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Dell Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme

Dell’s new full-size, high-performance, fully-rugged laptop that’s also remarkably light and compact
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

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The Dell Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme was introduced on October 13, 2021 in a Dell Blog entry by Tom Tobul, VP and General Manager for Dell’s Performance PCs portfolio of products that includes the Dell Rugged product line. Tobul described the new 7330 as a machine that’s “taking it up a notch with enhanced durability.” The Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme is clearly aimed at customers seeking a fully rugged laptop, but without the bulk and weight generally associated with such a machine.

Whereas the also just introduced Latitude 5430 Rugged is an updated version of the prior Latitude 5420 Rugged, the Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme is new to Dell’s lineup of rugged laptops. That was likely necessitated by the competition having launched fully rugged laptops that are as compact and nearly as light as semi-rugged models. Looking at the specs, the new 7330 Rugged Extreme aims at Getac’s B360. The existing Dell Latitude 7420 Rugged Extreme is a heavier machine with additional features and build options. If updated, that one will compete with the Getac B360 Pro.

The Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme, on the other hand, presents full ruggedness in a design as compact and barely heavier than most semi-rugged laptops. The 7330 starts at 5.11 pounds, the same as the Getac B360. And its 12.75 x 8.66 footprint is even more compact that the Getac’s.

We haven’t had hands-on with the 7330 yet, but from pictures it very much looks like a more heavily armored 5430 with additional ruggedness features. Side-by-side, you instantly notice the beefier corner bumpers. The table below shows a comparison of some of the primary characteristics of the fully rugged 7330 and the semi-rugged 5430:

Dell Latitude 5430 Rugged 7330 Rugged Extreme
Ruggedness Semi-rugged Fully rugged
Standard display 14.0″, 1920 x 1080 (157 ppi) 13.3″, 1920 x 1080 (166 ppi)
Touch Capacitive Capacitive
Dimensions 13.38 x 8.66 x 1.32 inches 12.75 x 8.66 x 1.43 inches
Discrete graphics Yes; NVIDIA T500 No
Weight From 4.35 pounds From 5.11 pounds
Processors Intel 11th gen Core Intel 11th gen Core
Battery 1 or 2 x 53.5Wh Li-Ion 1 or 2 x 53.5Wh Li-Ion
Memory Max 32GB DDR4 3200MHz Max 32GB LPDDR4 4266MHz
Max storage 2TB PCIe SSD 2TB PCIe SSD
Media bay No No
Windows Hello Yes Yes
USB Type-C Yes Yes
Thunderbolt 4 Yes Yes
Sealing IP53 IP65
Drop 3-foot operating 6-foot operating
Op. temp range -20° to 145°F -20° to 145°F
Intrinsic safety No C1D2 Hazardous Location

So it seems that Dell has created two versions of the same basic platform, one semi-rugged and one fully-rugged. Externally visible differences are the 7330’s larger bumpers, lockable port covers and slightly thicker case due likely to a stronger internal chassis. With the 7330 Dell now also has a fully rugged laptop with new technology under the hood. By now, the existing fully rugged 7424 is three Intel processor generations behind. The new 7330 fixes all that (and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an updated version of the 7424 to do battle with the Getac B360 Pro).

While most Latitude 7424s Rugged Extremes were sold with perfectly serviceable Intel 8th generation quad-core chips, the model could still be had with an old 6th gen “Skylake” chip for those who still wanted Windows 7, and a low-end 7th gen Core i3 for the bargain conscious.

That’s all changed now with the new fully rugged model. The 7330’s three CPU options are from Intel’s lineup of powerful “Tiger Lake” 11th generation Core processors.. These remain energy-efficient ultra-low voltage designs but, apart from general technological advances, manufacturers have now more leeway in tuning their systems and optimizing the ever crucial performance versus battery life balance for different modes of operation. The 11th gen also introduced powerful Iris Xe graphics. The 7330’s spec sheet, however, doesn’t show the discrete NVIDIA T500 graphics option available for the 5430.

Primary storage solid state disk options are the same as those for the 5430: very fast PCIe NVMe SSDs up to 2TB. Customers can also opt for either Class 35 or more powerful Class 40 SSDs. The 7330’s RAM memory, though, is super-fast LPDDR4 4266MHz as compared to the 5430’s DDR4 3200MHz.

