With its heavy-duty metal chassis and long battery life, the Dell Latitude E5530 is built to soldier through physical punishment and long stretches without needing on an outlet. Starting at $499 ($1,178 as tested), this 15-inch system features a Core i5 processor, a full number pad, and a fingerprint reader. In other words, this corporate workhorse is ready for to do your bidding.
The is swathed in industrial gray and black, save for a silver horizontal band that wraps around the system. Draped in a Tri-Metal casing, the Latitude E5530's protective shell consists of a brushed aluminum lid, steel hinges, magnesium alloy internal frames and a zinc alloy latch that reminds us of an old-fashioned metal lunch pail. The keyboard is spill resistant, and when the lid is closed, a protective seal forms a barrier around the LCD panel to prevent liquids from getting to the screen. However, the lid doesn't do a good job of repelling fingerprints.
The top left corner of the deck sports dedicated buttons for volume and mute, and the top right houses the power button. A fingerprint reader, on the bottom right-hand corner of the deck, can be configured through the Dell Data Protection software. The deck itself has a smooth finish.
The Latitude E5530s measures 15.3 x 9.9 x 1.2 - 1.3 inches and weighs 6.4 pounds. That makes it both larger and heavier than the Lenovo ThinkPad T530, which measures 13.5 x 9.05 x 0.8 - 1.0 inches and weighed 5.4 pounds. To be fair, the E5530 sports a 9-cell battery, while the T530 we tested carried a smaller 6-cell battery, the Dell's extra thickness is noticeable.
The Latitude E5530's 15.6-inch matte screen has a native resolution of 1366 x 768. This is lower than we'd prefer on such a large display; the T530 we reviewed packs a 1600 x 900 panel. The good news is that you can upgrade to a full HD 1920 x 1080 panel on the E5530 for $99.
When we watched the "Skyfall" trailer in 720p, fine details such as stray strands of hair and pieces of debris were easily visible. Colors such as the orange fire in explosions and the red bars in the British flag were a bit muted, and blacks weren't as deep as we'd like. Watching videos at 45-degree angle or greater resulted in certain darker images (such as the back of someone's head) being washed out.
The E5530's brightness registered 190 lux using light meter, which is 23 lux less than the category average, but higher than the ThinkPad T530 (166 lux).
The front of the Latitude E5530's lip contains two small speakers; when we placed the unit in our lap, music sounded noticeably muffled. When we listened to "Papa Don't Take No Mess" by James Brown, the saxophone's highs and lows were clearly audible. The same goes for Freddie Mercury's voice when we listened to "Slightly Mad" by Queen. Each note of Brian May's guitar solo in the latter tune sounded crystal clear.
Keyboard and Touchpad
On the E5530, Dell forgoes an island-style keyboard in favor of a more traditional layout. The E5530 has a dedicated keypad, which, many times, results in smaller Tab, Caps Lock and Left Shift keys. Fortunately, Dell makes full use of the deck, so these buttons are plenty large. While a little mushy, the keys offered a good amount of travel and response.
On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we averaged 68 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate. Both of those are average marks for us. The keyboard is backlit and has four brightness levels, which you can switch between by holding the "Fn" key and pressing the right arrow button.
The Alps Electric touchpad measures 3.1 x 1.75 inches and was extremely responsive when we executed multitouch gestures. We were able to scroll, rotate and flick very easily. There are two sets of dedicated buttons, one above and one below the touchpad. All of the buttons provided good feedback, though we wish the "click" were more audible.
The Latitude E5530 has a pointing stick between the G and H keys. The stick is sunken, which makes it harder to navigate with than it would be if it sat higher. In general, we prefer the pointing stick on Lenovo's ThinkPads.
After running a full-screen Hulu clip for 15 minutes, the E5530's touchpad and center underside measured 88 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The space between the G and H keys was 89 degrees. Anything over 95 degrees is uncomfortable.
An 8X DVD drive, audio jack, USB 2.0 port and VGA connector line the right side of the Latitude E5530. Around back, you'll find another USB 2.0 port as well as Ethernet and power. The left side houses one HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is an eSATA/USB 3.0 combo) along with SD Card and ExpressCard/54 slots. The latter's plastic tab doubles as an English-to-metric measurement conversion table. The front of the lip has a switch that turns Wi-Fi on and off.
