Living with a Dell Latitude 9420 2-in-1
The Dell Latitude 9420 is a premium 2-in-1 business laptop for the most demanding customers, with a variety of features.
Like the Latitude 9510 I tested last year, the 9420 is part of Dell’s high-end corporate line, although the 9400 series has a 14-inch display. It is available as a standard or convertible 2-in-1 laptop with a rotating hinge and pen holder; I tested the 2 in 1 version.
With an aluminum casing, the Latitude 9420 is extremely strong Measuring 0.54 x 12.2 x 8.5 inches (HWD), it’s a bit smaller than its closest competitor, the Lenovo X1 Yoga. It’s also a bit heavier, with a starting weight of 3.2 pounds (the unit I had weighed 3.29 pounds on its own and 4.05 pounds with the charger, while the Yoga weighed 3.1 pounds. for the unit and 3.79 pounds with the charger). Still, it is relatively light and easy to transport.
The unit I tested had a 2560 x 1600 pixel QHD + touchscreen in 16:10 aspect ratio. (The laptop version has a 1920 by 1200 pixel FHD + non-touch screen.) For typical office applications, the higher resolution doesn’t really matter much on a 14-inch screen, but the display at higher resolution is better with a pen because you can be more precise, and the screen looked great. (Note, however, that the competing X1 Yoga offers a 3,840 x 2,400 pixel display if you want high resolution). I’m not an artist, but I used Dell’s optional Active Pen (PN579X) and found the screen to work well for drawing.
The left side of the 9420 has two USB-C ports (also used for charging) as well as an HDMI connection, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. The right offers a single USB-A port with power as well as a large heat exhaust that can get quite hot – and a bit noisy – if you use the machine a lot.
As with other laptops I’ve tried recently, I’ve also tested it with two external monitors using USB-C / Thunderbolt docking stations. I have tried Dell’s Thunderbolt 3 docking station WD19TB and OWC’s Thunderbolt docking station and it worked fine with external drives, an external keyboard, and both with a 2560 x 1 HDMI monitor. 440 and an FHD DisplayPort monitor.
The unit I tested had an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 (Tiger Lake) processor, a 4-core / 8-thread processor with a nominal 3 GHz speed and vPro support, made on the Intel SuperFin process. 10nm, with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. Overall, it performed well on most normal benchmarks I’ve run, a hair behind the Lenovo X1 Carbon.
In my toughest performance tests, it took me 41 minutes to complete a large Excel model with a data table and Monte Carlo simulations, roughly the same as other Tiger Lake machines. It took 48 minutes to run a complex MatLab portfolio simulation. Again, these are very good scores – Excel’s was the fastest I’ve seen of any Tiger Lake-U machine.
The 9420 has a 60 watt hour battery; I got over 11 hours on my battery test, significantly better than what I saw with the X1 Yoga. PCMag scored over 14 hours in a video playback test. It comes with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth support; untested options include 4G LTE (an additional $ 170) or 5G modems (an additional $ 389).
Dell Optimizer software controls many special machine features. Thanks to it, you can configure the camera and the IR system with presence detection, so that it goes to sleep when you move away from the machine and turns on again when you approach, thanks to Windows Hello. Other options allow the machine to learn how to optimize specific applications to run with the correct power settings; and to optimize the bandwidth of the network to favor a videoconferencing application. And you can adjust the audio to be optimal for a conference in a quiet room, a noisy office, one with multiple voices, or in a recording studio; enable 3D audio (something I didn’t like); and automatically mute sounds when you are not speaking. It has two top trigger speakers and two bottom trigger speakers, which sounded pretty good.
Dell’s laptop has a 720p webcam, which looked a bit fuzzy compared to others I’ve tried recently, although still adequate. It has a system called SafeShutter, in which a physical camera cover is controlled by a function key. In general, it seems to work well, and it’s sleeker but less obvious than sliders found on competitors.
On Dell’s website, the base laptop starts at $ 2,059 with an Intel Core I5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB hard drive. A 2-in-1 with a Core i7, vPro, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD as I tested came in for $ 2,913. Despite some reservations, I have found the 9420 to be a stylish and complete 2-in-1, one of the best I have seen.