It’s always been something of a pain to have to sign in to a work computer, but advancements like Windows Hello facial recognition, fingerprint scanning, and Apple’s Touch ID systems have made it slightly less painful in recent years. Now, Dell has an option that’s even easier. The Latitude 7400 2-in-1, a recently introduced business laptop, features a new ExpressSign-in feature that takes Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition app one step further: it looks for your face and then automatically signs you in to the system even if it’s in sleep mode.
Aside from the trick new login system, the $1,599 ($2,802 as tested) Latitude is a fairly typical small business laptop. The 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) display is surrounded by a very narrow bezel, which, surprisingly, still contains enough space for an IR camera with an LED and a proximity sensor. The bezel also allows for well-designed hinges that allow the display to travel the 360-degree arc that makes this a 2-in-1 system. The display is reasonably good — certainly good enough for most business applications and casual video watching.
THE SCREEN KNOWS YOU
The biggest draw is its use of Intel’s Context Sensing technology along with Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition system. The idea is that the Latitude should recognize your face and start the computer without you having to do anything. You don’t even have to hit the keyboard to wake up the system.
When you look directly at the screen, the proximity sensor causes two LEDs on either side of the camera to strobe for a second or two, the screen goes on, and the Windows Hello eye icon on the screen looks back and forth while text tells you that it’s trying to recognize you. It usually takes under five seconds for the system to recognize you and tun on.
You can also set how long it will take for the PC to lock and turn off the display; you can time it for one, two, or three minutes.
Somewhat to my surprise, it works — mostly. When I first set it up (while wearing glasses), I wasn’t all that impressed with the results. The Latitude recognized me about 50 percent of the time, and twice, it couldn’t identify me at all. The second time it couldn’t make the identification, it suggested that I add another recognition session to help. (Just to make things interesting, this time, I went through the setup with my glasses off.)
After that, the system quickly started up from sleep mode and signed me in most of the time when I sat in front of it and looked at the screen. It wasn’t completely predictable. Occasionally, I would stare directly into the dark screen, and nothing happened until I tapped on the keyboard. It doesn’t work at all when the screen is in “tent mode,” perhaps because the camera and sensors are at the bottom of the screen.
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