The webcam on the E5530 can capture video and snap photos at a top resolution of 1280 x 720. The image quality was somewhat grainy under fluorescent lighting but less so in natural light. Colors like the dark purple seat of an office chair and a collared beige shirt were well represented. Dell's Webcam Central software has limited settings, but does allow you to upload photos and videos to YouTube and Photobucket.
The Latitude E5530 we tested packs a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3360M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. These components produced a PCMark 7 score of 2,934, just ahead of the ThinkPad T530 (2,849), which has the same processor. Both systems topped the category average by almost 400 (2,568).
It took the E5530 58 seconds to boot Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, six seconds longer than the category average (52 seconds). The ThinkPad T530, which also has a 7,200-rpm drive, loaded the same OS in a zippy 32 seconds. In our File Transfer Test, the Latitude E5530 transferred our 4.97GB test folder (made up of music, photos and videos) in 3 minutes and 6 seconds for a 27.4 MBps transfer rate. That's significantly behind both the 36MBps category average as well as the ThinkPad T530's mark of 37 MBps.
In our OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, in which we match 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses, the Latitude E5530 took 4 minutes and 12 seconds to finish the task, dead even with the T530 (4:11), and nearly two minutes faster than the 5:58 category average.
In the 3DMark11 test, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics performance, the Latitude E5530 and its Intel HD 4000 Graphics GPU scored 703, well below the category average of 1,127. The ThinkPad T530, which has the same integrated GPU as the E5530, scored a lower 625.
Still, mainstream games will run reasonably well on the Latitude E5530. "World of Warcraft" clocked in at 60 frames per second on the "Good" setting at 1366 x 768. That's a step above the 52 fps category average and a very solid mark for a system without discrete graphics. With the game set to max, the Latitude E5530 sank to 28 frames per second, which is not quite playable.
By comparison, the ThinkPad T530 averaged 30 frames per second with the game set to Good while running at 1366 x 768, which is underwhelming. Set to max at the same resolution, the T530 cranked out 13 fps.
The Latitude E5530's 9-cell battery ran for 8 hours and 39 minutes in our LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's well above both the 5:27 category average and the 6 hours and 39 minutes that the T530's 6-cell battery lasted. (You can swap the T530's 6-cell battery for a 9-cell, a $50 option.)
Security, Software and Warranty
The Latitude E5530 ships with Intel's Active Management Technology, which allows your firm's IT department to perform diagnostic scans remotely. The E5530 also has a free-fall sensor that parks the hard drive in case you drop the machine from a height of five inches or higher.
The third-generation Intel processor that the E5530 shipped with has Intel Anti-Theft Technology. In the event your notebook is stolen, your provider can send a lockdown command to your machine, which prevents others from using it. The service requires you to sign up with a service provider. A one-year subscription with Norton Anti-Theft costs $39.99 and can be used with up to three devices. LoJack subscriptions are available from $39.99 for one year to $109.99 for three years.
The fingerprint reader is easily configured through the Dell Access software. Setting up the reader requires you to create a Windows password. Unlike the T530's reader, the E5530's won't allow you to turn the system on with a single swipe.
A 30-day trial of Trend Micro Client-Server Security is also included for use with as many as three machines.
The E5530's warranty offers three years of basic hardware service supplemented by three years of limited on-site service following a remote diagnosis. See how Dell fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best & Worst Notebook Brands report
Our version of the E5530 (2.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3360M processor, 4GB of RAM, 320GB 7200 rpm hard drive and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU) cost $1,178, but you can configure it for significantly less. The $499 base model includes Windows 7 Home Premium (32- or 64-bit), a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i3-2328M processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB 7200 rpm hard drive, an 8X DVD drive, Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU and a 6-cell battery. If you opt for the low-end version, you'll have to sacrifice Intel's vPro tech as well as the webcam.
If you want to future-proof your investment, you can equip the Latitude E5530 with a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3520M processor, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, an 8X DVD drive, and a 9-cell battery for $1,617.
While you can opt for a 128GB SSD ($130) as well as a 1080p display ($99), you can't configure the E5530 with a discrete GPU, which is an option on the Lenovo T530.
The Latitude E5530 is a strong choice for those seeking a durable 15-inch notebook without being tethered to an outlet. This business notebook offers plenty of performance and has a long three-year warranty. While the Lenovo T530 lacks a number pad, we give the edge to that system, as it offers a discrete graphics option and better pointing stick. However, the long battery life and sturdy chassis of the E5530 makes it an attractive option.