Upgrading from a Dell Latitude E6430 to an E5450

Dell Latitude E5450 vs E6430

Dell Lati­tu­de E5450 vs E6430

My Dell Lati­tu­de E6430 has a gre­at per­for­mance, has enough room for an extra SSD, has never let me down during the last two years and came as a refur­bis­hed, 1yr-old lap­top from a dea­ler in the UK. It also shares the same bir­th­day (date) with me and is just a very, very solid work­hor­se. The key­board is gre­at, it has extra keys for volu­me con­trol, the touch­pad does sup­port two-fin­ger scrolls, it has a very dura­ble frame and to clean the vent, I just need to remo­ve 5 screws. Even it’s bul­ky size and was­te of space (= 14″ lap­top in the body of a 15″ machi­ne) are okay in the end. I don’t care about that extra inch or the weight. I am a tall per­son and small lap­tops look stu­pid on me.

Left: IPS panel; RIght: TN panel

Left: IPS panel; Right: TN panel

Howe­ver, it does­n’t have an IPS screen. And the­re is no way to install any IPS panel on this lap­top, sim­ply as the­re are no IPS panels at 14″ size avail­ab­le for the LVDS cable. It alrea­dy has the best screen tha­t’s avail­ab­le for this lap­top (LED, mat­te, high-reso­lu­ti­on @ 1600x900), but for pic­tu­re edi­t­ing it just does­n’t do it for me. I need an IPS lap­top. THE SCREEN and THE KEYBOARD are the inter­faces bet­ween humans and machi­nes, so they need to be good. CPU per­for­mance? Srs­ly, who cares. But key­board and screen need to be top notch. IPS IPS IPS!!!! 1!11 The lap­top runs on a Dell docking sta­ti­on with an exter­nal Dell U2415 IPS moni­tor most of the time — also due to the lack of an inte­gra­ted IPS panel so far.

The alternatives

The Leno­vo T440s and T450s have both been on my list of desi­red hard­ware, but I ended up buy­ing ano­t­her Dell this time, also becau­se of the build qua­li­ty on the Dell which is just so much bet­ter than on the Leno­vo machi­nes. What I like about the T440s is the even smal­ler size and that it comes with an extra mSa­ta port. The other alter­na­ti­ve would have been a Dell E7440, which I still con­si­der a true suc­ces­sor to my E6430. The suc­ces­sor to my E6430 is the E6440, and may­be later the E7440, but when we look at lif­ef­y­cles and how hard­ware is usual­ly exch­an­ged after three years, the direct switch from an E6430 to E7440 or even E7450 seems plau­si­ble. Alas, most second hand Dell E7440 on the Ger­man mar­ket only have a simp­le, low reso­lu­ti­on screen and are still too expensive.

Dell Latitude E5450 vs E6430

The key­board on the E5450 is smal­ler, touch­pad is bigger.

The decision

A dea­ler in the US found some spe­cial out­let deals for the E5450 (with and without Nvi­dia GFX) the other day, so I ended up buy­ing a 2015 Dell Lati­tu­de E5450 from him which is just as expec­ted: 1920x1080 IPS, i5-5300U CPU @ 2.30GHz, 1x 8 GB RAM, Intel GFX. So basi­cal­ly just what I wan­ted: a Dell E5450 or E7440/7450 for a rela­tively low pri­ce, with the IPS panel and no Nvi­dia gra­phics card (becau­se Linux.) And it was cheap — like real­ly cheap. Below 400 USD (plus S&H + cus­toms char­ges of cour­se, but still). It has an IPS panel (LG LP140WF3 on mine — which is also on the Leno­vo T450s) and it reminds me of modern cars: lots of plastic and just the right amount of ever­ything to get the job done.

The E5450 is obviously smaller than the E6430.

The E5450 is obvious­ly smal­ler than the E6430.

It may be a bit unfair to com­pa­re an E64xx seri­es lap­top with an E54xx one. The E64xx is just very dura­ble and reminds me of older Volks­wa­gen. It will last fore­ver but also comes with no extras. The E54xx is like a Ford: com­pu­ting power and a sexy body, but ever­ything is plastic. You get what you pay for. Having seen che­a­per con­su­mer Dell lap­tops that sell for as low as 260 EUR on the local Dell out­let, even plastic comes in dif­fe­rent qua­li­ties, and the one on this E5450 is excel­lent. For instance, I belie­ve that the screen bezel on the E5450 is the same as the one found on the E7450. And con­tra­ry to this review, the dis­play back on my E5450 is pure plastic — not magne­si­um alloy. I know this becau­se the first thing I did on mine was to remo­ve the dis­play bezel to eli­mi­na­te any light blee­ding in the cor­ners (edit: I am not real­ly sure about this magne­si­um alloy dis­play back cover. It loo­ks very much like plastic on the insi­de, so my guess is that it is a magne­si­um alloy with a rub­ber coa­ting out­side and a plastic lay­er insi­de. Dell con­firms that not all E5450 come with a magne­si­um alloy dis­play cover, some maga­zi­nes just quo­te that it is only avail­ab­le on touch­screen models.). Now, light blee­ding is — imo — often cau­sed by wrong ten­si­on wit­hin the frame. Remo­ving the dis­play bezel may help to iden­ti­fy the cau­se of this phe­no­me­non. Pro­bab­ly also a rea­son why the machi­ne was sold as a refur­bis­hed item.

