Dell’s new Latitude 7000 series of 12-inch 2-in-1 laptops has begun shipping, with a number of firsts and impressive capabilities baked into the hardware. The Latitude 7000 series is the thinnest and lightest system Dell has ever built. It also offers integrated wireless charging, courtesy of a partnership with Witricity; the first specific model to launch with this is the Latitude 7000 12-inch 2-in-1 (7285). Dell reports that interest in its 2-in-1s and total shipments have both been growing rapidly, and were up 1.48x in Q1 2017 alone.
While we haven’t gotten to see the Latitude 7000 in-person yet, Dell is claiming to have dotted an awful lot of i’s and crossed its t’s with this design. “Some of the design choices that matter to commercial customers are things like optimized displays that reduce power consumption and extend battery life; removable hard drives for data security; IR camera location for video conferences; Wi-Fi antennae placement; and use of lightweight carbon fiber materials for durability,” said Dell SVP Kirk Schell.
The 7285 uses a 3:2 aspect ratio, like Microsoft’s recent Surface devices, and offers 2880×1920 resolution. Available ports and controls include a volume up/down slider, a USIM/USD combo slot capable of holding either two SIM cards or a SIM and a microSD card (only WWAN networks are supported), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (Type-C) and a headset/mic combo plug. Also, the device can be undocked, reversed, and folded flat against its keyboard, making it both a 360-degree hinge and a 2-in-1.
All of these machines use Intel’s Y series of processors based on the Kaby Lake architecture. The entry level system, at $ 1,199, features 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a dual-core CPU with a 3.2GHz clock, 4MB of cache, and a 4.5W TDP. More expensive products up the stack add RAM and additional storage (8-16GB of RAM, 128-256GB of M.2 SSD). We’ve talked before about how the greater TDP flexibility Intel offered with its Core M products had backfired to some extent, because it left different OEM designs with very different performance. In some cases, we even saw the lowest-end chips outperforming higher-clocked SKUs because of skin temperature thermal throttling or very tight TDP limits.
But there’s reason to think the 7285 shouldn’t fall prey to this problem. Dell spokesperson Chris Morely told us that the company has invested a great deal of engineering time and effort into optimizing its work with low-power Intel Y-series processors. The XPS 13 2-in-1, for example, pushes past a 7W power envelope and up to 9W while remaining completely fanless. That 2W gap might not sound like much, but squeezing 1.29x more TDP out of a CPU without using even a small fan (or setting someone’s pants on fire) is a solid achievement.
We’ve also heard that Dell’s unified engineering efforts have helped improve the overall quality of its products. All of the engineers that work on Dell’s various Inspiron, Latitude, XPS, and other product families report to a single Senior VP, Ed Ward. Instead of sandboxing information jealously within product groups, Dell fosters a climate of sharing best practices, lessons, and innovation across multiple product families. I can’t speak to how long this specific practice has been going on, but the quality of the company’s laptops, including gaming laptops like the Inspiron 7000 line, has improved significantly over the past few years.
The one flaw in what looks like a pretty amazing machine is how its pricing is structured. That $ 1,199 doesn’t buy you the wireless charging capability or even a keyboard. The Dell Latitude 7285 Productivity Keyboard at least packs additional battery capacity (22WHr, compared with 45WHr 7285 offers itself), has backlit keys, supports tent and slate mode, and has a solid integrated touchpad. It also costs $ 249 and doesn’t include the wireless charging kit.
The Dell Latitude 7285 Wireless Charging Keyboard also includes the extra 22WHr battery, but costs $ 379 alone and can’t be used on metal surfaces. It does not include the wireless charging mat required to make the wireless charging system function, but you can buy that separately ($ 200) or both items together for just $ 549.99. The wireless charging is also slower, at 30W versus 45W via a USB-C adapter, but is still more than enough to charge the laptop in a reasonable amount of time. When both the tablet and the keyboard battery are depleted, the dock will charge the tablet battery first, then top off the laptop keyboard.
So to actually get all the capabilities Dell is talking up with the 7285, in other words, you start with the most basic model and add $ 549 worth of charging equipment and keyboard. That brings the base price to $ 1,749 before tax or shipping. If you want the highest-end system, it’ll set you back $ 2,538.
I wouldn’t judge a system before I or other reputable sources have actually reviewed it, and Dell seems to have a number of genuine firsts and strong achievements here. But I’d feel better about the 7285 if its accessories like the basic keyboard weren’t priced so ridiculously high. Dell is far from the only PC company to treat something as simple as a QWERTY layout with some magnetic attach points and a small battery as if it should be priced like a Tesla Model S. But if OEMs want to actually make these technologies popular, they need to find a way to make them more affordable.