Two new devices from Dell have put me in probably the oddest position I’ve ever been in as a reviewer of tech devices. For the first time ever, I’m forced to tell general consumers across the board that a device isn’t a good fit for them. The strange part is these Chromebooks aren’t bad and aren’t average. They’re probably just not for you.
The Dell Latitude Chromebook Enterprise 5300 and 5400 are Chromebooks 100% geared toward the business world. It’s right there in the name. These Chromebooks come out of the box with Google’s Chrome Enterprise Management licenses, Dell’s VMWare and Unified Workspace, MIL-STD rating for toughness, all the ports you could want, and user-serviceable battery, RAM and SSD slots. These Chromebooks are built from the ground up for business use.
But it isn’t all roses, either. The screens are both average, clocking in at 13.3 or 14 inches, 1080p, 16×9, and not very bright. The 14-inch 5400 is an anti-glare, non-touch panel and is a relatively dim 180 nits. The brighter 13.3-inch panel on the 5300 is a tad better at 220 nits, but for Chromebooks in this price range that isn’t acceptable. The keys on both are a bit mushy and the 5300 keyboard actually has smaller-than-normal keys that are also crammed a tad tighter than most keyboards. There’s plenty of room for a normal keyboard, so I was confused by this.
Both devices employ a non-moving trackpad with big, mushy buttons beneath. I suppose this is better for all the Windows apps users will be running in the cloud, but I couldn’t get used to the buttons under the trackpad. It felt like I took a giant leap back about 10 years.
They are also a bit heavy (3.25 lbs.) and substantial feeling, giving me great confidence that they could hold up to quite a bit of abuse without batting an eye. The hinges felt great, too, and apart from the oddly-small keyboard on the 5300 and the old-school trackpad, using both Chromebooks was fine.
But, at prices that start around $1350 and go way up, I don’t feel like ‘fine’ works for anyone. Please don’t hear me bashing these devices, though. For large businesses that need solid machines they are used to (tons of big businesses already use Dell Latitude laptops and these are basically identical), the Dell Latitude Chromebook Enterprise devices will likely be great. With all the built in management, insanely fast performance, solid build quality, easy upgrades, and enhanced functionality out of the box, I’m sure these devices will be a solid purchase for businesses looking to leverage large-scale, cloud-centric laptop deployment.
After all, if your goal is to roll out computers for your workers with the least amount of overhead, time, effort, and security woes, Chrome OS makes more sense than anything else you can do. That is what Dell and Google are betting on, here, and I think for that use they have put together a great package in most respects.
What I don’t think most general consumers looking for a great Chromebook should do is consider buying one. The positives and benefits of these VERY EXPENSIVE Chromebooks all fall on the side of the enterprise sector, and regular users like you and me won’t ever really reap those benefits. That is why we put together this video and post. We are general consumers and our main audience is made up of general consumers. As those consumers, it can be tempting to look at some of the specs (16GB of RAM and 256GB of NVMe storage, am I right?) and think that these Chromebooks must offer the best possible Chrome OS experience.
The truth is, they don’t. The truth is most users won’t benefit from using them at all. The truth is, for much, much less money you can go grab any one, two or three of the flagship Chromebooks on offer and still be spending less money and getting a better overall experience. The ASUS Flip C434, HP x360 14, Dell Inspiron, Lenovo Yoga C630, and Pixelbook Go all come to mind as machines I would take every day over either of these Dell Latitude Chromebooks. They aren’t bad Chromebooks: they just aren’t any good for general consumers.