Dell XPS 11

The keyboard will define this hybrid laptop for most users. Love it and the XPS 11 is a very attractive device. Loathe it and you won’t want to go near it.


7.5
CNET Rating

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This unique hybrid is one of the smallest we've seen, but has an Achilles' heel that is hard to miss.

Dell has delivered one of the slimmest hybrid laptops ever created in the XPS 11. With the screen closed we measured it to be less than 1.5cm at its deepest point. Combine this slender width with the 11.6-inch touchscreen, and it's no surprise that the XPS 11 is a featherweight. Tipping the scales at a meagre 1.13kg, it's both light and small enough to slip into a backpack or handbag and then be simply forgotten. Even better, it converts to a tablet for those times when you don't need the keyboard.

Design and features

There are a couple of striking features that standout when first viewing the XPS 11. The first is the screen, which is mounted on 180 degree hinges, allowing it to fold all the way around to the rear of the base, turning it into a tablet. We love the simplicity of the design, as the basic hinges avoid the complex attachments used on other tablets. To our surprise, the 11.6-inch screen packs a whopping 2560 x 1440 resolution, making the image absolutely crystal clear. Colours are punchy without being overly saturated, but contrast performance isn't terribly impressive, and we noticed rather poor black level performance.

Opposite this impressive screen is the XPS 11's other unique feature, a flat touch keyboard, similar to the one made for Microsoft's Surface tablet. It's not detachable though, and seems harder to use than the Surface keyboard, with key presses requiring a bit more force to register. It'll take several weeks for most users to acclimatise to the lack of moving keys, and even then some folks might never take to it. We highly recommend taking it for a test-type before reaching for your wallet. The entire unit is covered in a soft rubberised coating that is matte black, and, when combined with the aluminium edges, gives the unit a slick, yet subtle, aesthetic.

Connections, performance and battery

Given the slim base of the XPS 11, Dell has obviously had to be very choosy about what to squeeze inside. Intel's i5-4210Y CPU has dual cores which max out at just 1.9GHz under load, while 4GB of DDR3-1600MHz is the minimum we'd accept in a Windows 8 machine. Obviously there's no room for a dedicated GPU, so the XPS 11 instead relies upon the CPU's integrated Intel HD Graphics 4200. As expected, this utterly fails at game duties, returning a rather woeful result of 2165 in 3DMark's Cloud Gate benchmark.

A 128GB SSD rounds out the internal specs, but it's not enough to deliver top-tier performance. Our overall performance benchmark, PCMark 8, showed that the XPS 11 is relatively slow compared to other laptops in this price range, with a score of just 1602. It's fast enough for basic web browsing and word processing, but if you try to watch a YouTube video while encoding MP3s and scanning for viruses, expect to be hit by a severe case of slow down.

For such a small device, the XPS 11 has a decent number of connections. Twin USB 3.0 ports provide high speed access for peripherals, while an SD Combo card slot will come in use for shutterbugs. Finally, HDMI out means it doubles as a decent media player, a welcome touch given the internal speakers are so average. The inclusion of 802.11ac support is fantastic to see, especially now that the standard is powering full steam ahead. Given the low-power components within, we expected excellent battery life, and the PowerMark result of 289 minutes was the top result in the roundup.

PCMark 8 Home Accelerated Test

  • 1889
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 1602
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 2231
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 2215
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 2625
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • 2394
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • [CRASHED]
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 1727
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 1690
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 1844
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


3DMARK 2013 Edition - Cloud Gate

  • 5101
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 2165
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 4590
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 4030
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 4643
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • 4667
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • 5597
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 3847
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 2080
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 2432
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


PowerMark - Battery Life (minutes)

  • 270
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 289
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 198
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 276
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 253
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • 243
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • 257
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 229
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 231
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 261
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


Conclusion

The XPS 11 is a love it or loathe it kind of device, based solely on the touch keyboard. We eventually got used to typing on it, but it was never as easy to use as a standard keyboard, or even the Surface keyboard for that matter. If your fingers can navigate this flat keyboard successfully, the incredibly slim dimensions and weight of the XPS 11 make it a very impressive mobile machine. Throw in a brilliant display that doubles as a tablet, and the XPS 11 is a unique offering for those who demand the ultimate in portability.

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