Notebook PC sales surpassed desktop sales over a decade ago and unless unlikely shifts occur in user behavior, notebooks, 2-in-1s and other mobile computing devices are likely to remain ascendant. That point is doubly clear this year, as the COVID-19 global pandemic forced tens of thousands of businesses to find ways to support tens of millions of employees working from home (WFH) in jury-rigged offices.
But while WFH is likely to remain a fact of life for another year or more, the technologies that workers use are anything but standard. Along with middling or unpredictable performance that can impact workers’ efficiency, companies face numerous variables and challenges in managing, securing and maintaining WFH equipment. As a result, there has probably never been a better time to consider the benefits and value proposition of business-focused notebook solutions, such as Dell’s Latitude portfolio.
The company’s new Latitude 9510 2-in-1 is a prime example of the innovations that customers can expect from a vendor that understands the needs of workers and workplaces as well as Dell. Let’s consider the Latitude 9510 2-in-1 and see how it addresses the needs of both workers and workplaces.
The Challenges of WFH/WFA
While WFH problems and solutions have been highlighted by many vendors, Dell is extending the discussion to what it calls working from anywhere (WFA). That is, working beyond the walls of a home office to other less structured or formal environments. But what features and capabilities do involved parties, from individual workers to entire organizations, need to make PC solutions maximally effective for these situations?
- Top-end system and battery performance: The last thing employees need to worry about is whether the notebooks they use are up to the tasks they need to complete. That includes having enough battery power to continue working when wall plugs are unavailable or in short supply.
- Flexible connectivity features: WFH and WFA scenarios often or even usually require wireless connectivity. Support for the latest WiFi technologies is a must, but cellular options are valuable for many scenarios.
- Quality audio/video for call and conference experience: Zoom has become one of the hottest apps of 2020, in large part because of the way it has helped businesses, work groups and individuals stay up and running. But video conferencing requires more than simple connectivity. The most effective solutions offer workers an in-person experience via premium audio and video features.
- Professional management, maintenance and security options: Keeping end users efficiently occupied is one thing, but successful notebooks and 2-in-1s must offer services designed to do the same for IT staff and managers. Ideally, those should include effective solutions for remote system management and security, and on-site deployment and maintenance options.
Adequately supporting most of these features and functions defines "good" mobile endpoints. But premium notebooks and 2-in-1s take most or all of them to the next level.
Dell’s Latitude 9510 2-in-1: Outside and In
Like the other solutions in Dell’s Latitude commercial client portfolio, the 9510 2-in-1 is designed to look and feel entirely professional. The stylish brushed aluminum finish is accented with well-defined diamond-cut edges, and the newly designed keyboard and touchpad are as solid as you could want.
Dell’s Infinity Edge technology enables the Latitude 9510 2-in-1 to fit a 15-inch screen into what is essentially a 14-inch frame, making the system feel both slim and capacious. The 2-in-1 weight is a mere 3.3 pounds (the 9510 laptop version is slightly lighter at 3.1 pounds), making the Latitude 9510 2-in-1 highly and comfortably portable.
According to Dell, the 9510 2-in-1 can deliver up to 34 hours of battery life (with the optional 6-cell 88 Whr battery). I never pushed my review system to those extremes, but I can say that I never wanted for power during unplugged workdays. What I found more important was Dell’s Express Charge feature, which enables the system to be charged to 80% within 1 hour and 100% in 2 hours.
Along with supporting 5G WiFi, the 9510 also features Intel WiFi 6 (Gig+) technology, which promises up to 3X faster speeds and next-gen security features. My review unit also included optional LTE connectivity, which worked fine out of the box. It isn’t a feature I’ll use every day, but it’s a great option to have in a pinch.
One of the largest departures from previous designs are the system’s top firing speakers (mounted along both sides of the keyboard) that feature Waves Maxx audio technology. These provided great sound quality, which made video conferencing more enjoyable and immersive than many laptops. The 9510 2-in-1 is also remarkably quiet and doesn’t suffer the hot spots that are common in many highly portable notebooks.
One of the Latitude 9510 2-in-1’s most interesting features is Dell Optimizer, a new built-in AI function designed to automatically detect and improve application performance, battery life and audio settings. It can be easily enabled/disabled depending on a user’s or an organization's preferences. Also intriguing is Dell’s Express Sign-in, which senses a user’s presence or absence and automatically wakes or locks the system. I use this feature daily, and it functions seamlessly.
Like other Latitude solutions, the 9510 2-in-1 can be managed with Dell ProSupport services and VMware Workspace ONE. The systems also support Dell and its partners’ security services, including Dell Command Suite, Dell Encryption Enterprise and Personal, Secureworks Threat Detection and Response, and VMware Carbon Black Endpoint.
The 9510 2-in-1 can be ordered with optional security features, such as a touch fingerprint reader and Contracted Smart Card and Control Vault 3 Authentication (an optional mechanical camera privacy shutter is available for the 9510 notebook). The Latitude 9510 has also passed 17 MIL-STD 810G tests for system ruggedness, including tests for extreme temperature, high pressure, sand and dust resistance, shock and vibration.
The 9510 2-in-1 is available in 10 configurations, ranging in cost (priced at Dell.com) from $1,849 to $2,849. Intel processor options start with four-core Core i5 and rise to six-core Core i7 solutions that include Intel vPro management features. DDR3 SRAM memory from 8GB to 16GB is available, and SSD storage capacity ranges from 128GB to 1TB.
Does the Latitude 9510 2-in-1 have any shortcomings? Some have dinged Dell for the system’s premium pricing and suggested that there are other 13-inch and 14-inch subnotebooks and 2-in-1s that offer a similar user experience for a lower cost. While this is a reasonable argument, a more technically accurate comparison would be against 15.6-inch convertibles whose displays are closer to the 9510. In those scenarios, the Latitude is clearly smaller and lighter, and often the more flexible and powerful option.
Others have noted that lacking a premium 1,000-nit display or dedicated GPU puts the 9510 2-in-1 at a disadvantage against similarly priced mobile workstations. No pun intended, but such nit-picking ventures some ways from Dell’s primary mobile professional audience. Plus, if customers truly need or value those features, Dell can always steer them toward other solutions, such as its Precision mobile workstations or the XPS line.
From my own experience, I found the 9510 2-in-1 exemplified what I’ve come to expect from Dell’s Latitude solutions—leading-edge design points, great build quality and rock-solid performance in business applications and functions. The wide variety of configuration, connectivity and security options supported by the 9510 means that businesses of virtually every size and kind will be able to find solutions.
Those points, along with the 17 MIL-STD 810G ruggedness tests the system passed, mean that Dell’s Latitude 9510 2-in-1 truly qualifies as a working from anywhere (including home) solution. Organizations looking for solutions to existing or emerging workplace challenges and scenarios would do well to consider Dell’s new Latitude 9510 2-in-1.
Note: For purposes of this review, Dell provided our reviewer with a Latitude 9510 2-in-1 with a 15-inch 16.9 FHD (1,980-by-1,080 WVA Touch display), 10th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR3 SRAM and 1TB SSD.
Charles King is a principal analyst at PUND-IT and a regular contributor to eWEEK. © 2019 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.