Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 (i7-8665U) Convertible Review
The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 ($2,800 as tested) represents a substantial step toward a different design philosophy for the manufacturer’s convertible business laptops. Let’s begin with the overall pros: arguably, this is the most attractive Latitude to date, with its beautiful brushed aluminum casing, expertly CNC-chamfered edges and corners, and super-slim bezels. It could easily be mistaken for something out of the XPS line of machines.
But throughout its transition, the Latitude seeks to retain many of the practical business-grade sensibilities that have long been critical to the success of the brand: easy maintenance, durable construction, long battery runtimes, quiet operation, and premium input devices. Port selection has taken a bit of a hit with the adoption of USB Type-C/ThunderBolt 3 charging ports and the omission of the mainstay Ethernet port, but for the most part the average business user will have more than they care to work with at their disposal here. The audio is vastly improved over the previous Latitude machines. And finally, battery runtimes on our 78 Wh-equipped review unit are terrific, easily lasting a full workday without any need for a charger on hand.
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is an ambitious revision within a market where typically conservative and incremental are the default philosophies. In some ways, it’s a breath of fresh (hot!) air, but it’s not without its problems.
While aesthetically and haptically pleasing, however, the results are far from universally positive in this case. The display, while attractive in an indoor setting, suffers a weak brightness and it’s highly reflective, rendering outdoor usage uncomfortable and in many cases simply implausible. While the transition to a glass touchpad is nice, some business users will lament the switch from physical separate buttons to an integrated “clickpad” design. The system RAM is now fully soldered to the mainboard, meaning upgrades and replacements are impossible (though the M.2 NVMe SSD can still be replaced).
But the most glaring shortfall of all is our review unit’s penchant for high internal chip temperatures, which quickly overwhelm the subpar cooling system and result in blistering surface hot spots on the casing and rampant CPU performance reductions (and throttling under more intensive loads). This yields performance results falling short of cheaper, lesser-equipped competing models even from last generation, and it calls into question the practicality of stuffing a hungry and hot Core i7 Whiskey Lake SoC into such a small case with a tiny, conservatively-tuned cooling system.
We’d happily trade some more fan noise for better sustained performance and lower case temperatures, and fortunately this can be partially approximated via a switch to the Ultra Performance thermal profile within the Dell Power Manager—which results in at least marginally improved sustained results in our Cinebench R15 loop test (hopefully a future firmware update might render this step, which the average uninformed user isn’t likely to undertake, unnecessary). Regardless, however, we think it makes more sense to save your money and invest in a less-expensive Core i5 CPU configuration instead, where temperatures are sure to be lower and you aren’t paying for performance increases that are marginal at best.
Top-ranked competitors include the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The Asus Zenbook Flip 14 is also available, but it didn’t fare as well as those previous two machines in our testing. Alternatively, it might be worth waiting for a bit to see if and how Dell revises the firmware on the 7400 2-in-1 to address these issues. It’s a great machine in a lot of ways—just a little too ambitious for its cooling system to handle.