Dell XPS 12 evaluation: with the launch of Home windows eight, 'convertible' takes on a brand new which means

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

A Home windows eight PC that can be utilized in a pill mode? These will come a dime a dozen this fall. However what’s fascinating is how every PC maker has approached the problem of blending a touchscreen with a extra conventional mouse-and-keyboard setup. For some OEMs, this implies going the hybrid route, with 10- or eleven-inch tablets that slot neatly into an elective keyboard dock. For others, it means a full-fledged PC with a slide-out touchscreen. And for a number of, it means a laptop computer whose display can fold down, leaving you with what can solely be described as an outsized slate.

That is how we might describe the Dell XPS 12, a 12.5-inch pocket book whose display flips inside its hinge, permitting you to make use of the machine in pill mode or, in the event you want, with the display dealing with away from the keys. (Sure, Dell is giving this kind issue a second attempt.) It begins at a comparatively steep $1,200 however then once more, this can be a pretty premium machine we’re speaking about: it combines all of the elements of an Ultrabook (light-weight construct, Ivy Bridge processor and a strong-state drive) with a four hundred-nit, 1080p, Gorilla Glass touchscreen. So what’s it like to make use of this kind issue? And the way does it fare as a daily ol’ Home windows eight PC? Let’s examine.%Gallery-168798%

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Dell XPS 12


  • Pretty design, strong construct high quality
  • four hundred-nit, 1080p show
  • 12-second boot-up
  • Snug keyboard


  • Finicky trackpad
  • Comparatively brief battery life
  • No SD slot


Even for those who by no means use it in pill mode, this 12.5-inch convertible is a strong Ultrabook in its personal proper.

Appear and feel

When you thought Dell’s different XPS Ultrabooks have been fairly, you are going to just like the XPS 12; it has the identical overarching design because the XPS thirteen and 14, save, in fact, for that touchscreen and easel-like hinge. As soon as once more, Dell decked the lid out in a stunning carbon fiber weave — a design flourish that allows you to know that is certainly a premium system. The palm relaxation and backside aspect, in the meantime, have a lovely, gentle-contact end that does a superb job of repelling scratches and fingerprints. Beneath that gentle, touchable layer is a magnesium alloy body, which makes the complete machine really feel inflexible — you will not discover any bending or flexing as you sort on the keyboard or maintain the PC in a single hand.

Dell additionally makes use of some tasteful metallic accents, together with a band of aluminum across the keyboard deck. As with the opposite XPS Ultrabooks, there’s even a metallic door on the underside aspect, hiding the Home windows product key and any FCC certifications. The body housing the show can also be made from metallic and feels reassuringly sturdy. What’s extra, the show snaps out and in of place with a comforting clicking sound, which also needs to encourage confidence within the construct high quality. To push the show out, you will have to nudge it from both aspect, utilizing your fingers. Presumably you do not thoughts fingerprints, in any other case you would not be contemplating a touchscreen PC within the first place.

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

At three.35 kilos, this feels heavy for a 12.5-inch laptop computer — a standard tradeoff with touchscreen machines. With regards to carrying the machine round in your bag or round the home, that weight will not be a problem, although we did discover that it is inconvenient to make use of in pill mode for lengthy stretches — it is simply too giant and unwieldy. For those who do use it as a pill, you may recognize it most if you’re hanging out on the sofa, and may relaxation the gadget towards your legs. Finally, we might say we have been extra possible to make use of the touchscreen in clamshell mode — touching Stay Tiles and different finger-pleasant parts as an alternative of utilizing the trackpad.

Given all this, you may marvel why a sophisticated hinge design like that is even mandatory. And but, we will consider at the least one profit. In contrast to, say, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, the XPS 12 does not depart the keys uncovered when you’re in pill mode. Meaning in the event you’re cradling it like a slate, you will not really feel the keys towards your fingers on the again aspect. (In case you do select the Yoga as an alternative, there’s an elective sleeve that covers the keyboard portion of the laptop computer, although this looks like a much less elegant answer.)

