Dell XPS 12 Laptop Review

Dell XPS 12 Laptop Review

Dell’s XPS 12 was one of the more successful attempts to create a convertible laptop/tablet device for Windows 8, and this latest version provides improved performance and battery life, courtesy of its new Haswell processor.




Rather than trying to be all things to all men, the XPS 12 is first and foremost an attractive and powerful laptop. The 12.5in device measures 20mm thick and weighs 1.52kg, so it’s as light and portable as many Ultrabooks, while its Intel Core i7 offers the processor power of a desktop replacement system.

Unlike some hybrid Windows devices, the XPS 12 doesn’t allow you to separate the keyboard and screen panels, which means you can’t use the display on its own as a self-contained tablet. It does, however, offer a kind of pseudo-tablet mode in which you flip the screen over so that it covers the keyboard while still facing up towards you.

It’s bigger and heavier than a conventional tablet when used in this way, so it’s uncomfortable to hold in one hand while tapping the screen with the other. But you can at least rest it on your lap while you put your feet up and browse the web or watch streaming video.

It’ll earn its keep in either mode, though. The moulded keys on the keyboard are comfortable and responsive, and the ‘soft touch’ black paint that surrounds the keyboard and trackpad has a pleasant, tactile quality to it. The screen is also a delight – bright and colourful with a crisp, sharp 1920x1080-pixel resolution and excellent viewing angles.

The stereo speakers are a little tinny, but loud enough for listening to music or streaming video. In fact our only complaint about the design is that the XPS 12 doesn’t include an ethernet interface or card slot along with its Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 ports and Mini DisplayPort video output.

This Haswell version of the XPS 12 is currently only available in a single configuration, priced at £1,149 with a Core i7 running at 1.8GHz, 8GB RaM and 256GB solid-state storage. That’s expensive, but not excessive for an Ultrabook. In contrast, a 13in MacBook air with 256GB SSD starts at £1,129 without either a touch-sensitive or full-HD screen.

The Haswell processor continues to impress, even though its clock speed is slightly reduced from the 1.9GHz of the original Ivy Bridge version of the XPS 12. Performance when running the PCMark 7 benchtest rises from 4854 to 5205 points, and this laptop is more than powerful enough to handle Microsoft office, PowerPoint presentations or even video-editing.

The integrated HD Graphics 4400 can’t cope with Windows gaming at full 1920x1080 resolution, but if you drop to 1280x720 and Medium graphics quality, you can get a playable 27fps from games such as Stalker: Call of Pripyat.

The biggest improvement, though, lies in battery life. The Ivy Bridge version of the XPS 12 provided five hours of streaming video, but that figure rose to a six hours and 45 minutes when we tested this Haswell model.

Verdict
If you’re looking for a lightweight tablet, then look elsewhere. Dell’s XPS 12 is primarily intended as a powerful working laptop, and its fourth-generation Haswell processor provides performance and battery life that could justify the high price. Tablet mode isn’t entirely successful, but it’s a nice bonus that you can use to relax when you finish work at the end of the day.

TECHNICAL SPECS

1.8 GHz i7-4500U (3.0 GHz Turbo Boost)
Windows 8 (64-bit)
8 GB DDR3L-RS memory
256 GB SSD
12.5-inch (1920 x 1080) glossy TN touchscreen display
Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics
802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
WiDi 3.0
1x Mini DisplayPort
2x USB 3.0
1.3 Mp webcam with built-in mic
headphone socket
47Wh, non-removable lithium-ion battery
317 x 215 x 20 mm
1.52 kg

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Friday, July 11, 2014 ×

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