What are the prospects for a 'sensible' laptop in a school? Dell is about to find out with its Latitude 3330
Dell's budget Latitude 3330Dell's budget Latitude 3330First impressions of this Dell Latitude 3330 laptop were based on a slip in an email – that the machine offered for review would be a Windows tablet. So there was immediate disappointment with the weight and Windows 7 – why not Windows 8?.

It might seem unfair to mention that – it was a mistake after all – but it does echo current expectations of many mobile technology users. They want to lighten their burden - if not a tablet then netbook, ultrabook or Chromebook - and use the latest operating system.

Of course it would be nonsensical to measure the Latitude 3330 directly against a digital tablet like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, but size, weight and performance are keenly contested factors in choice of digital devices. For those in education or business who are looking for luggable, budget laptop workhorses, this would a sensible but unremarkable candidate.

It’s robust, has a good, swappable 4-cell battery (6-cell available) and a multiple purchase can include a charging trolley which is very useful in a school. For those schools that have a clear role for this technology, the £429 price tag might be tempting.

The tough question for Dell is “How tempting?” A couple of years ago this kind of specification – 4Gb memory, 320Gb hard disc, Windows 7, 13.3-inch screen, weighing 1.4 kilos – would have been attractive around the £400 mark. But times and technology have move on.

During the month or so of using this test machine it proved perfectly capable of most tasks. However, it was slightly sluggish and very slow to restart from ‘sleep’. In an environment where there was also a Samsung Chromebook (from education dealer Stone for just over £200) and a MacBook Air, did it ever get to go out to work for its living? No, apart from providing experience for this review. Not light enough.

That speaks for itself. These kinds of machines are non-starters for inclusion in a student’s or teacher’s bag with books and other items. They are never going home. That leaves a mobile role within school. In its favour, this machine has its own Dell ‘ecosystem’ that allows for a useful variety of features and add-ons for education and business customers.

However, in this space the techno competition is very, very intense. For £400 you can get an iPad, for considerably less you can get a Microsoft SufaceRT with Office and a keyboard, and you can get great, cheap Android tablets with a comprehensive management system from LearnPad/Avantis. Even Tesco is now in the game with a 7-inch Hudl tablet for just over £100. Which makes the Latitude 3330 appear rather too staid and safe for comfort – will anyone will be coo-ing and ahh-ing over this machine at BETT 2014 (now on the horizon)? The problem for Dell and for schools is that there is absolutely nothing here to get excited about – and even at this price there ought to be.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose  4
Ease of use              4
Features                   4
Quality                     4    
Value for money      4

Dell Latitude 3330
Budget laptop computer with 33.3-inch screen, 4Gb memory, Intel processor (2nd Gen i3-2375M, 1.50GHz, 3MB, dual core), Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, 320Gb hard disc, 3 USB3 ports, 1 HDMI (check for variations and accessories), £429 ex VAT from Dell

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