Dell XPS 12

Dell's XPS 12 does a good job at being a Windows 8 laptop — but the weight prevents it from being a good Windows 8 tablet.


8.0
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Dell's XPS 12 takes the design language of its previous XPS models, with its stark black interior and backlit keyboard intact. This time around, though, it grafts a flipping, full HD IPS 12.5-inch touchscreen to the top, with some fairly attractive carbon-fibre-esque patterns on the lid as well as the base.

Connectivity

  • Touchscreen: yes
  • USB 3.0: 2
  • Video: mini DisplayPort
  • Ethernet: none
  • Wireless: dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

Our mention of "flipping" above wasn't some lame attempt at non-swearing; the screen itself flips around on a horizontal axis, the silver frame providing the mechanism to do so, so it can then be shut and serve as a tablet.

The screen itself is a marked improvement — one of our major criticisms of Dell's XPS series was its substandard screen, an issue that's now well and truly addressed. We'd suggest turning off the ambient light sensor, though, as much like every Windows 8 laptop we've seen so far that supports it, the feature is far too aggressive, dramatically adjusting screen brightness when, say, the user leans a little farther over their laptop.

While the fact that Dell has managed to get wiring into two tiny bars to power the monitor is impressive, and the solution is at this stage unique, there are some problems. Firstly, as tablets go, this thing can get heavy fast; 1.54kg is fine for a laptop, but for a tablet it feels taxing.

The mechanism holding the screen in place is part clasp driven, part magnet, and it closes with a satisfying click — but we'd love to just be able to lock the screen in place manually, as when closing and opening the lid as a laptop we found that we often displaced it when not intending to.

The touch pad is a Cypress, and thankfully it seems to have made some progress since our last horrid experience with said brand, with it generally behaving. We do, however, miss the Elantech pad ability to tap with two fingers simultaneously to get a right click.

The backlit keyboard is quite nice, providing more resistance than we're used to on a laptop of this size, and also for the laptop size the speakers are impressively loud. Loud doesn't equate to quality, though, and like almost all laptops, the speakers present quite a mess when listening to music — save the hassle and plug in some headphones.

Due to being a hybrid laptop, Dell has had to put the power button on the side; a necessary evil, but it can make finding it a pain. Thankfully, it sticks out quite a bit, allowing you to find it by touch alone.

Also on the side is a dedicated volume rocker, screen-orientation lock (which only works in tablet mode), mini DisplayPort and two USB 3.0 connectors. Wireless is covered by dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Our particular review sample came in at AU$1999, with a Core i7 3517U, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB Micron C400 SSD. For those who are a little more price sensitive, a lower-end SKU starts at AU$1699 with a Core i5 3317U, but otherwise identical specs. Jump down to AU$1499, and you'll get the same Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. While there are appreciable differences between the Core i5 and i7 performance, casual users will do better to save some cash and opt for the lower processor.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


Battery life

Battery life (time)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


We've moved to a new battery test for Windows 8, a modified version of our heavy battery test for Windows 7. We loop a 720p video until battery depletion, with the screen brightness set to 40 per cent, and the ambient brightness adjustment turned off.

Compared to the other Windows 8 laptops we've seen, Dell's XPS 12 puts in a strong showing.

Conclusion

Dell's XPS 12 does a good job at being a Windows 8 laptop — but the weight prevents it from being a good Windows 8 tablet.

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