Dell has done it again.

Quite a few months ago, I reviewed the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet and said it was a true iPad Mini killer. I stand by that conviction almost 18 months later, and now Dell has released a well-rounded business laptop that joins the ranks for my top picks this year. (I also really like the Apple Macbook, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, the Microsoft Surface Book, and the super-simple Google Chromebook Pixel 2015.)

The Dell Latitude 13 7000 is an all-purpose model meant for serious work. It's all black and all business. It's not a frilly gaming laptop, not a slim travel notebook with a detachable screen that doubles as a tablet. It's meant as a standard working class laptop that gets the job done, and--I'm here to tell you, it helped me get my job done. I typed on one at coffee-shops, loaded up my favorite Windows 10 apps (all six of them) and hammered way too aggressively on the soft-touch keyboard.

A boring list of specifications won't help anyone pick a laptop, so I'll report on what I liked the most. First off, Google Docs never looked this good. Dell makes brilliant displays that are brilliant in their design and brilliant in their color quality. They extend almost all the way to the edge. That's why the 13.3-inch screen works in a overall laptop this size that is normally meant for a model with a 12-inch display. 

Better yet, you can actually see the words on the Latitude's screen without squinting or having to lean forward, which is the true mark of a good all-around laptop. (Who knew being able to actually work was so important.) The keys are not springy or bouncy but lay flat like the Chromebook Pixel I mentioned. On my criteria of really important laptop features, the screen and keyboard are at the top.

Other great features? The notebook weighs 2.48-pounds which puts it in that category of not so light-as-air that it will slide around on the table but definitely not as heavy as some business-class notebooks. I also like that Dell offers some endpoint security features, including full disk encryption. If you're a startup thinking of handing out notebooks to new employees when they walk in the door, you can do much worse with a consumer notebook meant for making Facebook posts. The Latitude 13 7000 uses carbon fiber materials as well, so it will last for a while and take some hits in the break room or the landing strip at an airport (a.k.a., the carpet at your gate).

The model I tested uses the Intel Core m5 processor, so that's a step above anything used in a tablet lately but not quite the speed of a "desktop" processor like the Intel Core i5. I never had any problems running Chrome, Photoshop, and a few touch apps like Evernote and Skype. Believe me, you'd hear about any slowdowns because some of my recent test laptops have used slower CPUs that seem to chug along every time I open a new tab. You can't call something a workhorse laptop and have a minimal amount of RAM (this one has a nice 8GB, which is about right).

My test system costs $2,269.88 for the 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state flash drive. The base system costs $1,299 with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. I'd go for the bump up in power. The encryption and endpoint security is also worth it, adding $156 and $593, respectively, to make sure hackers can't steal your files.

A few extra perks impressed me about this laptop. There are two USB-C ports on the left side, so you can have one for the power cord and another for a portable drive or some other accessory. Having them both on the left helps because you know there's a standard USB port on the right side. (On the Chromebook Pixel, I can never remember if the standard USB is on the left or right.) The laptop hinge and the overall construction are designed for business folks who need utility, not frills.

Dell also makes some cool add-ons. I tested a USB-C to HDMI adapter, which was important because this notebook does not have an HDMI port for a monitor. There's also a monitor stand and dock for $250 for this notebook that connects with one USB-C cable, which adds some extra ports and cleans up the clutter around your desk.

Overall, this is a solid, workhorse notebook for business users. I really liked the keyboard and display, and any small business will appreciate the security features. It's one of a select few notebooks that meets my ultimate "can I do real work on it" test.

Published on: May 26, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.