Sturdy chassis. Robust performance from the Intel Core i7 CPU.
Pricey as configured. Less than 10 hours of battery life in testing.
- Bottom Line
The Dell Latitude 7389 is a business-oriented 2-in-1 laptop with a sturdy, if conventional, black chassis and solid Core i7 power. Its chief differentiator in a crowded market is disappointing battery life.
Corporate types, especially road warriors, tend to prefer business laptops made from boring black plastic. Or at least, their IT departments give them boring black plastic laptops and they aren't complaining. The Dell Latitude 7389 (starts at $1,149; $1,967 as tested) is one of these boring black laptops, but with a twist—literally. You can rotate the screen through 360 degrees to transform it into a tablet. It's a bit bulkier and heavier than an equivalent consumer 2-in-1 laptop would be, but its superb build quality and Intel Core i7 power make up for that. Whether or not it's worth the high price is an open question, however, especially considering the fierce competition, including our Editors' Choice, the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2.
Looking the Part
Even though business laptops mostly have boring black exteriors, there's a definite hierarchy amidst all that boring blackness. For decades, Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops (previously made by IBM), have been the gold standard, prized for their excellent keyboards, durability, and of course the red pointing stick. That's not to say the competition from Dell is necessarily any less well-built, which is certainly the case with the 13-inch Latitude 7389. It looks and feels incredibly solid, with almost no flex in the keyboard deck or the display lid. The hinges are also satisfyingly stiff, allowing your fingers to tap on the glossy 13.3-inch full HD (1,920 by 1,080) touch screen in Laptop mode without any bounce.
All that sturdiness means that the Latitude 7389 is a bit heavier than competing 2-in-1s, and much heavier than Windows tablets with detachable keyboards. This review unit weighs 3.06 pounds, which is about the same as the Lenovo Yoga 920 (3.02 pounds) but a few ounces heavier than the HP Elitebook x360 (2.82 pounds) and the Microsoft Surface Pro detachable tablet (2.45 pounds with its keyboard attached). The copious amount of black plastic, which covers the interior and exterior of the clamshell, is slightly soft to the touch. That results in a pleasingly premium feel, one that many road warriors will prefer to the hard matte silver finishes of the business-laptop-design-trend-bucking HP EliteBook series.
The keyboard, however, comes up a bit short when compared with Lenovo's offerings. The ThinkPad T470's keyboard is the best one on a business laptop that we've tested recently, and its keys are larger and their travel longer than on the Latitude 7389. Someone with large fingers who types forcefully will likely find the keys uncomfortable, but at least they are backlit for use in a darkened airplane cabin. On this review unit, there is no fingerprint reader below the directional keys to make logging in to your Windows account easier, but it's an optional extra, as is a smart card reader for multifactor authentication.
All About That Bezel
In fact, Microsoft is pushing for IT departments to use face detection or fingerprints as a form of multifactor authentication to log in to Windows, so a webcam that supports Windows Hello face recognition is also an optional extra. The webcam on our review unit doesn't support Windows Hello, but it does offer decent picture quality for videoconferencing, and it's tiny enough that Dell could squeeze it into the incredibly narrow screen bezel. Narrow bezels are all the rage in laptop design these days, but it's nice that Dell leaves enough room for a camera. The Dell XPS 13, by contrast, has an even narrower border around the screen that relegates its webcam to the lower left edge of the display, where it mainly captures your knuckles and nostrils. Note that if you order the version of the Latitude 7389 with the face detection camera, it will come with a larger bezel to fit the infrared sensors required.
Port selection is adequate for a 2-in-1, and we especially appreciate that Dell includes an HDMI port on the left edge, which despite innovations like Chromecast is still a necessity for anyone who needs to quickly plug in to a conference room AV system. The left edge also includes two USB-C ports and a USB 3.1 port. Along the right edge are a second USB 3.1 port, a Noble lock slot, and a microSD card slot. Taking a cue from tablets like the iPad Pro, Dell also includes a volume rocker and the power button on the right edge, although you can certainly control volume levels the conventional way, using the Fn keys or the icon in the Windows taskbar.
