The Dell Latitude 6430u's snappy performance and business-centric extras earn it the title of Best Reviewed business laptop, but it's a slim victory. Dell's tech support is improved, but the lack of a touch screen is a major flaw in some critics' eyes.
Class-leading speed. Simply put, the Dell 6430u will help you burn through your to-do list faster than other business-class laptops. Experts test an upgraded version (Est. $1,300) with a third-gen Intel Core i5 processor -- the new Haswell processors still haven't hit the 6430u as of this update -- 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid-state drive. It boots, transfers files and races through spreadsheets faster than other business laptops, and even edits photos and videos with respectable speed. Battery life is impressive at more than seven hours of web surfing or video playback. Rare for Ultrabooks, the Latitude's battery is removable so you can swap in a fresh one if needed.
Great keyboard, but no touch screen. Business users demand excellent keyboards, and the Dell's spill-proof, backlit version doesn't disappoint. It's generously sized, with springy, contoured keys, and testers say it feels great to type on. There's also a responsive touchpad and eraser-head pointing stick. Yet even without a touch screen or optical drive -- although you can add an external DVD burner for $75 -- critics say the Dell's 3.7 pounds and 0.82-inch thickness is on the large side for a 14-inch Ultrabook. You do get Ethernet and VGA ports that rivals have ditched, and they're lifesavers "when faced with older projectors or an office with spotty Wi-Fi," Laptop Magazine points out.
Flawless finish, but screen could be better. Testers can't stop caressing the Dell's soft-touch black finish. "It virtually eliminates fingerprints and makes gripping the notebook a cinch," says Laptop Magazine. PC World calls it "a tactile joy to use." However, the 14-inch matte display that's double-sealed against spills gets mixed reviews. There's little distracting glare and some testers like it just fine, but others say it's much less bright than other Ultrabooks and colors look washed out. There's no full-HD option; you get just 1,366 by 768 pixels, or 1,600 by 900 for an extra $50. The speakers sound decent but not spectacular and are surprisingly loud.
Strong warranty, improved phone support. Dell backs the Latitude 6430u with a three-year warranty. All but the base model get on-site service after remote diagnosis of a warranty-covered problem; the base model must be mailed in for repair unless you purchase the beefier warranty. Dell's tech support had fared very poorly in past tests by Laptop Magazine, but the most recent go-around found things have taken a marked turn for the better.
Best all-around business package. The Dell Latitude 6430u is flat-out faster than similar business laptops in tests, and experts appreciate its business-friendly features. But there is that missing touch screen. You can get that in other business laptops, such as Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (Est. $1,300 and up) , but be prepared to either pay more or to accept slower performance.
Ahmer Kazi calls the Dell Latitude 6430u an easy Editors' Choice. It outperforms the former favorite, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, plus it has more ports and a removable battery. Still, it lacks a touch screen.
Review: Dell Latitude 6430u, Ahmer Kazi, Feb. 27, 2013
2. Laptop Magazine
Sherri L. Smith gives the Dell Latitude 6430u 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "a strong choice" for business users, but she stops short of dethroning the Editors' Choice Lenovo X1 Carbon. The Carbon's better screen outweighs the Dell's better port selection and price, Smith says.
Review: Dell Latitude 6430u Review and Ratings, Sherri L. Smith, Jan. 17, 2013
3. Computer Shopper
Here the Dell Latitude 6430u gets another Editors' Choice. The great keyboard and removable, long-life battery are perfect for business users, outweighing the mediocre, non-touch screen. It also holds its own in benchmark tests against rival laptops.
Review: Dell Latitude 6430u Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, March 15, 2013
4. PC World
The Dell Latitude 6430u ranks as one of PC World's favorite laptops. It's "a tactile joy to use," with a strong warranty and good performance, says Jacobi. He does find it to be a little heavy, however, and he dislikes that the screen isn't full HD.
Review: Review: Dell Latitude 6430u Offers High Quality Throughout, Jon L. Jacobi, March 29, 2013
Not everyone loves the Dell Latitude 6430u. Null calls its lackluster, non-touch screen "a total disaster," says it's too thick and heavy for an Ultrabook, and his tester has some bugs. Once he works past them, it performs great, but he rates it just 5 points out of 10 overall.
Review: Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook, Christopher Null, Feb. 4, 2013
6. Laptop Magazine
"Dell has made some much-needed improvements to its phone support," Laptop Magazine reports. All experiences are rated as positive, even though the magazine isn't especially thrilled with how much Dell's reps rely on remotely accessing your PC to solve issues. Live chat is also a positive. However, the website is difficult to navigate. On the social side, Twitter can be helpful, but interactions on Facebook are limited. Overall the company's grade has risen from a C-minus to a B for 2013.
Review: Dell Tech Support: 2013 Rating, Daniel P. Howley, Oct. 21, 2013
Dell's tech-support ranking improves in this year's reader survey, but PCMag.com readers still rank it below average among 10 laptop brands.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013