Recent months have seen all manner of hybrid devices make their debut, but none are quite like the XPS 12.
Dell’s split-personality hybrid is a laptop capable of transforming from a sliver-thin Ultrabook into a 12.5in tablet with a mere prod of a finger.
Open the lid, push firmly upon the display’s upper half and, with a soft click, the magnets and latches disengage, allowing the panel to pirouette through 180 degrees. Snap the lid shut, and the XPS 12 assumes its tablet guise; swing the base around, and it doubles as an adjustable stand.
While you might expect such a design to be flimsy, the XPS 12 exceeds expectations. The base not only looks great, but it feels taut and flex-free.
That display is one of the best we’ve seen on any Dell laptop. With a Full HD resolution on a Gorilla Glass-covered 12.5in panel, everything is crisp. We had to increase Windows’ DPI setting to avoid tiny text, but the image quality is gorgeous. With a contrast ratio of 681:1 and a gleaming maximum brightness of 395cd/m2, the XPS 12 is only a tad behind the best this month.
In laptop mode
In laptop mode, the XPS 12 is superb. Accident-prone users will appreciate the spill-resistant keyboard; the backlit keys illuminate when the lights go down; and the slightly concave keys partner with a solid feel to make the XPS 12 a typist’s delight.
The glass touchpad has a silky finish that makes for a lovely feel under the finger. It’s almost flush with the wristrest, so invoking Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures is easy and reliable. It took some work to get the sensitivity just right, however, and we experienced the odd hitch with two-fingered zooming and scrolling.
In tablet mode
As with most devices of this ilk, the XPS 12 is less convincing as a tablet. At 1.51kg, it’s heavy, but Dell has clearly thought through the associated issues, adding two ridges across the base to provide reassuring hand-holds.
The novel design isn’t without its problems. Reaching out to adjust the display angle often saw us unlatching the display by accident, and absent-mindedly picking it up by its corner gave us heart palpitations as our fingers poked the display out of place. We’re not entirely convinced that the screen hinges will last a lifetime either.
Specifications and performance
We’ve no such qualms with the specification. Our unit came with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which can be dropped to a Core i5 with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD if the price is too much.
The Dell hit 0.65 in our benchmarks, and it lasted 6hrs 55mins in our light-use battery test. That’s mere minutes behind Sony’s VAIO Duo 11.
The Dell XPS 12 gets plenty right - it’s pretty, powerful and the display is excellent. However, despite all the hallmarks of an excellent Ultrabook, and workable tablet, we can’t help fretting about the screen mechanism. This review was originally published as part of a group of reviews of hybrid laptops in PC & Tech Authority magazine, and it was the finest of the hybrids. [Update: this sentence did not originally make clear that this review was first published as part of a group of reviews. The sentence has been updated.]
A unique hinged screen makes Dell’s XPS 12 both desirable and practical, making it a standout among hybrid laptop/tablets. Read the review.