While the Latitude 7389 is in Laptop mode, you'll primarily interact with it as you would any other notebook, by using the fairly responsive and decently sized touchpad. Our only gripe about the pad is that it's not clickable. Instead, you must either tap or use the dedicated left and right buttons beneath it. Of course, it's no match for the humongous and luxurious glass touchpad with Force Touch that you'll find on the Apple MacBook Pro. We're still waiting for a touchpad of that caliber to show up on a Windows device.
When you convert the Latitude 7389 to Tablet mode or Tent mode (in which the screen is rotated just a few degrees short of 360 to allow the device to stand on your desk like a tent), you'll use the touch screen to navigate through menus and the on-screen keyboard to type. Dell also offers a stylus that's useful for note taking and drawing. Like competing offerings from HP and Lenovo, Dell's stylus uses Wacom "active pen" technology to mimic the feel of writing on paper, and scribbling on the Latitude 7389 is indeed extremely accurate, though not quite the same as a plain old legal pad. Perhaps the best part about Dell's pen is that it magnetically attaches to the left edge of the laptop, a far better solution than Lenovo's plastic holder, which you must plug into a spare USB port. Unfortunately, Dell's pen is a pricey $49 add-on.
Standard wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and you can add a wireless modem as an optional extra. Dell offers extensive warranty options for Latitude laptops, with several choices for length and type of service. The bare minimum warranty included at no additional cost lasts for one-year and includes onsite service.
Bountiful Component Options
Storage and memory options are plentiful as well. Our review unit comes with a generous 16GB of memory and a slightly less generous 256GB SSD. Moving up to a 512GB SSD will cost an additional $159, and there's even an option for a 1TB SSD, which costs $457. Meanwhile, if all your work is in the cloud, you can opt for a 128GB drive to save some money. The 128GB and 256GB drives are available in either SATA or the speedier NVMe interfaces, while the 512GB and 1TB drives are NVMe-only.
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Performance from the Intel Core i7 CPU is more than adequate for the types of everyday computing tasks that corporate road warriors are likely to perform on a daily basis, including word processing, video conferencing, and web browsing. On our PCMark 8 benchmark, which approximates performance on these types of tasks, the Latitude 7389 earned a class-leading score of 3,323. Anything above 3,000 on this test is excellent, though, and its chief competitors from HP (the Elitebook x360 1030) and Lenovo (the ThinkPad X1 Yoga) each exceeded this threshold.
Checking emails on the road is easy; a more nuanced question is how the Latitude 7389 will perform once you're back in the office, perhaps to plug into a large full HD monitor and crunch some numbers in Microsoft Excel or edit architectural drawings. While it's certainly not as capable as a similarly priced business desktop, the Latitude 7389 is a fine choice for these tasks. It finished our Handbrake video-encoding test in 2 minutes, 10 seconds, and took 3:19 to complete a series of image edits in Photoshop. These are quick times for a laptop, but each of its competitors posted similar results.
Where each machine diverges noticeably is on our battery-rundown test, which involves playing a local video file at 50 percent screen brightness with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disabled until the battery dies. Unfortunately, the Latitude 7389 finished near the bottom among its competitors, with a time of 9 hours and 1 minute. Our battery life leader, the Elitebook x360, posted a time of 14:03. All of the other laptops in this category manage times above 10 hours, with the exception of the consumer-oriented HP Spectre x360 13.
A thin and light 2-in-1 shouldn't be expected to offer stellar gaming performance, and the Latitude 7389 is no exception. Along with its competitors, it's equipped with an Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated GPU, which can barely run graphics-intensive titles even with their quality settings turned down to medium, as evidenced by the sub-30-frames-per-second results we saw on the Valley and Heaven gaming simulations.
Find a Better Battery
Dell checks a lot of boxes with the Latitude 7389. It's got the understated black styling and durability necessary to please many corporate users, and a laptop that converts into a tablet is a particularly useful tool for employees who travel frequently. Even if its used mostly in Laptop mode, its sturdier hinges reduce screen bounce when you're tapping on the touch screen.
IT departments and small businesses prepared to shell out around $2,000 for a premium 2-in-1 convertible tablet have many to choose from, and the Latitude 7389's underwhelming battery life is one of the few things that helps it stand out from the competition—and not in a good way. If you're not wedded to black plastic, the HP Spectre x360 1030's superior battery life and similar computing performance is worth a look.
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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