Display and connectivity

The Latitude 7330 Rugged has a 13.3-inch display with full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. That’s a bit smaller then the 5430’s 14.0-inch screen, possibly for ruggedness reasons. Unlike the 5430 that has a non-touch 400 nits default screen and a high-bright touch option, the 7330 comes standard with a very bright 1400 nits luminance touch screen (matching the Getac B360).

Connectivity has changed with the advent of Thunderbolt 4. Like the 5430, the 7330 gets two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (up to 5Gbit/s), one with power deliver, and also a Thunderbolt 4 port which offers USB 3.2 Gen 2 (up to 10Gbit/s) on a reversible USB Type-C port. That port can provide both upstream and downstream charging and also supports video. With an optional dock the Thunderbolt 4 port can drive two additional 4K video displays.

There is also a native RS232 serial port, a gigabit RJ45 LAN jack, audio in/out, HDMI 2.0, and a docking connector, all with protective covers. Optionally available is a second powered TB4/USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. And an optional I/O bay can be equipped with a RJ-45 OR USB Type-A OR native RS232 OR Fischer USB 3.0 port. There is a Micro SD Card reader, a Nano SIM card slot as well as Smart card or contactless Smart card reader options. One option the 5430 doesn’t have but the 7330 does is an ExpressCard slot.

Next is a close-up of the backside of the Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme with the protective doors closed. Note that the fully rugged laptop’s port covers are waterproof. They also have sliding locks and are color coded to alert the user if a port isn’t locked.

State-of-the-art wireless communication is crucial in a mobile computing device, be that in the office or out there on the road or in the field. Dell covers that with either Intel AX210 2×2 MIMO or Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax modules that can also include Bluetooth. Additional options include mobile broadband via a Qualcomm Snapdragon SDX20 4G LTE or SDX55 5G, and a dedicated u-blox GPS module.

Semi-rugged design

How tough and rugged is Dell’s Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme? Very. While the “semi-rugged” 5430 can take some abuse and exposure, the fully rugged 7330 is a tough as it gets in a laptop computer that’s still light and compact enough to go virtually anywhere.

While the Latitude 5430 Rugged can handle three foot drops, the 7330 doubles that to a very impressive six feet. And while the semi-rugged 5430 carries an IP53 Ingress Protection rating, the 7330 provides much higher IP65 protection. The “6” means the device is completely protected against dust, and the “5” that it’s also protected against low-pressure water jets from all directions.

An important requirement of rugged mobile computers is that they continue to perform at a high level when it’s very hot or very cold. The Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme’s operating temperature range is -20° to 145° Fahrenheit. That’s very impressive, especially since Dell machines usually maintain full performance over their entire operating temperature range.

Where does Dell stand with the new 7330 Rugged?

As standard personal and business laptops get ever thinner and glitzier, there’s an increasing demand — particularly in public service and the enterprise — for something that doesn’t scratch or break quite as easily, and does so without the high cost of fully rugged gear. That’s where “semi-ruggeds” like the 5430 come in. The 7330 takes it considerably farther. It is a modern, full-size, fully rugged laptop that isn’t bulky and weighs barely more than a semi-rugged design.

Interestingly, rival Panasonic doesn’t doesn’t have a modern machine in this class. The primary competition comes from Getac with their B360. If a bit more weight doesn’t matter, Durabook, Winmate, DT Research and others also offer state-of-the-art rugged machines. What that means is that with the new Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme, Dell is once again positioned at the leading edge in terms of technology.

Dell, of course, is also a world-leading provider of commercial PCs, which gives them an edge in large scale production experience and also with enterprises that like to one-stop shop. In addition, there’s Dell’s Global Command Center that stays on top of well over 100 million supported systems, millions and millions of annual dispatches and 500+ same day parts centers in over 160 countries, providing 24/7 support in 50+ languages.

Between that, Dell’s solid commitment to the rugged space, and the machine’s impressive design, up-to-date technology and specs, this new fully rugged notebook is certain to be a strong competitor. — Conrad Blickenstorfer 10/2021


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