Snazzy consumer laptops like the Dell XPS 13 aren’t often issued to employees at large enterprises. This occasionally comes up as a point of consternation when toters of bulging, black, IT-approved ThinkPads gaze enviously at the borderless 4K displays and svelte chassis of laptops that managers won’t let them use for work. To appease that envy, Dell has added plenty of innovative, user-friendly features to its latest Latitude 7320 (starts at $1,559; $1,964 as tested). Available as either a standard clamshell or the 2-in-1 convertible seen here, this machine offers IT-mandated Intel vPro manageability and SmartCard readers, but it also has employee-pleasing features like a sublimely comfortable keyboard, a sturdy chassis, and a sci-fi-worthy proximity sensor.
Four Degrees of Latitude
Dell’s current Latitude notebook lineup comes in four flavors, each available in multiple screen sizes and form factors. The cheapest is the Latitude 3000 series, which starts below $700. At the opposite end is the Latitude 9000, worthy of the C-suite. In between are the Latitude 5000 and 7000 series. The Latitude 7000 comes in 13-, 14-, and 15-inch screen sizes, the first of which is the subject of this review. The Latitude 7320 2-in-1 is identical to the standard laptop except for a 360-degree rotating hinge and a slightly heavier weight dictated by the extra hardware.
The weight difference isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is significant. Our review unit measures 0.67 by 12.1 by 8 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.1 pounds, compared with 2.57 pounds for the conventional version. No, half a pound isn’t going to break the straps of your handbag. And yes, there are plenty of reasons why you’d want the 2-in-1 version, including the ability to prop up the Latitude like an easel for giving presentations. But it’s still approximately a 20% penalty for the ability to rotate the screen 360 degrees. If you’re an IT buyer, it might make sense to choose the conventional clamshells for frequent travelers, unless they’re specifically clamoring for the additional flexibility that the convertible version offers.
Whichever version you choose, it will be clad in an attractive yet nondescript brushed-metal finish. The Latitude 7320 feels eminently sturdy, with nary a half-inch of bounce when you tap on the touch-enabled full HD display. There’s no noticeable flex when you type on the supremely comfortable keyboard.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9310)
Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch
HP EliteBook 845 G7
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (M1, Late 2020)
HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5
It looks and feels ultra-premium, but the Latitude’s chassis isn’t quite as sleek as those of other 13-inch laptops that employ sealed unibody construction. The bottom cover has eight conspicuous screws that afford IT employees easy access to service the components within. This is great for managing a fleet of Latitude 7320s, though it does detract somewhat from the premium aesthetic of the rest of the chassis.
Easy Component Access
This serviceability is really only useful for troubleshooting or upgrades, since Dell lets buyers configure the Latitude 7320 with a dizzying array of component options to suit nearly any requirement (with the notable exception of a tight budget). No need to install aftermarket components as soon as you open the box. This can be a mixed blessing, however—it’s a boon to IT managers who know exactly what their requirements are, but the sheer number of acronym-laden configuration options can be confusing if you’re ordering a single system for yourself.
Case in point: the screen. The Latitude 7320’s 13.3-inch, full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) panel can be had either with or without touch support and with a matte or glossy finish depending on whether you want to reduce glare from ambient light. But the options don’t end there. There are no fewer than seven screen choices in Dell’s online configurator, each of which adds to the base price and adds confusing jargon like WVA, ALU, and HD IR Cam. Many of these are actually useful add-ons, such as an integrated privacy filter to thwart over-your-shoulder snooping and an upgraded camera that shoots 1080p video (a key upgrade for today’s ubiquitous Zoom videoconferences). It’s a shame these are all lumped in with the screen configurations and not explained in detail on the website.
It’s also a shame that despite all of the available options, you can’t configure a Latitude 7320 with a 4K (3,840-by-2,160) display, or one with a backlight brighter than 400 nits. Such a screen would offer far crisper text and more brilliant colors, and is available on quite a few competing laptops, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga and several HP EliteBook models. Dell does offer 4K options on the larger Latitude 7420 and Latitude 7520 laptops.
More than two dozen hardware and software features help the Latitude 7320 sync up with the various security and manageability requirements of large IT departments. Some are configurable extras, some come standard. They range from a humble security lock slot on the laptop’s right edge to a tamper-evident BIOS. The laptop offers a choice of integrated contact or contactless SmartCard readers for secure logins, as well as support for VMware Workspace One. The basic specs of our review unit include an Intel Core i5-1145G7 processor from the latest 11th Generation “Tiger Lake” family. It’s a quad-core chip with a 2.6GHz base clock speed and support for Intel’s vPro remote management tech, as well as Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. It will handle nearly any basic computing task you throw at it with aplomb, especially since it’s paired with a generous 16GB of memory and a speedy 256GB NVMe solid-state drive.
Our unit rings up at just under $2,000, a princely sum to spend on a laptop with a Core i5 processor. A Latitude with a Core i7 CPU and 512GB SSD is only $100 or so more, though prices change frequently. The upgrade to a Core i7 is something that many purchasers tasked with buying units on a five- instead of two-year cycle might prefer. However, even the base model Latitude 7320, equipped with a non-vPro Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, is a poor value at its $1,559 asking price. Note to volume purchasers: negotiate a discount.
A Nifty, Second-Generation Proximity Sensor
As far as end users are concerned, the most buzzworthy feature of the Latitude 7320 is its second-generation proximity sensor. Called Express Sign-In, it’s available on several Latitude laptops, and competitors like HP now have their own versions of it. It detects your presence when you come within a few feet of the laptop, at which point it will wake the system, ask the infrared webcam to start looking for your face, and automatically sign you in upon recognition. When you step away from the PC, the sensor puts the Latitude into sleep mode.
