Designer Review: Dell Latitude 9520 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop (2021)

Review unit is on loan from Dell Singapore

The Dell Latitude series of laptops are designed for business customers. These laptops have solid build quality and are built to last. They also come with more warranty options such as the option to go with 5 years of next-business day support. They are also pricier compared to other laptops from Dell with rather similar specifications.

I'm not a business user and this review is from the perspective of a visual content creator.

Haing said that, let me give you the bottom line upfront. This laptop is well designed, has a beautiful display, smooth lag-free performance, long battery life, wonderful keyboard and amazing audio quality from the speakers. In other words, it's a really good laptop for people who value reliability. The only downside for me is the 16:9 aspect ratio which affects productivity. Dell could have included a 16:10 aspect ratio and this would be the perfect laptop for business users.

Here's the specifications for the review unit:

  • 11th gen Intel Core i5-1145G7 (4 core 2.6Ghz)
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1TB storage
  • Intel Iris Xe
  • 15-inch LCD touchscreen display (1920 x 1080)
  • Weight: 1.5kg

There's no dedicated graphics card which is not a surprise since this is not a gaming laptop. SSD storage options are from 256GB to 1TB. You can get the Intel Core i7-1185G7 if you need the extra processing power but the i5 model is already more than overkill for business type work you're going to do on this laptop.

Things included


A compact 90W charger is included.

Design


This is a clean, simple and elegant design. The top is flat and curved gently towards the edges.


On the back are grills for the air intake. The feet is in the form of two long hard pieces of plastic.

I did not open the bottom but from what I've read, the memory is soldered and SSD is difficult to replace. 16GB RAM should be sufficient. To increase storage from 256GB to 512GB cost SGD $95 which is quite reasonable.


That's the charging light indicator beneath the right corner.

Overall build quality is solid. The body is made with metal with no flex at all. The build quality is better than the high-end Dell Precision and XPS laptops I've used before.


The back-lit keyboard has a good layout. Keys have good travel and feedback. Overall typing experience is excellent. You can definitely speed type on this.


The keyboard build quality feels great.

The front facing speakers by the side have amazing audio quality.

Trackpad indents slightly more than I prefer but overall is a good trackpad that suffers from no ghost touch/clicks. This is an accurate trackpad.


Ports on the left are full-sized HDMI 2.0, two Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 with power delivery, microSD card slot and a sim card tray beneath.


Ports on the right are USB 3 type A, 3.5mm audio jack and the Kensington lock.

Port selection is good. It's missing an SD card reader but I guess business users don't really use SD cards, right? If so, I'm not sure why they included the microSD card slot though.

Display


This is a vibrant and bright display. Colours on the display look great out of the box. I measured colour support for 100% sRGB, 74% NTSC, 79% AdobeRGB, 81% P3 and a maximum brightness of 376 nits.

Resolution is 1920 x 1080 which is alright for a 15-inch display. There's noticeable pixelation but the visuals are still sharp enough.

If you actually fold the display to the back, e.g. for watching movies, the speakers are facing away.

The display supports the use of the Dell Active Pen but I don't have one to test so I can't say much about the writing or drawing performance. Anyway, I don't recommend this for drawing. Writing performance should be good if it's the same performance from Dell Inspiron 14 (5410) that I review a month ago.


Above the display is a 720P web cam with decent image quality. And on top of the display lid are four noise-cancelling microphones. So this laptop should be good for video conferencing.

Face unlock works well enough.

Performance


Overall performance is good. The laptop is fast, smooth and lag-free with graphic design workflow. That's to say that it's going to be smooth sailing with office-type work.

The laptop barely heats up more of the time. And since heat is not an issue, the fans are barely audible. And even when the fans spin up, the fans are not that noisy.


Adobe Premiere Pro keeps crashing on me so I can't say how good this laptop is at editing and exporting videos. The 16:9 aspect ratio is not good for editing videos though. More vertical pixels would be better.


Here's how much time it took to export a hundred 16MP RAWs with Adobe Lightroom Classic:

  • M1 Macbook Air (2020) - 1 min 20s
  • ASUS PA90 with Intel i9-9900K (8 x 3.6Ghz): 1m 27s
  • ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 UX582 2021 (Intel Core i9-10980HK (2.4 GHz x 8) - 1 min 40s
  • Dell Latitude 9520 (2021) 11th gen Intel Core i5-1145G7 (4 core 2.6Ghz) - 2 min 1s
  • LG Gram 16 (2021) Intel i7-1165G7 (quad 2.8Ghz) - 3 min 11s
  • Surface Book 3 Intel i7-1065G7 (Quad 1.3 - 3.9Ghz): 3 min 50s to 4min 41s

Photo export time is quite decent. And even when exporting photos you can still work on other stuff without lag.


This laptop has specifications that can handle office-type work with ease. There's actually no need to go with the Intel i7 model. You can save the money and spend in on more memory, storage, or extended warranty service.

The only downside of this laptop is the 16:9 aspect ratio which is not as good for productivity compared to 16:10 or 3:2.

If the width of the page is the same (e.g. same font size, picture size) across laptops with different aspect ratios, laptops with more vertical resolution will allow you to see more of your page. When you can see more of your page, you don't have to scroll as often. E.g. When writing, you can see more paragraphs, when editing spreadsheets you can see more rows.

Due to the 16:9 aspect ratio, I would recommend you get the Dell Latitude 9420 instead. The Dell Latitude 9420 has similar specifications but it uses a 16:10 aspect ratio display. Even though the display size is smaller, due to the aspect ratio, you can see more of your page. Being able to see more content translates to better productivity. Dell Latitude 9420 is also lighter at 1.33kg vs 1.5kg.

Warranty and service


One of the main selling points of the Dell Latitude is you many warranty and service options available.

You can choose up to 5 years of next business day onsite support. There's also option for data recovery, battery replacement, accidental damage. You don't get this variety of support with other Dell laptops.

Support and service is important for businesses who cannot afford downtime.

Compared to Dell XPS

The Dell Latitude is not a budget laptop. For the money you spend on a Dell Latitude, you can get a Dell XPS with better specifications, e.g. 8-core processor, more RAM, dedicated graphics card and a higher resolution display. Dell XPS with the NVIDIA GeForce 3050 allows you to play some games. Dell Latitude is bad at gaming.

So why get Dell Latitude when you can get the Dell XPS?

People buy Dell Latitude for the build quality, reliability and warranty options. And these are things companies or business users value. If you want cutting edge technology, go with the Dell XPS.

Conclusion

The Dell Latitude 9520 is a good looking laptop with good performance and thermals. The display is vibrant and bright. Battery life is at least 10 hours with mid-high brightness. Audio quality, keyboard and trackpad are great.

The only downside is the 16:9 aspect ratio.

So my recommendation is to get the Dell Latitude 9420 instead. You get the same specifications but the display is 16:10 which is better for productivity. The 14-inch display may be smaller but screen size is not as important compared to aspect ratio in this case.

Pros and cons at a glance:
+ Good looking design
+ 2-in-1 design
+ Excellent build quality
+ 1.5kg weight is alright for a laptop this size
+ Bright and vibrant display
+ 100% sRGB colour support
+ Great audio quality
+ Great keyboard
+ Great trackpad
+ Good thermals. Barely gets warm.
+ Fans at high speed don't sound noisy
+ Many warranty options
+ 10 hour battery life with mid-high brightness
+ Has Dell Active Pen support for writing
- 16:9 aspect ratio not as good for productivity

Availability

You can find the Dell Latitude 15 convertible 9520 from these Amazon affiliate links:
US | CA | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT

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