Poke across the edges and you will find a modest assortment of ports: two USB sockets (one with help for PowerShare and Home windows debugging), a Mini DisplayPort, a three.5mm headphone jack and twin audio system — one on both sides. There is a quantity rocker for whenever you’re utilizing this factor as a pill, although there are additionally devoted quantity and mute keys on the keyboard. Sadly, Dell omitted an SD card reader, because it did on the XPS thirteen. It isn’t that we might have needed to reinforce the system’s storage; it simply would have been good to dump photographs and video from a reminiscence card.

Keyboard and trackpad

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

As you’d anticipate, the keyboard, too, is principally the identical as on the XPS thirteen, only a contact smaller. Even on this barely extra cramped chassis, the keys are nonetheless nicely-spaced and straightforward to seek out by really feel. Like we have been saying all alongside, the buttons have a spring-loaded really feel, giving loads of tactile suggestions. Notably in comparison with different ultraportables, most of which have shallow, lifeless keys, these are a pleasure to sort on. Additionally value a point out: the keyboard has a backlight beneath, which you’ll be able to activate and off utilizing the F5 button.

The XPS 12’s Cypress trackpad has one thing of a cut up character: clean and dependable within the Trendy UI, cussed and mercurial within the conventional desktop. We had no drawback utilizing two fingers to scroll horizontally via our Reside Tiles. The touchpad helps different Home windows eight gestures, too, like swiping in from the fitting aspect of the pad to show the Appeal Bar, or swiping from the left to toggle between apps. The pad excels in any respect of this stuff; these maneuvers are intuitive and straightforward to duplicate.

The place we bumped into hassle was with easy cursor navigation, of all issues. Whereas utilizing desktop apps like Explorer, we discovered that it typically took a number of tries to get the cursor to go precisely the place we needed it to. Different occasions, the cursor would cease brief on display earlier than we received to no matter it was we have been making an attempt to click on. Even within the Trendy UI, single-finger navigation might really feel a bit belabored. On the plus aspect, the trackpad’s constructed-in contact button is straightforward to press, and fortunately does not do this factor the place it errors left clicks for proper ones — one thing we often complain about once we check buttonless touchpads. In any case, a Dell rep advised us the corporate continues to be fantastic-tuning its drivers, so maybe these kinks will quickly be a moot level.

Show and sound

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

Even on bigger 14- and 15-inch machines, we’re used to screens with 1,366 x 768 decision, so it is all the time a shock once we see small techniques just like the XPS 12 or Zenbook Prime UX21A, which cram 1,920 x 1,080 pixels into an eleven- or 12-inch panel. Within the case of the XPS 12’s 12.5-inch display, that 1080p decision interprets to a density of 176 pixels per inch (in contrast with 118 ppi on the XPS thirteen). As you’d anticipate, it is fairly crisp in individual. We might be mendacity if we stated we might discover that massive of a distinction when watching sure films on Netflix, however with content material that was natively shot in 1080p, it is golden. These additional pixels additionally make a distinction in desktop apps, the place all the things appears just a bit tighter, and gadgets on display look noticeably smaller. Moreover, that four hundred-nit brightness degree means you in all probability will not lack for appropriate viewing angles. Even with the brightness at a median degree, you must take pleasure in good vertical viewing angles whereas resting the machine in your lap. This bodes nicely for aircraft journey, or any sort of on-the-go circumstances, actually.

Because of the Gorilla Glass coating, too, it also needs to be sturdy sufficient to make use of in pill mode. As a touchscreen, too, it responds shortly to swipes and pinch-to-zoom, whereas sure Home windows eight apps like Pictures and IE 10 do a superb job of shortly resizing content material. Our solely caveat can be that the display brightness is clearly a drain on battery life; with a four hundred-nit score, it is about on par with different laptops, even when the dimmer’s at a average setting.

Like so many different ultraportable laptops, the XPS 12 has some actual limitations within the audio division. The one shock is how loud this factor will get, and the way minimal the distortion is at prime quantity. In any other case, this can be a story you’ve got heard earlier than: bass notes are likely to get drowned out, a lot so that you simply may end up boosting the quantity to compensate. On the plus aspect, issues like piano and acoustic guitar sound fairly nice.

