A visual comparison between three 14″ business laptops that may be of interest to some of you. My Dell Latitude E5450, my Dell Latitude E7440 and an HP Elitebook 840 G1. These are the sort of laptops that are about two to three years old and are sold as used items on eBay. I received the E5450 as a new item though, otherwise it would probably be in a worse shape as the body is not as strong as the one on the e7440.
Also, this comparison is a bit unfair, as it should rather be the E5440 instead of the E5450 – but I don’t like the bulky and plastic E5440, and the prices for second hand items are about the same between these three (300-400 EUR in Germany in May 2017). The E5450 is similar to the E7450, the successor to the E7440. Too many numbers? Yes, they are a bit confusing.
I recently bought the E7440 as a damaged item on eBay USA and I really, really love it already. It works as my 2nd laptop for events, experiments and outdoor activities (I am a radio ham and organize local web meetups) and it substitutes a fully equipped E6220 that has meanwhile become too small for me. After all these years of owning and using 8.9″, 10.1″, 11.6″, 12.1″, 12.5″, 14.0″, 15.4″, and 15.6″ laptops I’ve come to realize that a) 14″ are the perfect laptop size for me and b) that I am a tall person and that I, as a man, don’t carry a purse, so a smaller laptop doesn’t change my travel gear. So for me, 14″ is just right. Which is why this visual comparison is so interesting to me.
Performance wise, there are different configurations of the E5450 available (i.e. 4th and 5th gen. Intel CPUs), there are tests available online, and there are benchmark tests available on Geekbench. The displays also vary: the E7440 came shipped with a partly defective 1366×768 screen, the HP with a 1600×900 (“HD +”) screen, and the Dell E5450 with an IPS panel @ 1920×1080 pixels. As mentioned in previous posts, the IPS panel is a sweet, sexy baby. The screen and the keyboard are the main user interfaces, so they have to be flawless. I’ve already ordered a spare one for the E7440, but I guess it will be 1366×768 this time, because hey, I am getting old and one laptop with a tiny font is enough for me.
As for the E7440: I prefer dedicated keys for the volume control, and the E7440 has those. The E5450 and E7450 (both similar) don’t have them anymore. The only things that I miss on the E7440 and that I had on the E6220 are a) a pc-card slot (for more usb ports) and b) a VGA port which the e5450 even has. I assume that the engineers thought about this and realized that in environments where E5450 are bought instead of E7450 (= cheaper, more plastic on the body), chances are higher that beamers in conference rooms are equipped with VGA. In the end I don’t know which parts are designed in the US and which parts are designed in China. That is, I don’t like the build quality of many current Ultrabooks that so remind me of the early Sony Vaios (i.e. a top cover with an integrated keyboard, and the mainboard and all other parts are screwed against it). The traditional setup used to be a middle frame, a bottom cover and a top cover and on top of that a keyboard. Lenovo started this shit with the T44x series for business laptops, and everyone else seems to have copied this style meanwhile. Oh, ranting about 14″ laptops, what’s that thing with missing e-ports (docking ports) on the current Dell Latitude line-up? Just because Apple reduces important ports to a minimum (“we believe this is better”), you don’t have to follow suit and kick infrastructure that matters to clients.
Anyways. Another reason to swap the E6220 for the E7440 was the overall positive experience with the Dell E5450 – which for the first time made me stick to one machine with great happiness. You know, this typical millenial Tinder syndrome where partners don’t last long? Well, the E5450 made me say “I will”, and the only imaginable alternative to the E5450 at the time of this writing would be an E7450. Yes, it’s that good (and I’ve already crashed the SD-card reader on my E5450 :-).
So, yes: I’d recommend these two Dells over the HP 840 G1. Being used to the marvelous build quality of an HP 8470p, the 840 G1 really disappoints. The quality of a laptop shows after a few years of use, and when it comes to this side, the Dells are better. Funny thing is: the linked tests on Notebookcheck rate the HP higher at 87%, while the Dell just score 82 and 85%. Rule of thumb, imo: anything above 80% is ok and depends on particular configurations. My criteria for a good laptop are the build quality, the user interfaces (touchpad, keyboard, screen), the thermal design and overall handling / location of ports (note: all ports at the back of all Dell Latitudes starting from the E72x/E74x and E52x/E54x series are deactivated when the laptop is inserted into a docking station).
14″ are the perfect size in a laptop, and we had to wait for quite a few years to finally enjoy decent 14″ IPS LCD – when IPS was already available for 12.5″ and 15.x” sizes. Was there any IPS option for this older HP? Or only after-market (DIY) alternatives?
Going by the number of ports, the HP clearly is a winner over these two Dells, and also it doesn’t limit their usage while connected to a docking station (also as it has the docking port on the side). Now, I’ve seen a few 840 G1 were the labeling around the ports had come off – which is not that common with these Dells. Build quality wise, the 840 G1 is a disapointment on the outside. The inside and that bottom cover are good and very serviceable (unfortunately, the seller sealed the bottom cover on this one, so we’ll just have to trust the notebookcheck review). I just wish these used HP laptops would look the same as the used Dells. And the 8470p is a reminder that HP once got it more than right (the 8460p and 8470p are beasts and you could probably kill someone with your laptop). Also that limited opening angle on the 840 G1 isn’t too smart.
I had initially bought the 840 G1 for my niece, but now it has been returned and exchanged for another E7440. Both laptops still are the better option compared to new 350 EUR consumer laptops with limited CPUs and (too) flexible keyboards, so for all of you out there who are wondering if they should buy a used Dell or a used HP: 14″ HP up to 8470p, else a Dell.