11 hours of battery life. Two USB-C ports. Travel Keyboard cover and Active Pen included in tested configuration.
Pricey. Heavier than rivals. Not as stable in lap as a clamshell.
- Bottom Line
The Dell Latitude 5285 is a capable business-focused 2-in-1 Windows tablet with Core i7-processor power enough battery life to last well into overtime. It could easily replace your work laptop.
The business-focused Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 (Starts at $899; $1,895.98 as tested) is a detachable-hybrid tablet with a 12.3-inch screen, a kickstand, and a removable keyboard cover. If that sounds familiar, that's because it takes its styling cues from the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, one of our top picks for 2-in-1 convertibles. As tested, the Latitude 5285 is pricey but loaded, with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Core i7 processor. It's a good choice if you like the portability and aesthetics of the Surface Pro, but need to stay with an IT-approved platform.
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A Familiar Look
The Surface Pro and the Latitude 5285 stack on top of one another almost perfectly with virtually no overhang. The Latitude measures 8.2 by 11.5 by 0.38 inches (HWD), very close to the Surface Pro 4's dimensions (7.93 by 11.5 by 0.33). Black and charcoal grey with brushed metal accents, the Latitude contrasts with the Surface Pro's silver exterior, but its easy to confuse the two at first glance.
The tablet weighs 1.96 pounds alone, 2.71 pounds with the keyboard case, and 2.75 pounds with the keyboard and Active Pen. That makes it about a quarter pound heavier than the Surface Pro 4 (1.73 pounds alone). That's not bad compared with traditional notebooks with a clamshell form factor like the Microsoft Surface Book (3.63 pounds), but it's noticeably heavier than the svelte 1.41-pound Huawei MateBook, even when you include the latter's keyboard and case (2.53 pounds). It'll slide right into your messenger bag, and is totable enough to bring on a vacation.
This well-equipped version comes with the Travel Keyboard cover and the Active Pen, though the base model lacks both. The HP Elite x2 G1 (1012) and the HP Spectre x2 come with keyboard covers (but no pens), while the Surface Pro comes with a Surface Pen, but no keyboard. Keyboard covers let you use these detachable-hybrid tablets as laptop replacements, though they work best on a coffee table or desk. When used in your lap, it's a little less comfortable, as the kickstand digs into your thighs, just above the knees. The chiclet-style keys are backlit, feel comfortable to type on, and have a full key stroke; like those on the Surface Pro's Type Cover. The HP Elite x2 and Spectre x2 feel sturdier, though we had no problem typing on any of these models.
The flat metal kickstand looks and operates just like the one on the Surface Pro 4, though with a black-brushed-metal finish instead of matte silver. It is spring-loaded, so it's quicker to deploy than the Surface Pro's. The stand is not as flashy as the chrome-plated, U-shaped stand on the HP Elite x2, but as on all of these tablets, it lets you tilt the screen from almost fully reclined to fully upright.
Bright Screen, Loud Speakers
The 12.3-inch Full HD (1,920-by-1,280 resolution) display has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which matches the panel on the HP Elite x2. It clearly displays 1080p HD videos, and there is ample space for multiple windows or browser tabs. Text is smooth and graphics are bright and vibrant. The Surface Pro 4's screen has a higher 2,736-by-1,824 resolution, but you'll have to look really closely to see the difference. The screen is rated at 340 nits, and looks as bright as the screen on the Surface Pro 4, even when viewed outdoors.
The 10-point touch screen responds quickly to inputs, though as on most current tablets, there is an almost imperceptible lag when you draw quickly on the screen with the included Active Pen. The Pen has a rocker switch on its side for customizable functions like right-clicking and erasing errant drawings. A shortcut button on the blunt end of the Pen brings up Windows Ink functions, like on the Surface Pen and HP Pen. It is more convenient than the tethered HP Pen, since it attaches to the side of the tablet with magnets, or you can use the included tether cord. The blunt tip of the Dell Active Pen doesn't function as an eraser, as the Surface Pro's pen does.
