Starting Configuration Price
Impressive battery life. Crisp keyboard feel. Responsive tablet and pen operation.
Slightly dim display. No Thunderbolt 3 port. Sluggish touchpad.
- Bottom Line
Look past the Dell Latitude 5289 2-in-1's conservative design, and you'll find a thoroughly capable convertible with strong performance, elegant pen support, and almost-two-workday battery life.
The Dell Latitude 5289 2-in-1 (starts at $899; $1,726 as tested) is a 12.5-inch convertible that, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 260, flips and folds from laptop into tablet mode, as well as an easel-like stand mode. It's very similar to the Latitude 5285 2-in-1 we recently reviewed with one key exception: The keyboard doesn't detach, so you're stuck with the weight of it, even when you're not using it. However, it offers a superior experience for users who'll rely on laptop mode almost all the time, with only occasional sessions of tablet work or video viewing. The Latitude 5289 goes toe to toe with our Editors' Choice for business convertible hybrids, the 13.3-inch HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2, but one or two extra features and innovations give the HP the edge.
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A Case of Déjà Vu
The base model of the Latitude 5289 makes do with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB solid-state drive. Climbing Mt. Option brings our unit to $1,726 with a Core i7-7600U processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, Windows 10 Pro, Dell's Active Pen stylus, and an IR webcam that works with Windows Hello's face recognition feature for secure logins without typing passwords. An extra $35 at ordering time adds Smart Card and fingerprint readers and an NFC contact point; a further $139 gets you WWAN mobile broadband for AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon.
For the most part, the Latitude 5289 looks and feels like a convertible version of Dell's 12.5-inch Latitude 7280 clamshell laptop. The 5289 is a compact black slab measuring 0.73 by 12 by 8.3 inches (HWD) and 2.97 pounds—a bit bigger than the 7280, mainly due to its 360-degree screen hinges. It's slightly thicker and heavier than the EliteBook x360, but with a slightly smaller footprint. The soft-touch lid makes it as comfortable to carry outside a briefcase as it is easy to slip into one.
Dell boasts that the 5289 has survived an array of MIL-STD 810G torture tests for temperature extremes, vibration, and shock, and it feels like it: There's virtually no flex in the keyboard deck or the display, even when grasped by the corners. You won't feel the screen wobble when you swipe it with a finger (though you can make it wobble with a hard tap). Two nearly full-width rubber feet instead of the usual four petite feet keep the laptop from sliding around your desk.
Ports are ample, although the two USB-C/DisplayPort connectors on the Latitude's left side (one is also used for charging) do not have Thunderbolt 3 functionality like the EliteBook x360's, keeping the Dell from taking advantage of the latest desktop docking, video, and storage solutions. The convertible's left edge also holds an HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port. On the right side, you'll find the power button, a volume rocker, an audio jack, microSD card and SIM slots, another USB 3.0 port, and a Noble (not Kensington) lock slot. Naturally, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are provided.
Nice Screen, Touchy Touchpad
The keyboard, set in a slightly recessed tray, is not quite full-sized—the A through apostrophe keys span 7.6 inches instead of the desktop standard 8 inches—but makes up for any squeeze with a snappy typing feel and adequate travel. We are pleased that there are dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys instead of Fn-key combinations, though they (like the Delete key and cursor arrows) are small. The touchpad's response is tepid, however. It's almost resistant to finger swipes and it takes too many of them to traverse the screen. It has two rubbery buttons for left and right clicks.
The 5289's anti-reflective, anti-smudge display is bright enough (Dell rates it at 255 nits) if you stick to the top couple of backlight settings, but we wish there were a bit more to make contrast pop—text and videos are sharp enough, but colors and gradients in spreadsheet charts and slides are subdued. Broad bezels surround the screen, making room for the IR camera and for thumbs to grasp the system in tablet mode.
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The screen responds swiftly and accurately to touch input and to the Active Pen, a battery-powered, Wacom-compatible stylus with 2,048 levels of sensitivity and an awkwardly tiny rocker switch for button functions. The tablet proves adept at palm rejection, letting you focus on the tip of the pen with no unwanted input. The Latitude has no hole or niche for storing the stylus, but the pen clings magnetically to the left edge of the laptop for travel.
The bottom-front-mounted speakers produce good sound. Instrumentals sounded sunny and crisp, if short on booming bass. Though the hybrid isn't one of the loudest we've listened to, it was adequate to fill a small conference room in testing. Dell backs even the cheapest 5289 with one year of on-site service after remote diagnostics, with a vast array of extra-cost support options available. Our test unit's Core i7 CPU featured Intel's vPro remote manageability technology, a plus for IT managers.
Made for Productivity
When you pack a seventh-generation Core i7-7600U—a 2.8GHz (3.9GHz turbo) dual-core processor with Hyper-Threading—along with 16GB of memory and a fast SSD, you're going to get good productivity performance. The Latitude 5289 narrowly edged the HP EliteBook x360, which has the same Kaby Lake CPU, in our PCMark office applications benchmark (3,387 to 3,296) and Cinebench processing test (338 to 326), though neither system could catch the VAIO Z Flip and its higher-clock-speed Skylake chip in Cinebench (368).
The Dell's time of 3:21 was a few seconds off the pace in the Photoshop image editing benchmark, but nothing you'd notice without a stopwatch. Both the Dell and HP hybrids are well ahead of the ThinkPad Yoga 260, which uses a sixth-generation Core i5 CPU, and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, whose Core i7-7Y75 belongs to what was once called the Core M family, a series of processors designed for use in ultra-thin notebooks.
The Latitude also came out on top in battery life tests, showing more than 14-and-a-half hours of stamina, though the EliteBook was close behind. The VAIO, with its Intel Iris graphics, outdid the other 2-in-1s in our 3DMark, Heaven, and Valley graphics and gaming tests, but even its results illustrate that integrated rather than discrete graphics are not ideal for high-frame-rate fun. This laptop isn't made for gaming, and its benchmarks show it.
Clearly, we're fans of both the Latitude 5289 and the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2. We're giving the nod to the HP for its more stylish design, Thunderbolt 3 port, and clever touches such as its function keys to control Skype for Business calls and WorkWise app that lets you lock or unlock your laptop just by walking away or coming back with your smartphone. But there's nothing wrong with basic black, and there's nothing to steer you away from Dell's convertible.
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By Eric Grevstad Contributing Editor
Formerly editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing, Eric Grevstad is a contributing editor for PCMag and Computer Shopper, where he earlier served as lead laptop analyst and executive editor, respectively. A tech journalist since the TRS-80 and Apple II days, Grevstad specializes in lightweight laptops, all-in-one desktops, and productivity software, all of which he uses when commuting and telecommuting between PC Labs and a cat-filled home office in Old Greenwich, CT. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EricGrevstad…. More »
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