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.
Both of these accessories are very similar to the versions included with Microsoft's Surface Pro. And as we frequently complain about the Surface, the keyboard cover should really come included with the system -- it's practically a must-have accessory for any real productivity.
A serious performer
Some Surface-like hybrids are comparable only in design, but the Dell Latitude 5285 also nails it in performance. In fact, it outscored the Surface Pro 4, and every other 2-in-1, in multitasking and gaming benchmarks, as well as battery life average.
- 7th-gen Intel Core processors
- Full USB port, two USB-C ports
- Headphone/mic combo jack
- Optional NFC, LTE support, fingerprint sensor and smart card reader
The tablet is too heavy and bulky for me to comfortably play handheld games for more than a few minutes, but when I did games ran smoothly after launching. Choppy graphics would occur if many apps were open in the background, but closing them fixed everything.
|Dell Latitude 12 5285|
|Price as reviewed||$1,896|
|Display size/resolution||12-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 touch-display|
|PC CPU||2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7600U|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz|
|Graphics||128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)|
The Dell tablet was a champ at multitasking. While using the split-screen functions, I had over a dozen tabs open in Chrome (including a streaming video) on one side, and Microsoft OneNote on the other. I was able to quickly switch between tabs and the two windows without any lag.
The only time I experienced lag was when many apps, including games, were open in the background. Otherwise it was consistent smooth sailing.
The tablet would get very warm when pushing it to its limits, which could be uncomfortable if holding it. Since I mostly used it propped up on a stand, it didn't affect my experience too much.
Its full-HD screen looks bright, crisp and colorful. Everything from word docs to streaming HD video looked great. The glossy screen is a bit prone to glare (like most screens) but the tablet's luminous brightness made it easily visible in brightly lit environments.
- 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution
- Gorilla Glass 4 display
In our streaming video battery testing, the Dell Latitude 5285 lasted 8 hour and 50 minutes. That's longer than all of the comparable Windows 10 tablet-hybrids that we've tested so far. During my time with it, it would last an entire work day with extra juice to spare if used casually. With heavy use, it needed a charge by the end of the day.
Attack of the clones
The Dell Latitude 5285 is business-centered 2-in-1 that gives the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 a serious run for its money. Its portable design, powerful performance and rugged build make the it a great option for business travelers.
While it definitely has some crossover appeal for consumers, its price might dissuade those not interested in its durable design and security features. If the Dell and Surface Pro 4 are both out of your price range, the Lenovo Miix 510 is a comparable alternative for those shopping on a budget.
|Dell Latitude 12 5285||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo Miix 510||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD|
|Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD|
|Huawei MateBook||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 4||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD|
|Samsung Galaxy TabPro S||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel m3-6Y30; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD|