Every business person needs a good laptop, but it has to properly fit their needs. The 14-inch Dell Latitude 5480 is for those who favor portability over screen size. It doesn’t stint on ports though, and has Intel’s latest generation of processors.
The appearance of this laptop is all business: it has a matte-black finish, though charcoal grey might be a better description. It won’t turn any heads, but the Latitude 5480 looks quite professional.
It’s 0.88 inches thick and 3.52 pounds, so it’s neither especially thick and heavy nor slim and lightweight. The 14-inch screen gives it a 13.1 inch by 9.0 inch profile, so this computer rides well in a briefcase or messenger bag.
Although this isn’t a truly rugged laptop, Dell says the Latitude 5480 passed fifteen MIL STD 810G benchmarks, so it should be able to easily tolerate the kind of humidity and abuse laptops run into in typical use. This a traditional clamshell laptop, not a convertible or hybrid. The display can rotate 180º, but it stops there; no tablet mode is supported. The hinge is a bit too stiff to allow easy one-handed opening of the lid, but this is likely because one of the configurations offered includes a touchscreen; an easy-open lid would lead to the display wobbling whenever it’s tapped.
Our test Latitude 5480 will flex slightly when twisted. Nevertheless, the feel is solid and the build quality is quite good. All the components fit together beautifully.
Dell designed this computer to be easy to work on, including making swapping out parts as simple as possible. For example, taking off the back cover just requires opening eight captive screws. There are detailed instructions for replacing nearly every component.
Dell Latitude 5480 Input and Output Ports
Business professionals want plenty of flexibility in their workhorse laptops, and the Latitude 5480 delivers with a very wide range of ports, including three USB 3.0 ports, one of which has PowerShare. It supports both HDMI and VGA, and a monitor can be connected over the USB Type-C port.
There’s an RJ-45 Ethernet port, plus a full-size SD 4.0 memory card reader and a combination headset/microphone port. Those that opt for built-in 4G cellular-wireless networking will also get a uSIM card tray.
For the extra security conscious, there’s optional Contacted SmartCard Reader and an option biometric fingerprint scanner. And every version has a Noble Wedge Lock slot.
All these ports need considerable real estate, and they are scattered around both the left and right edges, as well as the back. There are none on the front.
Dell Latitude 5480 Keyboard and Touchpad
The key area on this computer is 10.75 by 4.0 inches, close in size to a typical desktop keyboard. There’s no room for a 10-key, but there never is with 14-inch laptops like this one. There _is_ room for a half-size row of function keys and a set of arrow keys.
Most keys are 0.6 by 0.6 in., with a reasonable amount of space around them. They’re slightly concave, and the labels are an easy-to-read bright white. Dell put in a good amount of key travel, and the keyboard deck is firm. Typing is very quiet.
The touchpad is 3.95 by 2.1 inches, and it’s offset slightly to the left for the benefit of right-handed users. The pad is very smooth.
Our test Latitude 5480 includes an optional “eraser head” pointing device in the center of the keyboard, between the G, H, and B keys. We found this easy to use, as well as the associated Left, Center, and Right buttons above the touchpad.
Only the version with the Dual Point keyboard includes a backlight. Both these features add $35 to the price.
Dell Latitude 5480 Screen and Speakers
Dell offers this laptop with either a 1366 by 768 pixel (HD) resolution, or a 1920 by 1080 pixel (FHD) one. The FHD version is $70 extra, but we think that would be money well spent, as the base model is too low resolution for a serious business computer.
The high-end version is an FHD touchscreen, which adds $140 to the price. Our test unit has this option, and it’s a feature that is well suited to Windows 10.
We tested the FHD touchscreen version in a variety of lighting conditions. It looks great in a typical indoor business environment, as the screen delivers vivid colors and very black blacks. This display is still quite usable outdoors while not in direct sunlight, but the screen content is barely visible under direct sun. This isn’t surprising, as the Latitude 5480 is meant for the office environment and not the job site.
The choice of screen partially determines what type of front-facing camera is included: the infrared camera needed for Windows Hello facial recognition is only available with the non-touch FHD display, and adds $20 to the price. It’s a bit disappointing that that the IR camera can’t be combined with the touchscreen.