The speakers, located on the left and right sides of the tablet, don't exude thumping low end, but low levels could be heard in our two bass test tracks, "Pony" by Ginuwine and "Silent Shout" by the Knife. The speakers are loud enough to fill a medium-size room with music or a streaming movie.
Well Equipped for Work
Connectivity is sparse, but well thought out. All of the connectors are on the left side of the tablet, including a headset jack, a USB 3.0 port, and two USB-C ports. The second USB-C port will come in handy since you'll need to use one for charging the tablet. You can connect displays to the USB-C ports with adapters, or use Dell's WD15 USB-C Dock ($199.99) for displays and USB peripherals, like keyboards and mice, with one cord. An SD card slot behind the kickstand adds up to 2TB of local storage. There's a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera that takes clear photos and 1080p videos, and a front-facing 5MP lens for selfies and web conferences. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 handle wireless connections.
The base model comes with a Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. Our unit has been upgraded to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The extra memory gives you breathing room for creating and reviewing large spreadsheets, viewing raw photos from your DSLR, and otherwise multitasking with dozens of browser tabs open. 256GB is the current sweet spot for SSD storage. It's plenty of space for documents and your Office suite and other programs, though you'll probably crave more for large files if you're a photographer or videographer. The Surface Pro 4 comes with the same amount of storage, but half as much memory. If you need more space, a 1TB SSD ugprade is available for an extra $560.
The tablet has the standard array of corporate security features, with a few novel additions. There are extra Dell utilities installed through Windows 10 Pro. Like other Dell corporate systems, the Latitude 5285 includes TPM2.0, Intel vPro, and can easily interface with your IT department's management systems. The front-facing webcam has an additional IR camera built in that supports Windows Hello for logging into your system with a glance, similar to the Surface Pro 4, and the convertible EliteBook x360. Dell backs the system with a one-year warranty with on-site service after an online diagnostic.
Not Only Svelte, but Speedy Too
An Intel Core i7-7600U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 provides the power to quickly dispatch everyday business tasks like calculating in spreadsheets, word processing, and video conferencing. The Latitude 5285 scored top marks on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test (3,322 points), where it beat out the competition including the HP Elite x2, the HP EliteBook x360, the Huawei MateBook, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and the Surface Book. It returned above-average scores on multimedia tests, including Handbrake (2:11), CineBench (347 points), and Photoshop (3:13), again beating most of the field. The HP EliteBook x360 was tops at Handbrake and the Surface Pro 4 won Photoshop, but both victories were only by a few seconds. The Latitude 5285 returned respectable numbers on our 3D gaming tests, but the only system here that had smooth animation on our game tests was the Microsoft Surface Book, which employs discrete graphics.
Battery life is excellent. The Latitude 5285 lasted 11 hours, 9 minutes on our rundown test, 50 minutes longer than the Surface Pro 4. The HP EliteBook x360 (14:03) and Surface Book (19:16) lasted even longer, but they are both heavier and have more internal space for batteries. The Huawei MateBook, meanwhile, petered out after just 6 hours 19 minutes.
A Tablet That Can Do a Laptop's Job
The Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 is an attractive corporate alternative to consumer-based detachable-hybrid tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and its upcoming sucessor, the Microsoft Surface Pro. It matches that class-leading PC in style, dimensions, and functionality, with better performance thanks to a faster Core i7 processor. That said, the Surface Pro 4 remains a better value, at a savings of $467 if you include the price of a Surface Type Cover. At almost $1,900, you could pay about $79 more for the larger screen and battery life in the HP EliteBook x360, though you'd have to be willing to switch to a bulkier convertible-hybrid laptop form factor.
Other Dell 2-in-1 Convertible Laptops
Joel Santo Domingo is the Lead Analyst for the Desktops team at PC Magazine Labs. He joined PC Magazine in 2000, after 7 years of IT work for companies large and small. His background includes managing mobile, desktop and network infrastructure on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Joel is proof that you can escape the retail grind: he wore a yellow polo shirt early in his tech career. Along the way Joel earned a BA in English Literature and an MBA in Information Technology… More »
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