Dell XPS 12–First Report from the ‘Lab.’

Posted on 25 January 2013, Last updated on 25 January 2013 by

Dell XPS 12 Image Gallery (7)

The Dell XPS 12 has been sent for a quick review via the guys at Ultrabook-king.de and I’ve had a chance to do some testing already. The first thing I noticed was how solid it feels. The hinge, frame, casing and keyboard seem top-notch although, probably as a result, it feels dense and a little heavy; Certainly too heavy to be a casual tablet.  Here’s a first-report and your chance to ask questions.

The image above sums-up the unique design of the XPS 12 and shows how this Ultrabook converts into a Windows 8 tablet and I can guarantee you’ll play with the mechanism a lot because it feels smooth, solid and has a nice balance. You may not be using it in earnest too much though because, like the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist [review here], it’s just a little too big and heavy to be a comfortable tablet. Personally I’m not convinced that the Ivy Bridge platform is going to result in any good one-piece convertible designs unless the screen itself can be removed and used without the base. Even then, there are serious design issues and capability limits for Ivy-Bridge based tablets. The Dell XPS 12 doesn’t have a digitizer layer either so you’re missing the capability to annotate, draw or write accurately leaving ‘snack’ gaming scenarios, video playback and, let’s be honest, showing-off as the main use cases. In those scenarios, there are better and cheaper options out there. I’ll be doing further tests in the tablet mode for the full review.

Dell XPS 12 small opt

On the general topic of convertibles and dockables – keep Haswell in mind. The convertible is a good idea but it’s going to require the new architecture of Haswell (4th Gen Core, late 2013) to really make the products shine in their different usage scenarios.

Moving to the working fascia, the Dell XPS 12 feels like an excellent productivity Ultrabook. The backlit keyboard is very good, mouse – accurate and screen pin-sharp. The 1920x1080p IPS screen on Windows desktop in 12.5” is a bit too much though. Pumping the font and icon sizes up over 125% makes it look ugly but even at 125% text isn’t that easy to read unless you’ve got perfect vision. The 1600×900 of the Lenovo Twist Yoga is a better native resolution at this size. Colors and brightness seem good though. It’s quiet (silent right now as I type) and relatively efficient. Although it’s only got a 45Wh battery inside (similar to the Lenovo Twist) it reports slightly better power usage figures. There’s not much in it between the Twist and the XPS 12 but the XPS 12 could give you an extra half an hour under Web-working scenarios, I feel.

As for ports, note that you’ve only got a mini DisplayPort 1.1a for external video here. If you’re only going to have one video-out port it’s the best one to have but if you use monitors or projectors with HDMI or VGA input, you’ll need the respective adaptors. 2xUSB3.0 and a headset port are the only other ports which, for a device of this weight, isn’t good. The problem is that because of the frame design, there’s nowhere to put the required tablet buttons so the power, volume and rotate lock button are in places where you’d expect the SD card slot and a third USB port. Trade-offs!

There’s one annoying thing about the design in laptop mode because if you use the touchscreen a little too hard the laptop rocks back. It’s really annoying and spoils the laptop-touch experience.

Other notes:

  • Speakers and Maxx Audio processing can offer good results. Some tuning to taste is required.
  • Fan noise is minimal when active.
  • Mousepad has integrated buttons. I’ve experienced a few cursor jumps on tap-to-click.
  • Model being tested here is the top-end Core i7 with 8GB and 256SSD.
  • Very little additional software installed on this review model.
  • WiFi is a high-end Centrino module with WiDiv and Wi-USB support. Reception quality seems to be very good.
  • Due to the frame the XPS 12 feels like it should have a 13.3 inch screen. It’s not something you notice until you bring a 13.3” Ultrabook up alongside it.

Dell XPS 12 Image Gallery (21)  Dell XPS 12 Image Gallery (28)

As a tablet it’s quite heavy and the default text size can be on the small side.

 

Feel free to ask questions below. Full review should be ready for Monday.

For info, I’m also testing Clovertrail-based Windows 8 convertibles over at UMPCPortal. If you’re looking for something lighter, always-on, with a lot more battery life and are prepared to sacrifice a lot of CPU and GPU power, take a look.

Thanks again to the team at Ultrabook-King for sharing their review device with us. German readers, head over here and add them to your bookmarks.

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