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Here at Techaeris, we usually get business, consumer, and gaming oriented desktops to review. The majority of those are fairly slim and sleek and meant for indoor or portable use. Our Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged review takes a look at a durable, rugged laptop for use in harsh and demanding environments. Last year we reviewed Dell’s Rugged tablet, read on to see how this customizable rugged laptop stands up.

Specifications

The Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged laptop sent to us has the following features and specifications (configurable when ordering):

  • Intel Core i3-7130U CPU @ 2.70GHz (up to 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-8650U Processor (Quad Core, 8M Cache, 1.9GHz,15W, vPro) available)
  • 14″ FHD WVA (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare Non-Touch (Anti-Glare Non-Touch, Outdoor-Readable Screen and Embedded Touch, Outdoor-Readable Screen available)
  • M.2 128GB PCIe NVMe Class 35 Solid State Drive (up to M.2 1TB PCIe NVMe Class 40 Opal 2.0 Self Encrypting Solid State Drive available)
  • 8GB, 2x4GB, 2400MHz DDR4 Non-ECC (up to 32GB available)
  • Qualcomm® QCA61x4A 802.11ac Dual Band (2×2) Wireless Adapter+ Bluetooth 4.2 (Intel® Dual Band Wireless AC 8265 (802.11ac) 2×2 with or without BT 4.2 available)
  • Sealed Internal RGB Backlit English Keyboard (non-backlit and rubberized backlit keyboards available)
  • Ports: 3x USB-A, USB Type-C, SD card slot, SIM card slot, HDMI, Serial port, RJ-45 Ethernet, stylus port (stylus optional), 3.5mm audio
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X20 LTE (DW5821e) for Windows 10 available (not included on our review unit)
  • Touch FIPS 201 Fingerprint Reader, FIPS 201 Contacted Smart Card, Contactless Smart Card, NFC (not included on our review unit)
  • 3 Cell 51Whr ExpressCharge Capable Battery (2nd 3 Cell 51Whr ExpressCharge Capable Battery available)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 32.88 x 347 x 244.5 mm (excludes bumpers and handle)
  • Weight: Starting at 2.22kg with a single 3 cell battery and no handle

What’s in the box

  • Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged laptop
  • 90W Rugged AC Adapter, 7.4mm Elbow Barrel
  • Regulatory information

Design

While most users are used to sleek and slim laptop designs, the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged is anything but. When closed, it looks akin to a small briefcase with its optional handle and reinforced corners. Each of the eight corners is cut at an angle and is reinforced with a rubber bumper.

The entire unit itself is rather light and is constructed of lightweight, yet sturdy feeling, plastic. On the front of the laptop is where you’ll find the aforementioned handle. Also rubberized, it has a grippy surface under the handle. Under the handle is a clasp which, when the bottom is pressed, releases the lid/display, allowing you to open it. To the left of the clasp is the speaker grille while the hard drive activity light is to the right.

Ports

Along the left side of the laptop, you’ll find two covered port compartments. All the ports on the Latitude 5420 Rugged are covered with a door. The door must be unclasped with a lever in the middle of the compartment to expose the ports. Under the left side compartments, you’ll find the 3.5mm audio and two USB-A ports, one always on, near the front. The back port compartment houses the USB Type-C port with a DisplayPort icon printed on the cover.

Along the right side of the laptop, you’ll also find two covered compartments. The first, located near the middle, houses the removable M.2 NVMe SSD drive. This allows for easy swapping of the hard drive for various reasons — whether it be different user drives, configurations, or for easy upgrades. The second compartment contains the SD card slot, a SIM card slot (if the laptop is LTE equipped), a third USB-A port, and a slot for the optional stylus.

Dell-Latitude-5420-Rugged-review-12
The uncovered ports (including the NVMe SSD slot) on the left side of the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged.

One more compartment sits across the back. This houses the serial port, RJ-45 Ethernet jack, and HDMI port. These ports can be configured during purchase. For example, you could get a second serial port instead of the HDMI port. To the right of these ports, when looking at the back of the laptop, is the lock slot and the power adapter port on the far right. The power port, interestingly enough, is the only port not covered on the laptop.

The underside

Flipping the laptop over, you’ll notice a couple of interesting things as well. First, there are two fairly large compartments near the front of the bottom of the laptop. These house the batteries. In our review unit, one had a battery in it while the other was just a cover. You can easily add another battery during configuration. This setup allows users to carry extra batteries with them and hot swap dead batteries for longer battery life. In the middle near the top of the laptop is an array of pins for use with the optional Rugged Dock.

Display and keyboard

Opening up the laptop, the palm rest, display frame, and keyboard look just as rugged. The sealed RGB backlit keyboard presumably keeps dust and liquid from the laptop internals. Typing was pretty average and responsive, so no complaints there. The keyboard has four brightness settings, plus an off setting. There are six screws in various places around the keyboard for easy removal and replacement. To the upper right of the keyboard is the power button with an LED strip in it to indicate power.

Below the keyboard is the touchpad with two physical buttons. The touchpad works well and has a textured plastic surface as opposed to the smooth surface of other laptops. The buttons work as expected for left and right mouse button click actions.

Dell-Latitude-5420-Rugged-review-18
The keyboard and trackpad on the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged.

On either side of the touchpad buttons are two fairly deep hollowed out oval shaped holes. Two shallower oval holes centred on the touchpad are on the far left and right side. When looking at the display, there are four nubs which correspond to these holes. When the lid is closed, these nubs sit in the holes and help keep the lid in place. This presumably prevents twisting should you happen to drop your laptop.

