Since its release, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has been the no-brainer recommendation for anyone interested in a powerful and portable 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid. But as of late, a number of worthy competitors have cropped up, including the Dell Latitude 5285, one of the latest and greatest to take on the Microsoft tablet's crown.
The business-geared Dell tablet has a strong emphasis on the security features corporate IT departments insist on. But on the outside, it has a similar design to the Surface Pro 4, right down to the built-in kickstand. Also like the Surface Pro line, it works with a keyboard accessory and stylus that are both sold separately. (The Surface Pro 4 comes with a stylus, but not the keyboard.) While the main pitch is to business users, there's consumer crossover appeal as well, especially if you're looking for a 2-in-1 on the rugged side.
Simply put, the Dell tablet is like a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with more security features. Just be ready to pay a little more for those extras. Starting at $899 (£725 or AU$1,239) without the keyboard or stylus, it's more expensive that the Surface Pro 4's entry-level model, which starts at $799 (£749 or AU$899) and includes a stylus.
The Latitude 5285 is part of Dell's professional line and offers a family of Intel features important for security-minded IT departments. Dell's ControlVault, which stores and protects your passwords and security codes, and the Endpoint Security Suite Enterprise software can be pre-loaded onto the tablet at an extra cost.
Additionally, Dell offers Intel's vPro remote-management technology, as well as the option to customize models with an infrared camera for Windows Hello facial recognition and fingerprint or smart card reader.
These features are overkill for the Average Joe, but they could be important for business users who need a secure machine for work.
A clever kickstand
The Dell Latitude 5285 has two small buttons that slightly protrude from its bottom edge. Push that bottom edge downward onto a flat surface and the kickstand automatically opens.
The auto-deploy kickstand reminds me of the flip phone featured in The Matrix -- you know, the one that would quickly slide open with the press of a button. But since the concept isn't anything new, it's not as impressive. It is a nifty feature that makes it easy to set up shop as soon as you sit at a table.
The sturdy kickstand, made of brushed-metal aluminum, can rotate up to 150 degrees for multiple viewing angles. It comes in handy when using it with the stylus. The back shell has a magnesium-alloy casing and, overall, the tablet feels very solid. Unsurprising, considering it passed MIL-SPEC 810G standards, the testing used to measure the durability of U.S. military equipment. This means it's built to survive an accidental drop or two.
The Dell Latitude 5285 has an optional keyboard and stylus. Both attach magnetically and are sold separately.
I really liked the feel of the Dell tablet's keyboard ($129, £163, AU$219). The short travel of the keys made typing fast a joy, and the deck's rubbery material was comfortable for resting palms. The textured back of the keyboard gave it a nice grippy surface to hold onto. It's keys are also backlit, however there's only one brightness setting.
The Dell Active Pen stylus accessory ($59, £60, AU$97) has a pressure-sensitive tip with minimal latency. I enjoyed using it to navigate (to avoid smudges on the touchscreen) and for note-taking. For convenient storage, it magnetically attaches to the tablet's right edge and it connects strongly enough for it to stay put when walking around with it in hand.