The pair of speakers on the front of this laptop provides plenty of volume to watch a video from a few feet away, even in a moderately noisy environment.
Dell offers the Latitude 5480 with either a seventh-generation Intel ‘Kaby Lake’ Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor. The i3 is the least expensive version, and it’s rated at 2.4 GHz with 3MB cache. The i5 version comes in between 2.5 GHz and 3.1 GHz with 3MB cache, and the Core i7 in our test unit goes from 2.8 GHz to 3.9 GHz with 4MB cache. All have a 15-watt thermal specification.
These are Intel’s latest and greatest, but they are all also dual-core, not the faster quad-core chips. This makes them well suited for Office work and photo editing, but not the best option for editing high-resolution video or extreme gaming.
Naturally, the i7 chip has the speediest performance, but at also adds $300 to $400 to the price tag. Shoppers should consider carefully if they need to increase the cost by such a significant amount for the additional speed. Moving to the i5 processor adds only about $100.
Dell offers the Core i3 version with 4 GB of RAM, the i5 version is available with either 4 GB or 8 GB, while the i7 can be configured with 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB. Where available, going to 8 GB of RAM costs $63, and a jump to 16 GB is $189.
Built-in storage also depends somewhat on the processor. The i3 model is available only with a 500 GB hard drive. Those who opt for an i5 or i7 chip can upgrade that to a 128 GB solid state drive for $42, a 256 GB SSD ($140) or a 512 GB SSD ($322). Another option is a 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD for $231.
The default graphics processor is an Intel HD Graphics 620 for Ki5-7200U. Those who want better performance can add an NVIDIA GeForce 930MX GPU for $69.30 to the Core i5 or i7 versions.
Our Dell Latitude 5480 review unit has the following technical specifications:
- Processor: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7600U (Kaby Lake)
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 256G M.2 2280 SATA SSD (Toshiba THNSNK256GVN8)
- Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
- Screen: 14.0-inch Touchscreen FHD LCD (1920 x 1080)
- Dimensions: 22.45 mm (.88”) x 333.4 mm (13.1”) x 228.9 mm (9”)
- Starting weight: 1.60 kg (3.52lbs)
- Battery: 4-cell 68WHR
Dell Latitude 5480 Benchmarks
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):
Dell Latitude 5480 Heat and Noise
After an hour of continuously playing video, our test Latitude 5480 with the Core i7 chip was barely warm. We asked users of older laptops to feel it and all were impressed at how cool the 5480 kept. Dell built in a fan, of course, and there’s a vent on the back of the computer, but in our experience it was hardly necessary.
This is a benefit of the new Kaby Lake processors, which are more efficient than their predecessors and therefore convert less power into waste heat.
Dell Latitude 5480 Battery Life
We ran the PCMark 8 battery benchmark on our test unit, with a Core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM, and with the screen set at 50% brightness. This version also includes a 4-cell 68 WHr battery, which is an additional $28 over the standard 3-cell 51 WHr one. The Latitude 5480 configured this way lasted 5 hours and 27 minutes before automatically shutting itself off.
In our real-world use of this model over several weeks, we felt that its battery life was reasonable. This isn’t the laptop to go all day on a single charge, but it can make it through a trans-continental flight.
Dell Latitude 5480 Power Adapter
The adapter for this device is of moderate size. It’s the usual Dell offering, and it cross compatible with many other laptops from this company.
After running the Latitude 5480 until it automatically shut itself off for lack of power, plugging it in for an hour brought the battery level up to 45%.
The base model for the Dell Latitude 5480 is $769, but this is pre-configured in such a bare bones way that most people will at least go for the $879 Core i5 version which can be upgraded with a better screen and other improvements. Adding all the hardware options to the i7 version pushes the price tag to a whopping $2,008.30. What we felt to be a more reasonable configuration — including a Core i5 chip, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, backlit keyboard, and 4-cell battery — is $1,243.
This laptop is well balanced with the mid-range configurations. It manages to stay portable while offering a usable screen, decent performance, and acceptable battery life.
- Reasonably portable
- Very good typing experience
- Battery life acceptable, but could be better
- Lots of ports
- Base-model screen too low resolution
- Hinge a bit stiff for one-handed opening
- IR camera not available with best screen