Centred between the top two nubs is the webcam, which includes a privacy shade slider. The 14″ FHD display is framed with 3/4-inch bezels on the sides and larger 1 1/4-inch bezels on the top and bottom. The Dell logo is centred and debossed into the plastic frame under the display.

Drop tested

Speaking of dropping, the Latitude 5420 Rugged is drop tested from 3 feet for impact resistance. Just looking at the design and feel of the laptop, it definitely looks like it could handle a three-foot drop easily. It is also certified for IP-52 ingress protection, making it ideal for various temperature and environmental extremes.

Overall, the Latitude 5420 Rugged definitely exudes ruggedness. Its design and the materials used definitely feel rugged and invoke confidence in its durability.

Display

Unfortunately, our review unit came with the 14″ FHD WVA (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare Non-Touch screen. Fortunately, there are Anti-Glare Non-Touch, Outdoor-Readable and Embedded Touch, Outdoor-Readable Screen options available. Our review unit was hit and miss when trying to use it outdoors and highly depended on the lighting conditions. It fared o.k. when overcast and in the shade. In brighter conditions, there was a bit of glare off of things like my white t-shirt which made it hard to see the screen even at full brightness.

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The regular display screen outside on the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged.

Outdoor use aside, the FHD screen is definitely clear and crisp and easily visible from wide viewing angles indoors. Colour representation seemed decent enough as well.

Software

While there’s not too much to say here given the Latitude 5420 Rugged ships with the 64-bit version of Windows 10, there wasn’t much more installed outside of the usual Windows 10 bloatware. As with our review unit, you can order it without an anti-virus so you don’t have to worry about McAfee or other options slowing down your system.

As far as Dell-installed software is concerned, the 5420 Rugged comes with Dell Command | Update, Dell Digital Delivery, Dell Free Fall Data Protection, and Dell Power Manager — all useful apps in their own right.

Dell also offers up a business suite of software like ProDeploy Client Suite, ProSupport, and ProSupport Plus, are available for IT administrators for easier deployment and end-user support. As well, additional security options are available for off-site use to further protect user and company data.

Performance

Our review unit shipped with the Intel Core i3-7130U CPU and 8GB of RAM with a 128GB NVMe SSD. Thinking business use, we used this for web browsing, document editing, and other Office 365 related apps. We also threw some Lightroom and light Adobe Photoshop editing through the system as well and in each case, the system performed decently. Of course, depending on your usage needs, the 5420 Rugged can be configured with up to 8th-Gen i7 processors, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 1TB Opal 2.0 self-encrypting NVMe SSD drives.

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The removable NVMe SSD on the left side of the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged.

The Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged also uses QuadCool thermal management for use in hotter temperatures. While we didn’t test warmer temperatures (it is only spring here after all), we did stick it in the freezer for a few hours to simulate cold use. After removing it from the freezer, it fired up pretty much as one would expect in room temperature conditions. For the short time the computer was colder, it ran fine and we had no issues with it.

Sound Quality

For only having a single front firing speaker, I didn’t expect much in the sound quality department. While there isn’t much bass, if any, the speaker does put out quite the volume and is crisp and clear, even at full volume. While I wouldn’t plan on watching movies with it, it does do just find in a pinch or for video conferencing or other business audio needs.

Camera

During our test video call, the webcam works well enough and the other party mentioned we looked pretty decent in clarity and colour. As well, the onboard microphone picked us up easily enough for the other party to hear us without having to speak too loudly.

Battery Life

Our review unit only came with a single 3 Cell 51Whr ExpressCharge Capable Battery. The laptop does have two battery slots and you can purchase an additional battery while ordering for longer battery life.

Dell-Latitude-5420-Rugged-review-09
The battery compartments on the bottom of the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged.

On that note, during testing at 100% brightness (as we tested this outside most of the time) and the keyboard backlight off with power settings set to better performance, we managed to get between 6 and 7 hours consistently. As mentioned in our Performance section, we stuck to business related tasks like Office 365 apps, document editing, internet browsing, basic photo editing, and the occasional video streaming from YouTube.

Protection

While we covered this a bit in the Design section above, the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged is military-grade MIL-STD 810G tested and comes with an IP-52 ingress protection rating. With its three-foot drop protection as well, the 5420 Rugged’s corner bumpers offer up additional protection. While we didn’t toss this laptop around during testing, we’re confident that it’ll survive your average accidental drops and bumps while used outdoors or in non-office type environments.

Price/Value

Starting at US$2001.57/CA$$2,610.92, the Dell Latitde 5420 Rugged isn’t exactly cheap based on the internals. All in, you can easily be up to over US$6000/CA$9000 depending on configuration. That being said, this isn’t something most people would be buying for personal use and depending on the business environment would be well worth the purchase just for the ruggedness of the laptop.

On that note, at the time of this review, the Latitude 5420 Rugged is currently 35% off on Dell’s U.S. site (sorry Canada) so if your business is contemplating rugged laptops, now’s the time to jump in.

Wrap-up

The Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged isn’t for everyone, of course. With its rugged design and extra optional security features, this rugged laptop definitely has its uses for businesses that operate in non-office settings. Sturdily built and highly customizable when ordered, the Latitude 5420 Rugged is an excellent choice for working in harsher environments.

*We were sent a review unit of the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged laptop for the purposes of this review.

Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged

US$2001.57+/ CA$2,610.92

Nailed it

  • Very rugged design
  • Various customizable options
  • Decent performance as tested
  • Easily swappable NVMe SSD
  • Dual removable batteries
  • Decent battery life
  • Additional software/hardware security options
  • Crisp, clear, relatively loud sound

Needs work

  • Base display not great outside
  • More expensive than comparable non-rugged laptops



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