Dell Latitude 5490: The latest Latitude comes with an Intel 8th-gen cream center. The Dell Latitude series has always been popular with business buyers, as the notebooks provide exactly the feature set that corporate IT wants at a price the finance department can stomach.
At the bottom of the latitude, the ladder is the 3000 series machines with 11-inch screens that use Celeron CPUs. At the opposite end of the scale are the high-end Core i7-powered 7000 series with all sorts of fancy features. And between them are 2-in-1 designs, rugged models, and what we’re exploring today: the 5000 series.
The Dell Latitude 5490 (opens in new tab) is the latest design in the 5000 series, and it aims to represent Dell well when the discussion turns to new productivity tools at the next board meeting.
Price, availability, and value
Dell Latitude 5490 (14-inch 128GB) for $310 at Walmart (Opens in new tab)
For those unfamiliar with Dell’s approach to selling computers, there’s a basic selection of submodels for any design, and you can customize them to varying degrees from there.
The Latitude 5490 comes in 11 different configurations starting at £709 (about $965) ex VAT and going up to £1,109 (about $1,500) depending on processor, memory, display and storage options.
You can make them more valuable by adding options like a smart card reader, LTE modem, and fingerprint scanner, or adding accessories like the Dell Business Dock. The Latitude 5490 reviewed here replaces the 5480, a very respectable design, and a strong contender in a field with impressive offerings from Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba.
A key difference between the Dell US and Europe product options is that the revised design is not available in the US range.
The $799 (about £586) version of the Latitude 5490 in the US only has 4GB of RAM, a 500GB SATA drive, and a lower-resolution 1366 x 768 display. The inclusion of a 1080p screen is exclusive to systems that come with Core i7-8650U or i5-8350U processors.
Dell Latitude 5490 Design
Since this machine isn’t a Dell XPS, we expected plastic over the metal interior, and our assumptions were correct. Regardless of the materials, the Latitude 5490 feels well-built, and substantial, and the surface texture makes it easy to handle. This last point is important, as it weighs 1.6 kg, and dropping it can have unpleasant consequences.
It’s a bit heavy for this type of machine, but there’s enough computer inside the black exterior to compensate for carrying it.
The first thing we noticed about the notebook was that the external ports are split almost evenly between the left, right, and back, with a full-size Type-A USB port on each side. As a rule of thumb, placing ports on the hinge spine is generally considered a poor idea, as the greatest angular braking force is applied if the machine falls or tips.
Dell acknowledged this to a degree in the placement of the power port and LAN socket. They are installed in each hinge plate, giving them a metal surround that provides some protection from potential disaster.
How much protection it provides is hard to gauge, but anything is better than a broken notebook that you can’t power, charge or even network using Wi-Fi.
The keyboard on the 5490 was a very pleasant surprise, as it has plenty of space between the keys and a very positive, if slightly bouncy, action. It’s also backlit, should you need to work in low-light conditions, such as giving a presentation.
Our only dislike with the keyboard is how small Dell decided to make the cursor keys, which considering how often a typical user will need them. In the center of the keyboard is a ‘nipple’ for those who once liked (or probably still do) their Thinkpad, although the touchpad is a better option for most users for controlling the cursor.
Dell touchpads have improved significantly, and the one on the 5490 is a large one, has buttons on both the top and bottom and supports single, double, triple, or four-finger gestures. Most users will likely stop pinching and scrolling, but those who learn these gestures can invoke Cortana or Action Center with a single gesture.
The screen is often the weakness of a machine built at exactly the right price, but the one used in the review model looks perfectly serviceable to us. With a 1080p resolution and 200 nits of brightness, it works well for general office use, and at this resolution, the interface doesn’t require any extreme interface scaling.
We’ve seen brighter and more colorful displays on other brands, most notably from Fujitsu, but the screen on this PC will be acceptable for most users.
It’s not a touch-capable display, and Dell doesn’t currently offer touch on any Latitude 5490. Since this system isn’t a 2-in-1, leaving it out isn’t a big loss, unless you’re used to smudgy fingerprints on the screen. So far, everything about the Latitude 5490 is good, or good enough.
Here is the Dell Latitude 5490 configuration sent to Pro for review.
CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core 3.38GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB DDR4 RAM (2400MHz)
Screen: 14-inch Full HD (non-touchscreen)
Storage: 128GB M.2 SATA SSD
Ports: 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (one with powershare), 1 x DisplayPort over Type C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x microSD card slot, headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: Camera with mic
Weight: 1.6kg (3.52lb)
Size: 332 x 229 x 16.9mm (W x D x H)
Battery: 4 cell
The specification of this machine varies from completely understandable to almost anything.
At the logical end of the line is the Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, an excellent Kaby Lake U-series quad-core (eight-thread) chip that can clock at 1.6GHz until hard work takes it up to 3.38GHz. go Turbo mode. It manages this with a maximum TDP of just 15W.
That chip combined with 8GB of DDR4 memory makes for a smooth experience, and there are plenty of external ports for most users.
It bothers us that Dell is still pandering to those who use a VGA screen, but those living in the 21st century can connect via HDMI or use a DisplayPort over a USB Type-C port.
The highest-spec models have this port upgraded to Thunderbolt 3, but not on revised hardware specifications. But where the specifications fall flat is in the storage department, where Dell has vaguely used an M.2 drive that offers no practical advantage over a SATA-connected SSD.
The logic seems to be that since the review model has a 128GB M.2 module, it costs more than the 2.5-inch 500GB hard drive on the other models. Well, it will be faster, but with so little space (88GB on the review machine), it holds back what is otherwise a very useful piece of equipment.
Even less understandable is why M.2 technology was used for the drive. Since the machine clearly has room for a 2.5-inch mechanism, as seen in the hard drive models, why not use a larger SATA SSD? The argument about M.2 offering ultimate performance also holds no water, as Dell has chosen to use only SATA M.2 modules across the range in the UK and not NVMe.
There aren’t even any easy user-upgradable options, so unless you like to ditch the latitude, you can’t use that empty 2.5-inch drive bay. For those who don’t mind removing patches and cloning drives, disappointment awaits.
The M.2 slot and the 2.5-inch SATA bay occupy the same physical space, so you can’t have both. And, the M.2 version of the machine is also missing the cables and shroud for mounting a 2.5-inch drive. Based on this revelation, we suspect that the models supplied with 2.5-inch drives do not have the relevant components to use the M.2 slot.
However, there is a little light at the end of this tunnel. The manual mentions that the M.2 slot can take both SATA and NVMe drives, so you can buy the 128GB review version and then upgrade it to whatever size NVMe drive you can afford ( up to 1TB).
The only caveat to this practice is that the drives will need to be cloned outside the machine, ideally using a desktop PC with two extra M.2 slots. Or, create a recovery drive, and do a full rebuild from scratch.
Unlocking the 5490 also allows the RAM to be upgraded to 32GB, filling both memory slots provided, after removing the first single pre-installed 8GB module. Another oddity is that the machine has a SIM card slot for those wishing to go online via cellular technology. But inserting a SIM won’t do it, as you’ll need to purchase and install an additional WWAN module to enable this functionality.
Dell went to the trouble of putting trays and antennas in every 5490 by default but disappointingly left out the WWAN module. Battery ratings for this machine can vary from 42 to 51 or 68 Whr, and Review Hardware had the largest option for the longest battery life.
- Competitively priced
- Punchy processor
- Excellent feature set
- 128GB SATA SSD-Proprietary charger
- Mostly plastic