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Dell Latitude 12 E5250 (Broadwell) review: A small, sturdy workhorse of a laptop

Jon L. Jacobi | Feb. 25, 2015
This 12-inch business laptop may be easier to fit into a bag, but it's not much lighter than its 14- and 15-inch cousins.

The E5250's ports are scattered around the edges, but the selection is a capable modern mix. There's mini-DisplayPort, USB 3.0 (always-on), and SD card slot on the right; two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and gigabit Ethernet on the back, and the audio jack and smart card reader on the left. Wi-Fi is 802.11 AC and there's Bluetooth 4.0 on board. The power jack is on the back of the unit so you can keep the E5250 plugged in without the cord constantly getting in the way, as it does with most laptops. I like it.

There are several docking options available for the E5250: the E-Port Plus for $157.68 (don't ask us how they come up with these prices), plain E-Port for $121.68, and the Dell Universal Dock and Monitor Stand for $179.99 (finally a normal price!). The warranty was a single-year, but this being one of Dell's business-oriented laptops, there's a wide variety of service and support plans available up to five years in length.

Our test E5250's performance was quite good. It turned in a PC Mark 8 Work Conventional score of 2,742 and a Creative Conventional score of 2,203. Those are slightly lower than the 2,841 and 2,242 achieved by the older Core i5 4310-based model we were originally sent but it's basically a tie. No doubt the slightly pricier Core i5 5300U configurations would add more performance. For reference, we've also included PC Mark 8 Work Conventional scores from a pair of ultrabooks and there is a considerable performance difference that's attributable to tighter thermal controls of the ultrabooks.

Gaming frame rates, as with all Intel integrated graphics, are suited only for older generation or Web games. Not that you can't have a lot of fun with those. The Samsung PM851 SSD was a bit of a mixed story: CrystalDiskMark rated 4GB file transfers at 462MBps reading, but only 136MBps writing. That means you get the quick feel of an SSD, except when you're saving large files.

Subjectively, I found navigating the Windows 8.1 operating system and running apps a facile experience. Not surprising given the SSD. Movies looked great, and the unit's speakers actually sounded decent. I wouldn't exactly call what's emanating from them bass, but it's closer to it than a lot of laptops manage. The keyboard types nicely and the touchpad was responsive with firm buttons.

The Latitude 12 E5250 is a capable laptop with state-of-the-art connectivity and good performance. Personally, I'd opt for a Latitude 14 or 15 with a larger display and keyboard at roughly the same weight. But tastes vary, and if you or your business like the Latitude 12 5000 series form factor, and can afford one, by all means.

Note: You can get into a Latitude 12 for less money with the 3000 series and pay more for the security-minded (TPM, biometrics) 7000 series.


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