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Dell Latitude E6520 Review

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There are notebooks and then there are business notebooks. The Dell Latitude E6520 is the latter, delivering the speed, stamina and durability that business users demand. A business rugged notebook, with MILSPEC ratings that testify to its chops, read on to find out if it delivers on all counts or needs to go back to business school.

Dell Latitude E6520 Cover

The Tri-Metal case resists scratches, but likes fingerprints.

Quick Specs

A 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive power the Dell Latitude E6520 in for our review. A wonderfully high 1920 x 1080 resolution display spans the 15.6″ anti-glare display. A backlit keyboard, light sensitive webcam, microphone and a full collection of business-required ports rounds up the rest of the feature list.

As configured the Latitude E6520 is priced at $1,906. The base model starts at $1,334 and Dell has been known to offer discounts on the Latitude E Family of notebooks.

Who is the Dell Latitude E6520 For?

The Dell Latitude E6520 is a business notebook that is designed for road warriors that need a business rugged notebook that can handle the abuses of traveling from customer to customer. The E6520 is not the most portable notebook, but the Core i7 processor and 1080P HD display combine to deliver a mobile powerhouse that will be worth the tradeoff in portability to certain users. For a smaller, more affordable option, the Dell Latitude E5420 is a less rugged option.

Dell Latitude E6520 Hands On Video

Build and Design

The E6520 has a collection of features which add to the overall durability of the notebook. From a Tri-Metal casing and a powder coated base to the anodized aluminum display case and 360 degree LCD bumper the E6520 is prepared to handle the road life of business users. The notebook isn’t the sexiest business kit out there, but it does offer some sleek curves and an orange accent to class things up a bit more than your typical black box business notebook.

Dell Latitude E6520 Right Hinge

Solid hinges add to the build quality of the E6520.

One of our favorite things about the notebook is the build quality. The metal hinges deliver sturdy display placement and the entire body feels very solid. Even the center of the keyboard is stiff enough to withstand heavy typing and pressure without buckling. The entire case had a similar solid feel to it.

Features

MIL-STD 810G Rated – The business ready E6520 is MIL-SPEC 810G rated for temperature, vibration, dust and high altitudes.

Quick Access Door – IT managers will enjoy the easy to access internals which are easily accessible through one large panel on the base of the notebook.

Latitude E Family Compatibility – Another plus for IT Managers is the ability to use the same batteries, docks and chargers across the entire Latitude E Family of notebooks.

Display

While reviewing the E6520 we had the good fortunate to enjoy some wonderful weather, which allowed us to see how the 15.6″ anti-glare display handled the outdoors. Much to our enjoyment, we were able to spend an afternoon working outside a local coffee shop without losing site of our work.

While the display isn’t one we would pick to use outside everyday it is certainly up for the occasional outdoor work session and the harsh overhead lights of many offices. The display also opens to 180 degrees, which allows you to find a good angle to work from.

Dell Latitude E6520 Display

The 15.6" 1080P anti-glare display is gorgeous.

Another standout option on the E6520 review unit we have in for testing is the 1080P HD display. We could care less about watching a movie in 1080P on this 15.6″ screen, but absolutely love the extra space to compare documents side by side without losing half the document.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the Latitude E6520 isn’t the chiclet or island style which is becoming more common on business notebooks, but rather a hybrid style which has a dropoff along the edges. Combined with the curved keyface, the keyboard is nice, though we typed slightly slower than on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 keyboard.

Dell Latitude E6520 keyboard

The hybrid style keys allow for decent typing speeds.

Thanks to the larger notebook body we are able to gain a dedicated number pad and a fully backlit keyboard with four levels of backlighting to accommodate many work environments. Though we couldn’t test this option, the keyboard is also spill resistant, which is a musty have for business travelers who will often have a coffee or soda near the notebook.

Latitude E6520 Mousepad

A small mousepad is flanked by good buttons.

The mousepad on the E6520 is quite responsive and supports two finger gestures for scrolling and customizable multi-finger gestures, but it is ultimately small for a 15 notebook. The primary limitation in size is the inclusion of a pointerstick and accompanying three mouse buttons. The pointerstick offer precise pointing, but it is too flush to the keys for our tastes. Even with these limitations you can get the cursor across the high resolution display pretty quickly.

