Dell's Latitude 12 E5270 is a sturdy, well-rounded work companion for mobile workers. The compact 12-inch laptop offers speedy performance, long battery life and a comfy keyboard. Plus, its durable design and strong security are both a boon to business users. Unfortunately, the $1,196 notebook we tested is a bit too pricey compared with rival systems.
The E5270 looks and feels as it means business, with a matte black lid and a durable design. The system sports a carbon-fiber enhanced shell, and is MIL-SPEC 810G tested, which means it can withstand short drops, dings, shocks, extreme temperatures and more. It feels rigid and well-made to me, which is a big perk for anyone who needs to lug the laptop around in their work bag.
Commuters and frequent travelers will be less thrilled by the system's relative heft. Tipping the scales at 3.4 lbs., it's heavier than most competing systems, including Lenovo's 3.2-lb. ThinkPad X260 and HP's svelte, 2.1-lb. EliteBook Folio G1.
Just about every port that a worker could want is present on the E5270. The right edge includes a USB 3.0 port, an SD card for expanding the notebook's internal storage, a SIM card slot for always-connected internet, and a security lock slot.
The back of the system, meanwhile, has another USB 3.0 port; an Ethernet jack for connecting to wired internet and secure work networks; VGA and HDMI outputs for connecting to monitors and projectors; and the laptop's power port. These rear-mounted ports are convenient for workers who leave the E5270 hooked up at their desk most of the time, since they keep tangled cords out of the way. Mobile workers who frequently unplug might find that to be a bit of a hassle, though.
Finally, you'll find one last USB 3.0 port on the right edge.
My E5270 review unit didn't come with a fingerprint scanner, but the feature can be added when the system is purchased via Dell.com. I imagine that the $21 upgrade is well worth it for workers who want to unlock the laptop with a single touch, but I didn't have a chance to test out the reliability of the scanner. There's also the option to add a Smart Card reader, which will let you unlock the system with a physical key card.
Otherwise, you get the standard set of business-class security features, including a Trusted Platform Module, which enables hardware-based encryption for all your data. Meanwhile, all models with Intel's Core i56300U processor or better feature Intel vPro technology, which allows for secure remote management.
I generally prefer working on a display measuring at least 13 inches, or, ideally, 14 inches. Despite that, I didn't find the E5270's 12.5-inch display to feel too cramped for serious work. The panel has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p), making it plenty sharp for a notebook this size.
There are a handful of noteworthy drawbacks, though. While the screen is sharp, colors are somewhat on the dull side. It's also a bit dim, topping out at 246 nits of brightness, which is noticeably below the 304-nit laptop average. Finally, I'm not thrilled about the display's glossy finish, which tends to pick up reflections from windows and overhead office lights. For a work notebook, I much prefer a matte display.
I could type on the Latitude E5270 all day. The notebook's keyboard just feels great, offering up a generous 2 millimeters of key travel – well above the 1.5mm we look for in a laptop keyboard. A deeper keyboard is better because it prevents you from feeling like you're "bottoming out" on each stroke. I was also quite pleased with the keyboard's snappy tactile feedback.
The Latitude E5270 isn't likely to run out of juice in the middle of a long business flight. The system ran for an impressive 8 hours and 54 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That beats the category average of 8:04, as well as rival laptops, including the Portege Z30t (7:01), the EliteBook Folio (7:02), and the ThinkPad X260 with its standard 3-cell battery (8:16).
Workers who need the longest battery life possible might be better off buying the ThinkPad X260 with its extended battery, which more than doubles its endurance for an epic runtime of 17 hours on the same battery test.
Considering its compact size, the Latitude E5270 provided a pretty powerful performance during our tests. The system came equipped with an Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which allowed it to breeze through heavy multitasking sessions. I didn't notice any slowdown, even while editing a large spreadsheet with more than a dozen tabs open in my Firefox web browser, including one streaming HD video.
The notebook racked up a score of 5,001 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That's solid for everyday work tasks, and about on a par with the ultraportable notebook category average of 5,066. The ThinkPad X260 (6,424) and the EliteBook Folio G1 (6,706) proved to be a bit more powerful, though.
Dell's system also cranked out a solid performance on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 39 seconds. That's pretty good, beating the 7:13 average, and trailing competitors by just about 15-20 seconds.
Dell sells the Latitude E5270 in a wide range of hardware configurations. The baseline model is equipped with an Intel Core i3-6100 processor with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a low-res 1366 x 768 display for $849.
Given that unit's low-resolution display, I don't consider it to be a good option for business users. Our review unit is a much better sweet spot, offering a beefier Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1920 x 1080-pixel (1080p) display for $1,196. A fingerprint scanner would be a good addition for an extra $21 on top of that.
Dell's Latitude E5270 is an extremely solid 12-inch work laptop. You get fast performance, strong security and a durable design that can stand up to a little abuse. Mobile workers will appreciate its long battery life, too. But for a laptop that costs this much ($1,196 as configured for this review), I'd like to see a nicer display and a lighter, more commuter-friendly design. Lenovo's ThinkPad X260 offers both of those things for about $130 less when similarly configured.
The bottom line is that while the Latitude E5270 is a solid pick for Dell fans, other brands can offer a better bargain.