The Bottom Line
Nov 12 2012 - The Dell XPS 12 marks a move of the companies stylish ultrabooks into the convertible Windows 8 scene and does a very good job. While it is slightly smaller from its 12.5-inch screen, it offers a bright and high resolution picture with touchscreen capabilities well suited to Windows 8. It is just as fast and well designed as its predecessor. There are a few things that hold the system back though including battery life that is below average, no SD card reader and a trackpad that had troubles dealing with gestures and multitouch at times. For those that want a stylish ultrabook that can double as a tablet, it is a good choice but if you don't need the touch, there are more affordable options.
- Excellent High Resolution Display
- Solid And Stylish Design
- Fast Boot/Wake Times
- Below Average Battery Life
- No SD Card Reader
- Problematic Multitouch Gesture Support On Trackpad
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Solid State Drive
- 12.5" WUXGA (1920x1080) Multitouch Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort
- 12.5" x 8.5" x .8" @ 3.35 lbs.
- Windows 8, McAfee Security Center
Review - Dell XPS 12
Nov 12 2012 - Dell's XPS 12 is their newest ultrabook offering that decides to take elements from several of their laptops designs to take advantage of Windows 8's new interface. The laptop is referred to as a convertible or hybrid because it is a full laptop system but has the ability to be switched around into a tablet mode. In terms of the base design, Dell used their aluminum and carbon fiber design introduced by the XPS 13. This gives it a a solid yet comfortable feel to it that also looks quite stylish. The design itself is smaller than a few other convertible ultrabooks such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 but is a bit thicker at over three quarters of an inch at the hinge.
Powering the Dell XPS 12 is the latest generation of Intel low voltage processors. For the base version, this translates into the Core i5-3317U dual core processor. This gives it sufficient performance for the average users today and only really struggles on more demanding tasks such as desktop video editing. It is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory which is standard for most entry level laptops but it would have been nice to see a bit more. Windows 8 is still smooth even when switching between a fair number of applications under the new interface.
For the storage, Dell decided to go with the full solid state drive to get the best performance out of the XPS 12. The base setup features a 128GB capacity drive which is a bit small at its starting $1200 price tag. The speed of the drive is impressive with a very quick 13 second cold boot time and nearly instantaneous sleep recovery. If you do need additional storage space, there are two USB 3.0 ports available for use with high speed external storage drives. One of the two ports also has the ability to charge portable devices. Like more ultrabooks, there is no optical drive on the system but more surprising is the lack of any flash media card slots such as SD which makes moving images from digital peripherals like a camera require the use of a USB port.
The display for the XPS 12 is designed to be flipped around in its frame so that the laptop can be used in laptop or tablet modes. It should be noted that this design isn't new as Dell did first introduce it on its previous Inspiron Duo netbook. The design itself works well enough with the display held in place with magnets so it doesn't just rotate out of position without some pressure but it does make one very careful when opening it from its closed lid position. The screen itself is a very high 1920x1080 native resolution IPS panel with multitouch support. The touch support is quick and responsive while text and details are very sharp. The graphics are driven by the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that are built into the Core i5 processor. It works well for most basic applications and does have the ability to accelerate media encoding when using Quick Sync compatible applications. The downside is that it does have limited 3D performance and does not have the ability to accelerate other non-3D programs. Still, this is not an uncommon setup for a small ultrabook.
The battery for the Dell XPS 12 uses an internal 47WHr capacity that is roughly the same as the XPS 13. In digital video playback tests, the laptop was able to run for just over five and a half hours. This is a bit below average for a solid state equipped ultrabook but is probably caused by the higher resolution display draws additional power from the system. It is longer than the older XPS 13 but still falls short of the Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina or the HP Folio 13 that are able to achieve over six hours from their larger batteries.
The keyboard design of the XPS 12 is pretty much identical to what was found in the XPS 13. It uses an isolated key layout with concave keys that provide an accurate and comfortable experience. There is also backlighting behind the keyboard which has been absent on a number of ultrabooks due to the limited space or costs. The trackpad on the other hand still has some issues. The multitouch gesture support in Windows 8's new UI or the desktop mode didn't always work properly. This was frustrating at times requiring use of the touchscreen which isn't always preferred.
The primary competition right now for a convertible laptop is from the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13. Dell offers a higher resolution display in a something more compact design along with a tablet mode with a smooth back when in use. On the other hand, Lenovo's is a bit more affordable and has a trackpad that worked well with Windows 8 gesture support. Of course, both of these are still premium ultrabooks priced at or above $1000. Still, they give the full functionality of a laptop with a tablet experience albeit one that is heavier and not as easy to carry as a strict Windows 8 tablet.