as a HD+ (1600x900) or a FullHD display (1920x1080) or a HD touch screen (1366x768) for the E6520 (all LED) and a HD (touch optional) and a HD+ display for the 14 inch E6420 can be found in the released specifications.

Dell names the processors from the new Sandy Bridge generation, models i3, i5, and i7 – both dual and quad core chips, as installed hardware components. The notebooks either fall back on the Intel HD Graphics 3000 incorporated in the processor or on the upcoming Nvidia Quadro NVS 4200 M GPU in view of graphics. The RAM configuration ranges up to 8 gigabytes (two slots, maximum 4GB each) of DDR3 SDRAM 1333 MHz. Extensive options are also given in the mass memory field. Here, either conventional hard disks with various capacities (7200rpm) or even a fast solid state drive (SSD) can be selected. Further details about the available configurations can be found under following links:

+ Dell Latitude E6520 specifications: Please click to open here

+ Dell Latitude E6420 specifications: Please click to open here

Picture gallery: Dell Latitude E6420


Picture gallery: Dell Latitude E6520


Dell Latitude E5520, E5420

The representatives of the E5x20 range are a somewhat less expensive entry into the business notebook range. The notebooks' value has clearly been improved in comparison to the plastic predecessors, Latitude E5510 and Latitude E5410. They now also have a metal casing, which is about on par with the E6x30 series in relation to stability and manufacturing. In terms of design language, the E5x20 range look a bit bulkier, which is also due to the base unit that has turned out a bit thicker.
We also find a circumferential rubber lip instead of a selective rubber buffer on the display. This is supposed ban dirt particles from the area between the keyboard and display in a closed state on the one hand. According to Dell, it's also supposed to bid additional protection against pressure on the display lid.

You won't have to make compromises in terms of keyboard. Apparently, the same unit is used as in the superior E6x20 range. It left a very pleasant impression in regards to layout and typing feel in the pre-series devices' first review. You will, however, have to live without the bezel  being accentuated in color (silver/red), as in the superior range. Also, the trackpoint solution, including the corresponding keys, has been left out. They are also reserved for the "Premier" range.
Independent of the chosen series, the new business models are also to have a backlit keyboard. This allows the letters on the keys to be read without problems, even in darker surroundings such as in a plane or in the train.

In view of the given connections, the E5x20 range matches the superior E6x20 notebooks in every way. We also find a solid basic configuration with USB 2.0, eSATA, Expresscard and HDMI here. This presents a significant improvement in comparison to the current E5510 and E5410 notebooks that have to manage without a digital video interface on the device.

Connectivity: Dell Latitude E5420
Connectivity: Dell Latitude E5520

One feature that the E5520 and E5420 laptops don't have is the module drive bay. Here, you can only choose between a simple DVD drive and a DVD combo (burner) when ordering the notebook. Thus, the battery expansion via this bay also isn't possible. Nevertheless, Dell offers a range of optional mobile power supplies, for example a 4 cell (40Wh), a 6 cell (60Wh) or even a larger 9 cell battery (97Wh) battery. Another 9 cell battery with a somewhat lower capacity of 87Wh, including a 3 year warranty, is also available. 

A look at the possible display options shows a 1366x768 HD display or also a high definition 1600x900 HD+ screen, both with LED technology, for the 14 inch E5420. These are the same options as for the E6420, only that the touch screen isn't an option here. A HD screen (1366x768) and a FullHD display (1920x1080) are offered for the larger E5520. The intermediate stage of the HD+ display, as well as the touch option, is omitted in comparison to the Latitude E6520.

As to the performance, Dell also speaks of current Intel Sandy Bridge processors from the i3, i5 and i7 range for the E5520 and E5420. vPro CPUs are also are to be put up for option. Interesting: Unlike the E6x20 models, quad core models aren't listed here.
You'll have to be content with the basic configuration by way of the incorporated Intel HD Graphics 3000 for graphics performance. The available Nvidia NVS 4200M offered for the E6x20 notebooks, which works together with the HD 3000 via Optimus, apparently won't be offered for the lower-priced models.
There are neither changes in the RAM configuration of up to 8GB on two available slots (DDR3 1333 MHz), nor in the available mass memories with hard disks of various capacities and architectures. Even solid state drives (SSD) can be chosen. The possible configurations in detail as follows:

+ Dell Latitude E5520 specifications: Please click to open here

+ Dell Latitude E5420 specifications: Please click to open here.

Picture gallery: Dell Latitude E5420

Picture gallery: Dell Latitude E5520

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J. Simon Leitner, 2011-02-11 (Update: 2021-05-18)