posted 13 Jun 2017
I was very specific about the machine I wanted as my replacement. My minimum, must have requirements for this machine was, dock station capability, built in Smart Card reader, 1080p screen, a removable media bay and in a 14″ platform. Certainly, this is not a popular setup for most but it is what I very much require. The machine that fit the bill was the Dell Latitude E6440. I realize, this is not a new machine, I believe they were discontinued in 2016 but it is just the right age for me as there will be no hardware surprises.
Preparing the Installation
I didn’t have to do much here. The only task I was interested in doing was to have all the necessary updates, specifically the firmware and the like from Dell completed before I killed Windows 7. Primarily, I wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t fiddle around with updates after I switched it to Linux.
Installing openSUSE Tumbleweed
For most cases Leap is probably the choice I would make for most people. It is an “enterprise hardened” distribution that is super rock solid. I also have a desire to do more when it comes to testing and development, etc. I really wanted more up to date packages and I really wanted to kick the tires on a rolling release to see how it works for me. I had an expectation of stability issues and some reservation on whether or not this would be good enough for my personal “multi-tool” rig. Leap has been great but it was time to see how this rolling release would work for me.
I don’t typically stay on the cutting edge of technology as I don’t want to bleed to death but I had some very specific requirements based on my experience with my previous primary machine. There were some features lacking that I really wanted and some features that I didn’t want to give up.
I have very specific reasons for wanting these specifications, all of which are likely uninteresting so I won’t go into all my reasons.
You can get benchmarks from anyone and as much as I like those numbers they are really pretty meaningless. What matters to me is how long does it take to boot up or return from suspend. How good is battery life on this machine under typical work loads. Sure,I can monitor my power usage in Kinfocenter and watch the energy consumption and give you an analysis but my usage is likely to be different than yours. What I care about is making it thru a long meeting or half the day or whatever my needs are under specific work conditions. When I click-to-open something do I feel like I am waiting on the machine or is it snappy.
I wanted a machine with good battery life and I certainly have that with this machine. It has a 9-cell battery, the age of which I am not certain but I am getting about 5 hours of battery life doing the basic tasks that I require. That includes working in LibreOffice, streaming audio or video, Firefox and Chrome with multiple tabs open. When running virtual machines it is obviously lower and when I am doing very simple tasks a bit longer but to say I get 5 hours is a safe and conservative estimate. I am quite pleased in the battery life of this machine.
What I Like
This machine is basically the perfect size. It is very portable, albeit a bit thick compared to the ultra portables out there but they did pack a lot into a small package. The speed of this machine, for everything I do, is phenomenal. I often run a couple virtual machines simultaneously to test software on installations of Leap and Tumbleweed in order to not bork my host system. Having a full 1080p screen is so nice to have. I know that there are sharper displays out there but for my purposes, 1080p is the sweet spot. I can adjust the size of text and icons perfectly. I have the perfect screen real-estate to do all that I need to do.
The built-in features including the optical media drive, which I have used several times and smart card reader are must-haves for me still and this machine just fits the bill perfectly to do all that I need to do. It is a perfect stand alone system that requires no dongles or accessories and I can accomplish 95% of my workload. I have 16GB of RAM in the machine, which is its maximum. It is, I suppose a little low for 2017 but I’m not doing anything at this time that pushes it. Maybe someday.
The overall design of the machine is very nice. It looks nice, is not flashy but has nice lines and coloring to it. Simple and elegant. It feels solid and quite well constructed. It is very easy to take off the bottom cover to do upgrades or serves the interior of the machine. It is as though there was a lot of thought put into the design of it. Not just the appearance but pragmatic details for those that have to keep these things running, replace components and do upgrades. I would say that this machine is an improvement over my previous machine in all aspects.
What I Don’t Like
The weight but I have no room to complain here. It is a solid well constructed machine, it is only to be expected that it is going to have some weight to it. I am still on the fence about the newer keyboard layout of this Latitude. I really liked the D Series layout and I miss the menu key. I was probably the last person in the world to use it but I used it frequently. I am also on the fence about the position of the page up and page down keys. In a way, way more convenient, but I am just not used to it.
I don’t see a machine that is a direct replacement from Dell at this time and that does concern me but I think that this machine will last me for a few years before I outgrow it. My hardware needs will likely change over time. Right now, this fits the bill in every way. It is not the fastest, best on battery, most portable machine but it has just enough of the right features for me to get what I need done today at home, work or a remote site.