It’s hard to go past eBay for a second-hand laptop (full disclosure – I own some shares in eBay). There’s a huge range, and it tends to be the outlet of choice for ex-corporate machines which are replaced on a regular cadence – more regularly than most consumers would replace theirs.
But buying a second-hand Latitude can be a bit of a lottery if you don’t know what you’re getting, as the lines are confusing with many different models. Here I’ll try to break it down, so you can make a more informed decision.
I’ve focused on small and light models, as that is what I bought for myself and thus was what guided my research. If you’re interested, check out my article on upgrading to a Latitude 7300 from a Macbook Pro.
Because they’re common. Dell has a huge corporate sales channel in the UK, and the 3-year corporate cycle means supply is high, and demand relatively low. Latitude is not a consumer brand, so people prefer the XPS line and other consumer models.
Also because they’re designed for business, and underrated compared to the Lenovo X and T-series, which makes them great value.
I’ve waxed lyrical about the virtues of corporate-class machines in the past, but generally they are highly serviceable (with manuals provided for free online). Spare parts are readily available, and they’re upgradeable, which is in stark contrast to high-end consumer models which commonly solder both the RAM and SSD.
You pay for this with a little bit of extra thickness and weight (and price if you’re buying new), but these days the difference is not great, and the current Latitudes bear a striking resemblance to the XPS line.
The Top Models
These are the 13-inch Latitude models I’d recommend:
- Latitude 7300 – 2019 model
- Latitude 7390 – 2018 model
- Latitude 7380 – 2017 model
None of these machines are yet common on the second-hand market, but I’d expect a fair few 7380s will be turned over this year as they turn 3 years old. 7390 and 7300 models also turn up occasionally, sometimes near-new for a fraction of the list price.
I recommend these models because they all have a few things in common:
- High-end metal chassis
- Two SO-DIMM slots for RAM upgrades
- A M.2 2280 slot which supports NVME SSDs
- Easily-replaceable batteries
- A thunderbolt 3 port which supports charging and docking stations
- A good 1080p display*
- They resemble the form-factor of the XPS 13, but unlike the earlier XPS models the webcams are all at the top
* Some reviews also claim the base display is 1366×768, but I haven’t seen any examples of this in the UK; they all appear to be 1920×1080.
Options to look out for are the fingerprint reader, and the camera – some support Windows Hello and some don’t, and the privacy shutter is also optional. The fingerprint reader is easy to spot in photos – the power button will be round and smooth, whereas the non-fingerprint power button has an LED in it.
What would you expect to pay for one of these models? Assuming excellent condition, I.E. no major blemishes, I’d expect to pay:
- £500-600 for a Latitude 7300
- £400-500 for a Latitude 7390
- £350-400 for a Latitude 7380
At the low end of the range you’re probably looking at an i5, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD, and an i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD at the upper end.
Models to avoid
Some of the older Latitudes I would avoid purchasing as a primary machine today:
- Latitude 7370 – a modern infinity-edge design with thunderbolt, but contains slow fanless m-class CPUs
- All Latitude Exxxx models – these are older, bulkier, pre-thunderbolt designs (the E means they support the old E-series docking stations, which would be redundant with thunderbolt or USB-C)
- All Latitude 3000 series models – these are low-end and make significant compromises. Only worth considering if you are buying new and have a tight budget.
For any machine older than 2017, I’d suggest getting a Lenovo X1 (or T-series if you want something larger).
Latitudes come in 3 ranges – 3000, 5000, 7000; I.E. “good”, “better”, “best”, similar to Intel’s Core i3, i5 and i7. As mentioned above, you’ll probably want to avoid the 3000 line when buying second hand, it rarely offers good value unless you’re buying new.
From what I can tell the 5000 line is perfectly fine, but you should definitely prefer a 7000 model, all else being equal. Deciding between an older 7000 model and a newer 5000 model is hard to call – you’ll have to look closely at the specifications and read reviews.
Here I’ve listed some models I’ve seen on eBay with comments; please note I have no hands-on experience with them, and this is all informed by online research:
14-inch 7000 series models (74xx)
The 7400, 7490 and 7480 are 14-inch versions of the 73xx models above. You don’t get as much as you’d think for the extra size though. The main advantage is better input – they include the touchpoint mouse and the extra buttons to support it, and also an ethernet jack, if that’s your thing. For the size you’d hope for a 16:10 display, but nope, these are still 16:9.
Generally, I think the 13-inch models are the sweet spot, but these machines look absolutely fine, and there are some great deals on 74xx models.
12-inch 7000 series models (72xx)
As of the 2019 Latitude 7300, the 12-inch 72xx line has been discontinued, mainly because they weren’t any smaller than the 13-inch range. Basically you get a 12-inch screen in the body of a modern 13-inch design, so they’re only worth buying at a discount.
- Latitude 7290
- Latitude 7280
I haven’t looked at 12-inch models older than this, but given their age (2016 and earlier) you should probably only consider them at less than £300.
A healthy dose of caveat emptor applies when buying a 5000 series laptop.
If you want a high-end laptop I’d stick to the 7000 series. The chassis are higher quality, and the base specifications always include good displays and thunderbolt. But if you’re looking for something more mid-range, there are great deals to be had on 5xxx models.
The main thing to watch out for when buying a 5000-series model is the configuration. The base configurations can have cheap 1366×768 displays, and lack thunderbolt. So whether a Latitude 5xxx laptop is worth buying very much depends on what options were ticked when it was purchased.
- Latitude 5300 – Current model, similar design to the 7300, but can be had for around £400 in new condition. All UK configurations appear to have a 1080p display, but it’s still worth checking. The USB-C port is NOT thunderbolt 3 by default, but unlike the 7300 this model does have a physical ethernet port.
- Latitude 5290 – Older version of the 5300 above; I saw one of these in “new” condition for £385, which isn’t terrible, just bear in mind it has a 12-inch screen in a 13-inch body. And it probably has a cheap display and lacks thunderbolt (the listing doesn’t say). With a 1080p display and thunderbolt, this would be a good deal though.
- Latitude 5490 – Previous-generation mid-range 14-inch model. Worth considering under £400, assuming it has a 1080p display and thunderbolt. I saw one for £320 used, with a 1366×768 display without thunderbolt, at which price I’d probably avoid.
The best way is to search for “Dell Latitude” in the laptop category on eBay.
Filter by Core i5 and Core i7, the 7th and 8th generations, and you’ll get models of about the right age. In the UK, don’t filter by screen size, as it seems the UK listings aren’t properly categorised in this way, and you get bumped to global listings.
I tend not to worry about RAM and SSD sizes, as they’re easy to upgrade later, and sellers sometimes inflate the price of these specifications more than is warranted. The CPU is more important though, as you can’t change it later. So an i7 is worth paying a little more for.
Modern corporate laptops are a great choice for most people, as there aren’t many advantages to the consumer models these days, other than thinness and appearance. By buying second-hand instead of new you’re reducing e-waste, and on top of that a corporate machine will last longer, as it’s easy to upgrade and repair down the track.
This article will date quickly, but hopefully it helps someone. If you end up buying one, let me know what you got and how it goes in the comments!