Dell XPS 12 Review

What We Think

If you have a fairly high budget for a laptop that copes well with multi-tasking and won’t become outdated in a hurry then this is definitely the one to get. Dell have really pulled out all the stops and lived up to expectations of the XPS (Xtreme Performance System) name.

Introduction

With the rise of touch-screen, app-based computing comes the need for more efficient multi-tasking which the Dell XPS 12 most definitely delivers.
Upon first glance, you’re captivated by the quality of the build which far surpasses any of the cheaper models in the same area of computing. The unique screen flipping feature really bumps the laptop in to a league of its own.

Design

Weighing in at 1.54kg (3.3lbs), the laptop is reasonably portable and begs to be carried around everywhere you go. Unfortunately, the weight means this isn’t always possible. Unlike many of the other touch devices available, this isn’t just something you can just carry around and forget about.

Our favourite feature was the unique screen flipping method to transform the device from a laptop in to a beautiful tablet. This also alters many of the controls to become completely touch screen dependant and allows the user to use the on-screen keyboard. The transformation from laptop to tablet, whilst seamless, did make the device feel fairly chunky but that’s a good enough compromise given the convenience of essentially having two devices in one.

The device itself feels very sturdy and has an elegant carbon-fibre and matte aluminium finish, so fingerprints all over the housing will be the least of your worries. Overall, it feels like a very solid and quality piece of kit.

The keyboard is backlit by LEDs and features the flat, silent keys we all come to expect from laptops these days. The only complaint is the size of the enter key – it feels a tad small and is pretty easy to miss, which isn’t exactly ideal for those of us who send a lot of instant messages regularly.

The speakers are neatly tucked away towards the rear of the laptop, nested just under the screen. While using the device in its laptop position, the sound can become a little tinny as it’s bouncing off the screen. That said, it does sound very nice in its tablet position and compared to most laptop speakers it’s definitely top notch.

Initially, the track pad did feel as if it was letting the rest of the system down quite substantially but after warming to Windows 8’s touch-based interface some more you soon realise the track pad becomes nothing but a backup if you’re using a website or piece of software that isn’t especially touch friendly.

Screen

Whilst a 12.5” screen may sound kind of insignificant by today’s standards, it suits the new Windows 8 operating system perfectly. There’s adequate space in the 1080p resolution to perform all your touch-based tasks and make effective use of the classic Windows desktop mode.

The 10-finger recognition also means the on-screen keyboard is perfectly adapted for those of us who are seasoned touch-typists.

Unfortunately, the contrast of the screen was incredibly disappointing, as the blacks weren’t particularly dark and the whites weren’t particularly white.
Though the contrast may have been a little (okay, very) off, we were still bowled over by the 170-degree viewing angle, meaning the screen can be seen from pretty much any seat.

Performance

With a system of this kind of specification, you expect astonishing performance and this is where Dell really delivers. The XPS 12 has two different models available, one with an Intel i5 processor and one with an Intel i7 processor.

Thanks to the 256GB Samsung SSD, the device boots in to Windows and loads all your apps at lightning speed, meaning no more waiting while your computer starts up and less irritating loading screens on your apps. This also offers any user more than enough storage to transform this device in to their primary computer without the need for external devices. If this storage somehow isn’t enough for you though, there’s always the option of using an external USB hard drive which will offer similarly impressive speeds through the laptop’s 2 USB 3.0 ports.

Gaming isn’t the primary concern of this laptop, so it performs as expected here. Turn down the settings and resolution and many of the more recently released titles are definitely within reach of the casual gamer.

The device also offers the user a huge 8GB of RAM but unlike other laptops, there’s no room to move with this as the RAM is soldered on to the board. Unfortunately for those of us that like to tinker, this means no future RAM upgrades can be carried out. Then again, at this price we’ll all be hoping we won’t have to upgrade for a long, long time!

Contrary to what we come to expect from most of the more portable devices on the market, the battery life on this baby definitely exceeds expectation. We spent time downloading games, Facebooking, Tweeting and streaming movies on Netflix simultaneously and the battery lasted a good few hours with the screen on full brightness. You also get a handy utility tool from Dell that adapts battery charging to the way you use your device so you can still squeeze plenty of juice out of it when you really need to.

Our Verdict

The Dell XPS 12 scores close to top marks all round from us, but the price tag is pretty steep considering it does have flaws. The cost is close to that of a MacBook Pro, and to our surprise the Dell XPS 12 did feel like a powerful competitor against Apple’s giant.

We were impressed enough by the XPS 12 as just a laptop, but when you throw in the tablet features this device becomes a beautiful (albeit weighty) device suited for almost any user.

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