The disadvantages

Many reviews online often only men­ti­on the posi­ti­ve rea­sons why pro­duct A is so much bet­ter than B. The inte­res­ting reviews are tho­se that men­ti­on any dis­ad­van­ta­ges or draw­backs. And this E5450 has qui­te a few. I have been awa­re of the­se pri­or to my buy­ing decisi­on and would still like to men­ti­on them here:

Intel gfx on the E5450 with a smaller heatpipe vs Nvidia Gfx on the E6430. Note the accessible vent on both laptops.

Intel gfx on the E5450 with a smal­ler heat­pipe vs Nvi­dia Gfx on the E6430. Note the acces­si­ble vent on both laptops.

The plastic body. If you are used to a metal frame on your lap­top (E62xx, E63xx, E64xx, E65xx), the plastic covers are a bit irri­ta­ting. It’s not as bad as on a cheap con­su­mer lap­top, but it could be a bit bet­ter. Espe­cial­ly sin­ce the­se lap­tops were made for the busi­ness world. Even the feet are plastic with a rub­ber coating.

Rubber or rubberized feet?

Rub­ber or rub­be­ri­zed feet?

USB ports in the back. Two of three USB ports are in the back, which is okayish, BUT they get deac­ti­va­ted when you insert the lap­top on a docking sta­ti­on. The­re is no way to chan­ge this. Mea­ning: anything you’d like to run via USB needs to be con­nec­ted via an exter­nal USB hub. Becau­se the­re’s just one USB port at the right side (that alrea­dy hand­les a 64GB USB 3.0 key on mine). Who designs some­thing like that??

The gap bet­ween the lap­top and the docking sta­ti­on. The­re is a subred­dit on this topic and while it is nice that you can reu­se most docks even for this genera­ti­on of lap­tops, the gap is ridi­cu­lous. You can buy a spa­cer from Dell which cos­ts extra, or print one — but still: the spa­cer is just a pie­ce of plastic (again!) that is sup­po­sed to ease the inser­ting pro­cess. And while we have this gap becau­se the dock con­nec­tor is loca­ted at the edge of the frame, it also means that the­re’s enough room for USB gad­gets to be atta­ched while the lap­top is docked. So the­re’s enough space for USB gad­gets. Why deac­ti­va­te them? Why could­n’t this be part of any BIOS settings?

Docking port positions

Docking port positions

For­tu­n­a­te­ly, I also upgraded my USB 2.0 docking sta­ti­on to one with USB 3.0. They also look the same, the ones with USB 3.0 have blue USB ports. I won­der why Dell never issued dif­fe­rent part num­bers for the USB 3.0 docks when they are alrea­dy good at issuing part num­bers to every sin­gle ite­ra­ti­on of items in the Dell uni­ver­se. Again, confusing.

A rough touch­pad. The mul­ti­touch-capa­ble touch­pad is a bit rough. Other lap­tops have smoot­her sur­faces. Why is that so? Only Dell knows. It’s a very nice touch­pad though, which also app­lies to the mar­ve­lous key­board. The key­board is a joy to type on!

Keyboard and touchpad sizes on both laptops.

Key­board and touch­pad sizes on both laptops.

No dedi­ca­ted volu­me keys, ins­tead you have to press a Func­tion (Fn) key and F1-F3 to set the volu­me. I know this was avail­ab­le on the E7440 and it would be a nice rea­son to switch to an older E7440 one day (when they are cheaper).

Awk­ward posi­tio­ning of the SD-card rea­der. The card rea­der is almost at the bot­tom of the frame, so inser­ting SD-cards is a bit tricky.

The SD-card reader on the E5450.

The SD-card rea­der on the E5450.

One year of war­ran­ty. Which pro­bab­ly says a lot about the­se lap­tops. I expect to see some more on eBay soon.