Over a few days of testing, I found the newest version of Express Sign-In to be more accurate than it was when I first tested it on the Latitude 7400 2-in-1 in 2019. Dell says it has tweaked the software and sensors to prevent annoying sleep-mode activation when you’re actively using the PC but not moving much. This is especially useful when you might be reviewing long text documents, or even just resting your eyes by looking away from the screen.
You can easily disable Express Sign-In or customize its functions using the Dell Optimizer app. Options include having the laptop lock automatically when you walk away, having it wake up when you approach, and disabling or keeping both of these options active while the Latitude is connected to an external display.
All the Requisite Business-Laptop Ports
Originally, business laptops needed more ports than consumer ones did, since business users were more likely to be plugging in monitor and peripheral cables to connect to their office accessories or conference room A/V systems. That isn’t happening as much now that many prospective Latitude users are working from home, but the Latitude 7320 2-in-1 still has all the connections required for an eventual return to the office.
On the left edge, you’ll find a headphone jack and a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port. The latter is also used to connect the AC adapter, available in 60-watt or 90-watt versions. The more powerful adapter is a good match for the upgraded four-cell, 63-watt-hour battery in our review unit; base models come with three-cell, 42-watt-hour batteries. The opposite edge includes a second USB-C port—also with Thunderbolt 4—as well as a microSD card reader and a USB 3.2 Type-A port.
Standard wireless connections include Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1. You can also configure the Latitude 7320 with an optional Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 Cat 16 LTE modem. The U.S. version of the modem works with T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon and requires a physical SIM card to be inserted into a slot on the right edge. Abroad, the modem can also be used with an eSIM provided by some networks. There’s no 5G modem option.
Like most premium Latitude models, the 7320 comes with a three-year warranty. This helps explain part of the price difference between it and equivalent consumer laptops, which typically come with one year of coverage.
Testing the Latitude 7320: Predictably Speedy Performance
Our Latitude 7320 2-in-1 review unit offers the exact sort of computing performance we expect from a flagship corporate laptop. Even without the top-of-the-line Core i7, the system excels at basic office productivity tasks and lasts for close to a full day away from a wall outlet. While it’s much less adept when it comes to gaming or content creation work, it could serve as a stand-in machine for some quick photo touch-ups if it had to. Many professionals are using their laptops for more than just Zoom and email these days, and the Latitude could serve as a jack-of-all-trades. (See how we test laptops.)
In the chart below, you’ll see how the specs of our review unit stack up against a few other similar business laptops we’ve tested recently. These include the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the HP EliteBook 845 G7 (a 14-inch clamshell), and the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7 (a 14-inch convertible). I’ve also included the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, since that Editors’ Choice winner is a likely alternative for people who like the Latitude 7320 2-in-1 but don’t need all of its IT-specific features.
Our first performance benchmark is PCMark 10, which simulates 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. While the Latitude 7320 is slightly slower than the EliteBook 845 (a pattern that will continue throughout the rest of our tests), it still easily vaults over the 4,000-point mark that we consider to show excellent productivity.
PCMark 8’s storage subtest isolates the performance of the laptop’s boot drive. Both the Latitude and the other systems aced this test with their speedy SSDs.
As for the aforementioned content creation work, the results of our Cinebench rendering test suggest that the Latitude 7320 is good but not nearly as good as the AMD Ryzen-equipped EliteBook 845. Cinebench R15 is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads, stressing the CPU rather than GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, 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; lower (quicker) results are better. Quad-core processors like the Latitude 7320’s Core i5 are OK for this type of task, but the eight-core Ryzen 7 Pro in the EliteBook 845 G7 is much 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. We time each operation and add up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better. 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.
Photoshop is one task where the Latitude 7320 actually edges out the Ryzen-equipped EliteBook. Sure, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is the fastest of the group, and machines designed for multimedia editing (like a Windows workstation or the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro) are faster still. But the Latitude 7320 2-in-1’s time of a bit more than two minutes is nevertheless admirable.
Light Gaming, In a Pinch
The results of our Superposition and 3DMark gaming simulations demonstrate what an upgrade Intel Iris Xe and AMD Radeon graphics are over the older Intel UHD Graphics of the ThinkPad and the EliteBook x360. The Latitude isn’t significantly quicker than any of the other Iris Xe or Radeon machines here, but it can still offer passable performance in older games with less demanding GPU needs.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. Results are in frames per second (fps).
Even with our unit’s upgraded 63-watt-hour battery, it failed to impress in our battery rundown test. The test involves playing a locally stored 720p video file at 50% screen brightness, 100% audio volume, and Airplane Mode on (Wi-Fi off). It’s something of a best-case scenario, and while the Latitude’s time of 11 hours and 39 minutes is certainly respectable, it’s nowhere near the 20-plus hours that the EliteBook x360 1040 G7 managed.
Ticks All of the IT Boxes
Like Latitudes before it, the 7320 2-in-1 is almost everything a large, busy IT department could hope for in a business laptop. It’s secure, eminently manageable, and although it’s expensive, volume discounts could bring down the actual cost per unit.
There are a few things holding back this Latitude from earning an Editors’ Choice award, including its relatively modest performance per dollar and its lack of a 4K screen option. As it stands, we’re going to withhold a top pick in the business convertible laptop category until we’ve seen a few more models updated for 2021. If you’re in the market for a compact convertible and you don’t need extras like vPro, head for the XPS 13 2-in-1. If IT-friendly features are a must, the Ryzen-powered HP EliteBook 845 is a much better value, even though it doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge.
Dell Latitude 7320 2-in-1
The Bottom Line
The Dell Latitude 7320 2-in-1 is uncomfortably pricey, but this 13.3-inch convertible remains an appealing choice for both corporate travelers and the IT departments who serve them.
Like What You’re Reading?
Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!