Efficiency and battery life

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

We’re at some extent the place PCs are actually, actually quick; it isn’t unusual for an Ultrabook with 4GB of RAM and a strong-state drive as well up in lower than 20 seconds. That stated, we nonetheless did a double-take once we logged the XPS 12’s begin-up time. It takes simply 12 seconds to succeed in the log-in display, and one other two to load the Begin Menu after you’ve got entered your credentials. Its Samsung-made SSD exhibits promise too: within the disk benchmark ATTO it reached prime learn speeds of 516 MB/s, placing it in the identical league as our favourite ultraportables, together with the thirteen-inch MacBook Air and the thirteen-inch Samsung Collection 9. Write speeds have been robust, too, topping out at 263 MB/s. In actual-world use, this efficiency allowed us to modify between apps with ease, and never should hold monitor of what number of packages we had operating at a given time. As for graphics, it managed four,520 in 3DMark06, which is on par with, or barely higher than, different Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks we have examined.

In PCMark 7, the XPS 12 notched a rating of four,673, however we admittedly cannot make a lot of that rating proper now, as we solely lately began transitioning from PCMark Vantage to PCMark 7 (solely the latter runs on Home windows eight — therefore, the change in testing methodology). As we assessment extra Home windows eight techniques utilizing PCMark 7 as a common efficiency benchmark, it’s going to be simpler for us to place such scores in context.

Battery Life Dell XPS 12 5:30 Samsung Collection 9 (15-inch, 2012) 7:29 Lenovo ThinkPad X230 7:19 Samsung Collection 9 (thirteen-inch, 2012) 7:02 MacBook Air (thirteen-inch, 2012) 6:34 (OS X) / four:28 (Home windows) Dell XPS 14 6:18 HP Folio thirteen 6:08 HP Envy Sleekbook 6z 5:fifty one Toshiba Portege Z835 5:forty nine Sony VAIO T13 5:39 MacBook Air (thirteen-inch, 2011) 5:32 (OS X) / four:12 (Home windows) HP Envy 14 Spectre 5:30 Toshiba Satellite tv for pc U845W 5:thirteen Toshiba Satellite tv for pc U845 5:12 Acer Aspire Timeline Extremely M3 5:eleven Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5:07 Samsung Collection 5 Ultrabook (14-inch, 2012) 5:06 Acer Aspire Timeline Extremely M5 5:05 Dell XPS thirteen four:fifty eight Lenovo IdeaPad U310 four:fifty seven Acer Aspire S5 four:35 Samsung Collection 9 (thirteen-inch, 2011) four:20 ASUS Zenbook Prime UX21A four:19 Acer Aspire S3 four:eleven Vizio Skinny + Mild (14-inch) three:fifty seven

After operating our commonplace battery check quite a few occasions, 5 and a half hours was the longest the XPS 12 might muster. As you’ll be able to see, that is not notably spectacular, provided that different Ultrabooks can handle six hours or higher. Apparently, although, it is according to the Toshiba Satellite tv for pc U925t, one other 12.5-inch touchscreen Ultrabook. We’re nonetheless within the means of testing that one, however preliminarily we’re discovering it lasts even much less time on a cost: about 5 hours and ten minutes.

Software program

It will be improper to say that Home windows eight spells the top of crapware, but when there is any undesirable software program in your new system, it is a minimum of more likely to be extra discreet. Typically with Win eight methods, you will not discover random shortcuts littering the desktop if you first boot up the machine, and PC makers additionally appear to have deserted their efforts to customise Home windows with add-ons like Dell Dock and VAIO Gate. On the Begin Menu, OEMs are given a selected place the place they’re allowed to put their very own apps. Within the case of the Dell XPS 12, that cluster of pre-put in packages is comparatively small. On faucet, you’ve got received Amazon’s Kindle app, Skype, Photograph Gallery, Film Maker, Microsoft Workplace, Dell Store, Dell Help Middle and Amazon Retailer (not a browser hyperlink, however a bona fide app.) All advised, these things takes up little greater than a column on the Begin Menu, which appears affordable.