Processor and Performance

Over the course of our review we made the Latitude E6520 our primary machine, working in Excel and Word while using multiple browser instances and miscellaneous utilities like many business users would. During our testing the Core i7 processor and integrated graphics delivered enough power to keep us at work. Unlike some other notebooks we were able to continue working without a slowdown when we attached two 1080P 23″ monitors to the E6520.

The integrated graphics proved capable enough while using Windows Live Movie Maker, but professional creatives will want to upgrade to one of the higher end NVIDIA graphics option. When it comes down to it, the Core i7 processor on our review unit had more than enough power, even dealing with heavy flash content in multiple windows without slowing down.

Multimedia, Audio and Gaming

While this is primarily a business notebook, it will handle on the road entertainment rather well. The notebook can display 1080P content without stuttering if you want to watch a downloaded movie. We tested out the notebook with a variety of online streaming video services including Hulu and Netflix during our month with the notebook and never had an issue.

If you want to listen to music, the built in speakers will suffice on the road, but you’ll definitely want a good pair of external speakers when you get back to your office. The volume maxes out far to early and the sound was quite muddy in the mid-range; bass was nowhere to be found.

You can get by with some casual gaming, thanks to Intel’s improved integrated graphics. We could play Portal 2 with playable frame rates, but true to the business roots this is not a gaming machine.

Heat and Noise

The E6520 runs fairly quiet even under a heavy load. After playing a Hulu video for 20 minutes the palmrest did not get noticeably warm, nor did the base of the unit. While the fan was running during much of our use it was not loud enough to distract form what we were working on our to interfere with music or movies.

Battery Life

Dell Latitude E6520 battery

The 9-cell battery delivers all day battery life.

There are numerous battery options for the Latitude E6520 and Latitude E family of notebooks which meet the needs of various users. Our review unit came with the 9 cell 97 Whr battery, which has what it takes to last all day long. Using the Laptop Mag battery testing tool we were able to achieve 7 hours and 58 minutes of battery life with the screen at 40% while the notebook underwent a simulated surfing test.

To test the battery we chose the standard Dell power saver battery option which tweaks the power use to deliver longer battery life. This includes switching to the Windows basic theme and turning off power to un-needed ports and peripherals. All of these tweaks can be enabled by choosing this built in power plan.

Connectivity

As a business notebook we expect a number of connectivity options not found in consumer notebooks and the E6520 delivers in most areas. Notably, there is no fingerprint reader on our model.

Dell Latitude E6520 ports

Right Side: ExpressCard, WiFi Switch, DVD Drive, Firewire, USB, USB eSATA combo, HDMI,

E6520 ports

Left Side: VGA, USB 2.0, Vent, SmartCard

Dell Latitude E6520 Back

Back Side: USB 2.0, Power, Kensington Slot, Ethernet

Dell Latitude E6520 Front

Front Side: Latch, SD card slot

Webcam

The low light webcam on the E6520 performed well, though our recipients did report some grainy-ness while chatting in a dimly lit area. When we moved to a brighter location image quality improved. The webcam is capable of recording in 1080P, and when you are able to find the right balance of light and bandwidth you will enjoy good video quality.

Dell Latitude E6520 webcam

The webcam performs admirably, though gets grainy in low light.

The Digital Array microphone provided decent sounding audio for a quick chat, though the caller could tell that we were on a speakerphone rather than a standard mic. Unlike the advanced audio controls found on the new Lenovo notebooks, we could not limit the listening to personal mode if we wanted to tune out those nearby.

Software & Warranty

Like many business notebooks, the Latitude E6520 will arrive with a basic Windows 7 installation, so that IT managers can load up their preferred software tools and packages without the need to remove crapware.

The notebook shipped with a standard array of Windows Live tools, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter and various Dell tools for mouse and webcam settings as well as a backup program. Overall a very clean system, which allowed us to get right to work.

When it comes to business notebooks, the cost of a warranty is often built into the purchase price. The E6520 comes with various warranty configurations that last as long as 5 years. Most businesses will opt for a 3 year option with next business day on site service to ensure a smooth return to service if the notebook fails.

Value

The E6520 is a pricey notebook as configured, but given all of the included features it lives up to the price tag. The notebook delivers enough power to handle most office tasks, long battery life and a plethora of affordable warranty options to help businesses stretch this purchase out over a number of years.