Sea­led bat­te­ry: you will need to remo­ve a few screws to unplug the bat­te­ry from the main­board. Is this a real issue? The BIOS has some extra set­tings on how the bat­te­ry may be char­ged, fol­lowing a usa­ge pat­tern. I like that. The thing is that the E6430 is a bit wob­b­ly when inser­ted on a docking sta­ti­on without a bat­te­ry. So when I took this to a forum some­whe­re, ppl replied and asked why I would remo­ve the bat­te­ry in the first place. It then occu­red to me that I should just lea­ve it insi­de as it will not over­char­ge and also be avail­ab­le when requi­red. So the bat­te­ry only is an issue on the E5450 when you need to quick­ly remo­ve any power source. This has also never been an issue for me on my iPho­ne and other devices with non-remova­ble bat­te­ries (bes­i­des, I am an EDC-nerd that usual­ly car­ri­es a set of screw­dri­vers for tho­se what-if-situations).

51 Wh Li-Polymer vs. 60 Wh Li-Ion accumulators. 6 vs. 3 h runtime.

51 Wh Li-Poly­mer vs. 60 Wh Li-Ion accu­mu­la­tors. 6 vs. 3 h runtime.

Vent inta­ke. As far as I know, only older Think­Pads had this design whe­re the vent inta­ke is at the side of the body, so that you could use the lap­top on your — yes — laps. It may be a patent issue and the rea­son why ever­yo­ne else only has the vent inta­ke on the bot­tom — which is usual­ly cove­r­ed. For­tu­n­a­te­ly, with the lower Ther­mal Design Power (TDP) of this CPU, the CPU does­n’t real­ly run as hot on this machi­ne. It also is a rea­son why I did­n’t pick a lap­top with a dedi­ca­ted Nvi­dia gra­phics card. The Intel 5500 chip­set is just fine for me.

Vent intake: both through the bottom cover.

Vent inta­ke: both through the bot­tom cover.

Verdict

I am glad that I final­ly got a lap­top with an IPS panel, and I am glad that did­n’t have to spend too much money on it. I would buy it again, espe­cial­ly from that dea­ler in the US. Also with the recent BIOS updates, some issu­es from the past have been resol­ved. I am curious what the suc­ce­sor to the E5450 and E7450 will look like, and what will be improved.
The key­board is alrea­dy per­fect, the touch­pad has the right size, the keys on the key­board are per­fect. May­be an extra mSA­TA port insi­de (like on the T440s)? Or dedi­ca­ted volu­me keys?

I used to be a user of HP pro­ducts, but the purcha­se of an older CCFL 2209WA 22″ IPS panel some years ago intro­du­ced me to the world of Dell, and I have to admit that I am sort of a fan­boy the­se days. My cur­rent set­up is this E5450 on a 24″ Dell U2415, and I could­n’t be hap­pier about it. Ever­ything is refur­bis­hed hard­ware, and still gre­at. (~ the down­si­des of free­lan­cing = you are your own IT depart­ment. And the rest buys Apple products…).

Tal­king about Apple pro­ducts, this E5450 great­ly reminds me of 13.3″ Mac­Books, and I would bet that they are also tar­ge­ted at tho­se users who have a Lati­tu­de lap­top in the office and a Mac­Book at home. As I am typ­ing this on the new lap­top with redu­ced dis­play bright­ness and in power saving mode: 6:37 hours or 87% bat­te­ry power are still remai­ning. Not that bad when I com­pa­re this with my E6430 which also had 4‑cell bat­te­ries and an even hig­her wat­ta­ge — but with a TDP of 35W (TDP 15 on the E5450) and a maxi­mum bat­te­ry run­ti­me of about 3hrs. I will still need to get my hands on an ori­gi­nal Dell power sup­ply, a small 65W one, as my refur­bis­hed Dell only came with a dumb OEM one that does­n’t even have an illu­mi­na­ted cable.

The chiclet design of the keyboard is great. That missing piece of plastic on the keyboard trim is what happens when you don't want to invest a further 30 EUR (!) on a EU-centric keyboard trim.

The chi­clet design of the key­board is gre­at. That mis­sing pie­ce of plastic on the key­board trim is what hap­pens when you don’t want to invest a fur­ther 30 EUR (!) on a EU-centric key­board trim.

So is this E5450 any good? Yes, very. With a very simi­lar E7450 as a direct com­pe­ti­tor, I guess that the dri­ving for­ce for the suc­cess of the E5450 will be the pri­ce. Pro­bab­ly very simi­lar to pre­vious Dell Lati­tu­des from the E5xxx seri­es: they are che­a­per and you feel it, but also won’t let you down on per­for­mance and also get the job done. And now with the latest ite­ra­ti­on whe­re the E5450 real­ly resem­bles the E7450 (con­tra­ry to the E7440 vs. the E5440), deci­ding bet­ween the E5450 and the E7450 may be the har­dest part.

Kwa­he­ri E6430, Kari­bu E5450!

5 comments » Write a comment