Dell XPS Duo 12 review

Dell reworks its spinning-screen Inspiron Duo into something special

Dell XPS Duo 12

We were rather taken with the Dell Inspiron Duo when it was launched. The clever laptop-hybrid tablet – with a spinning screen – was an ingenious design, though Windows 7 and netbook-level performance both stymied it. Now with Windows 8 upon us, Dell has learnt it lessons and today unveiled the frankly fabulous Dell XPS Duo 12.

Dell XPS Duo 12

Spinning in a plastic box, these are the only shots we can publish

We’re not allowed to talk about the specifics of the device quite yet, but we were given a brief hands-on with the new device and it left a big impression. Essentially Dell has taken everything it’s learned from developing its excellent XPS line (most notably the XPS 13) and applied it to the Duo 12. Essentially this is the Ultrabook version of the Duo.

It looks very similar in styling to the rest of the XPS range. It’s not quite as slender overall, with the maximum depth being roughly the same but with less tapering to the front end. The body uses a mix of soft-touch carbon fibre, which has a matt finish so it doesn’t look too brash or showy, with a machined aluminium frame around the rotating screen for rigidity.

Dell XPS Duo 12

The screen rotation itself felt as good as ever, securely flicking back and forth, it remains one of the best transforming designs we’ve seen. The display itself is a Full HD display, and it looks to be an IPS panel as well. That makes the XPS Duo 12 a top-end Ultrabook, Dell are also planning a full-on specification range with processors up to Core i7.

The keyboard on the pre-production model we saw was excellent, really positive and springy, with plenty of space – unlike some sliding hybrid designs. It’s backlit too, so working in the dark isn’t a problem either.

Dell XPS Duo 12

Great, backlit keyboard, a step up from most hybrids

As a laptop it feels fairly light, but switch to tablet mode and suddenly it takes on an extra heft. This is largely psychological, you expect tablets to weigh less than laptops of course. But it could be a very real problem if you plan to use it handheld for long periods – such as reading in bed.

The Dell XPS Duo 12 is one of our top picks of the show, we only wish we could tell you more and get better pictures. We'll bring you a full review as soon as possible, with the device likely to be available in time for the Windows 8 launch in October.

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