Dell Latitude E6520 Profile

Conclusion

Despite a smaller than desired mousepad and the decision to stick with a hybrid style keyboard it is hard to find things we would change on the Latitude E6520. It is great to see a 1080P anti-glare display available as a $130 upgrade for users who need loads of screen real estate while working on the go. While not as sexy as the ThinkPad X1 or as affordable as the Latitude E5420, the E6520 delivers in all the ways a business class notebook should.

Pros:

  • Incredibly Sturdy and MIL-SPEC Rated
  • Beautiful and Affordable 1080P Anti-glare Display
  • IT Friendly Access and Compatibility

Cons:

  • Small MousePad and Recessed Pointerstick
  • Low Speaker Volume

Notebook Gallery

Latitude E6520 Detailed Specs

Latitude E6520 Latitude E6520
Operating Systems Genuine Windows® 7 Professional, No Media, 64-bit, English
Processor Intel® Core™ i7-2620M (2.70GHz, 4M cache) with Turbo BoostTechnology 2.0
Memory 4.0GB, DDR3-1333MHz SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
Internal Keyboard Internal English Backlit Dual Pointing Keyboard, Numpad
Graphics Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Primary Storage 320GB 7200rpm Hard Drive
Fingerprint and Contactless Smartcard Reader No Fingerprint Reader and No Contactless Smartcard Reader
LCDs 15.6″ UltraSharp™ FHD(1920×1080) Wide View Anti-Glare LED-backlit with Premium Panel Guarantee
Modem No Modem
AC Adapter 90W A/C Adapter (3-pin)
Primary Optical Device 8X DVD with Cyberlink Power DVD™, no media
Camera / Microphone Light Sensitive Webcam and Noise Cancelling Digital Array Mic
Wireless LAN (802.11) Intel® Centrino® Ultimate-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n Half Mini Card
Systems Management Intel vPro™ Technology’s Advanced Management Features
Productivity Software Microsoft Office Starter: reduced-functionality Word and Excel with ads. No PowerPoint or Outlook
Primary Battery 9-cell (97WH) Primary Lithium Ion Battery
Support Services 3 Year Basic Hardware Service with 3 Year NBD Limited Onsite Service After Remote Diagnosis
Installation Services No Onsite System Setup
Energy Star/E-PEAT Gold Energy Star 5.0 Enabled / EPEAT Gold
System Recovery Dell Back-up and Recovery Manager for Windows 7, SP1, Multiple Language

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

7 Comments

  1. akku dell

    July 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I was considering to change another laptop, because it was too heavy, hardware bad. But mainly because the battery power too fast. Thanks to share, you give me a good choice

  2. toshiba akku

    September 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Dell Back-up and Recovery Manager for Windows 7, SP1, Multiple Language

  3. Lien

    October 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    What is the weight of this laptop Latitude E6520?
    I can use an external wireless mouse, right?
    Does the keyboard have a rubbery feel?
    Are there any discounts if purchase right away?

  4. Tanel

    October 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I have had both E6420 and E6520 (replacement to my “oldie” D630).
    Based on my job I need very often an extended workspace while being mobile. E6420 felt kind of small, but at the same time when the extended workspace wasn’t that much needed, it was handy as being compact and lightweight.
    But as I said that in my case extended workspace is needed and E6520 with 15.6in 1920×1080 tempted me a lot. So I decided to test it out in a shop as I got a possibility to change my month old E6420.
    For now I have owned E6520 for about 5 month and more than satisfied with it. I have extended
    9 cell 97WHR battery and just placed it for the first time onto digital weight measurer. It weighs 2998g. For me carrying it around is no problem. I’ll do that every day.
    My choice might not be a choice for you, so touch them both, carry them around the shop, think about the activity with laptop and then try to decide what fits you the most!

  5. jlserkes

    October 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    please indicate the weight. I am a lady road warrior and weight, not mine, is important in schleping this around.

  6. Michael Nutting

    February 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Iam at present using a E6500 series which until now has performed well, however, now issues have started and will be resolved, other than that Dells range of E series laptops for business i would recommend to all, they are rugged, and stand up to the daily movement that the business world puts on them very well, i travel frequently every two months on average and sometimes more with until now only one issue so yes Dell keep them comming they are a good and reliable piece of kit.

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