Configuration choices and the competitors

Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

The XPS 12 is a compelling choice in the event you’re out there for a excessive-finish, contact-enabled Ultrabook.

Our entry-degree $1,200 mannequin comes with a 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. For $1,four hundred, you will get primarily the identical configuration, however with eight gigs of RAM. For an additional hundred bucks (we’re at $1,500 now), you get that Core i5 processor, 8GB of reminiscence and a 256GB SSD. Final up, the cream of the crop: a $1,seven hundred unit with all of the above specs, however with a Core i7-3517U processor. No matter which configuration you select, Intel HD 4000 graphics are commonplace, as is that 1080p, four hundred-nit, Gorilla Glass show.

For the needs of whittling down a probably lengthy listing of Home windows eight choices, we will assume that should you’re contemplating the XPS 12, meaning you want the thought of a strong, full-fledged laptop computer that can be utilized in pill mode sometimes. Should you do not thoughts, we’ll simply skip over most of these laptop computer / pill hybrids we talked about, as most of them run on Atom processors — get a type of and you will have to regulate your expectations when it comes to efficiency (the battery life on these can be longer, no less than).

As we talked about earlier, one of many XPS 12’s closest rivals is the thirteen-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, whose display folds all the best way again in order that when you’re utilizing it in pill mode, the keyboard stays uncovered on the again aspect. We already talked about that the uncovered keys appear to be a possible inconvenience, however you possibly can treatment that utilizing an optionally available sleeve. The Yoga additionally has a barely much less dense display: although it is bigger, it additionally has a barely decrease decision (1,600 x 900 vs. 1080p). Nonetheless, it weighs about the identical because the XPS 12, regardless of having a bigger footprint, and it additionally claims longer battery life. (We have but to check it ourselves.) The Yoga additionally presents some issues the XPS 12 does not — specifically, an HDMI port and reminiscence card reader. One other plus: it begins at $1,one hundred — 100 bucks lower than Dell’s providing. In the event you do think about the Yoga, take into account that the eleven-inch Yoga is a really totally different beast: it has an ARM processor and runs Home windows RT, which doesn’t help legacy Home windows apps.

We’re additionally excited concerning the Toshiba Satellite tv for pc U925t, one other 12.5-inch Ultrabook, this one with a slider type issue. Although we have but to place it by means of a full assessment, we have had some palms-on time with the gadget, and got here away impressed with its beneficiant keyboard format and IPS touchscreen. That begins at $1,one hundred fifty, placing it in roughly the identical ballpark because the XPS 12 being reviewed right here.

If we have satisfied you that a 12-inch laptop computer with a touchscreen is not very snug to make use of as a pill substitute, maybe you would be happier with a standard clamshell laptop computer that has a touchscreen. (In any case, the XPS 12 is a pleasure to make use of in that mode.) Although we’ve not but had an opportunity to assessment any of the next choices, we’ll a minimum of toss them out in your consideration. Some notable contenders: the Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook ($1,200 and up), the Samsung Collection 5 Extremely Contact ($799 and up), the ASUS Zenbook Prime with contact (worth TBA) and the Sony VAIO T13 with an non-compulsory touchscreen ($770-plus).


Dell XPS 12 review: with the launch of Windows 8, 'convertible' takes on a new meaning

Although the XPS 12’s measurement and weight make it a bit unwieldy in its place pill, it is nonetheless a compelling choice should you’re out there for a excessive-finish, contact-enabled Ultrabook. The XPS 12 is nearly as mild as different Ultrabooks, with a premium industrial design, snug keyboard, beautiful 1080p display and an excellent-quick boot-up time. The most important drawbacks appear to be the flaky trackpad and the comparatively brief battery life, which does not enhance a lot if you dim that four hundred-nit show. We’ll be curious to see how different touchscreen Ultrabooks fare, notably these with equally versatile designs. Within the meantime, although, the XPS 12 represents a strong begin for this new wave of Home windows eight form-shifters.

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Dell XPS 12

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