Dell XPS 12 review
UPDATE: Dell has now released an updated version of the XPS 12 with Intel's brand new Haswell processors. We've updated our review with new benchmark scores to reflect this change.
When Windows 8 was released last year, it promised a new age of laptop tablet hybrids. The Dell XPS 12 was one of the best convertibles we saw in those early months, and it remains one of the best with its new Haswell update.
The hybrid's smooth curves and carbon-fibre body are reminiscent of the gorgeous Dell XPS 13 but its 12.5in screen can flip 180 degrees to become a ten-point touch tablet. This works in a different way to the Lenovo Yoga 11S's screen, which folds back on itself leaving the keyboard sitting on your palms: the XPS 12's display rotates on two pins inside its metal frame, leaving the soft-touch lid flush against the keyboard when using the hybrid in tablet mode.
A light push from behind is all it needs to start the screen rotating, but there's nothing lightweight about the XPS 12's build quality. The screen needs both hands to move all the way round, and it snaps magnetically back into place once the rotation is complete. It’s a secure yet completely effortless transition, and it’s by far our favourite style of hybrid to date; unlike with the Asus Taichi, you don't have to worry about the vulnerable outer screen getting scratched, and you don’t have to clip on a keyboard cover as on the Yoga. The design also means the touchscreen is available at all times - it may not let you show two different things on two screens at once as on the Taichi, but we still find the XPS 12's hybrid setup easier and more intuitive than the competition's.
However, while we may prefer the XPS 12's design to that of the Asus Taichi, it still falls into the same trap of being just a little too big and heavy to use as a tablet for prolonged periods of time. It’s still comfortable to hold if you’re reclining on the sofa, but at 20x317x214mm and 1.5kg, it definitely requires a firm grip. If you have strong wrists and are happy to use your knees for a bit of support though, the XPS 12's soft-touch underbelly makes the tablet pleasant to hold.
Typing was an equally comfortable experience, thanks to the XPS 12's full-size Chiclet-style keyboard. The individually-spaced keys have plenty of bounce, and there’s also a white LED backlight to illuminate them in low light. The only problem we experienced was that the hard metal rim sometimes dug into our wrists, but it didn’t bother us enough to make it a major problem.
The all-in-one touchpad was also very easy to use, despite not having dedicated selection buttons, but we didn't get on particularly well with its multi-touch support. Pinching the screen in particular was nearly impossible to get right, and we found this much easier to execute using the more responsive touchscreen.
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