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Flipping your lid: Dell’s XPS 12 reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 5:36 pm 18/02/2013

With the release of the touch-friendly Windows 8 platform, many a laptop manufacturer is trying their hands at engineering a different type of machine. There are clamshells with touchscreens, detachable screens, and now Dell is showing us one design that will really flip your lid. Literally.

Features

The first official touchscreen Ultrabook from Dell to really get its hooks into Windows 8, the Dell XPS 12 tries to be more than just your typical clamshell laptop.

With tablets now well and truly the trend, the XPS 12 is one device that aims to be both the laptop and tablet computer, and aside for incorporating a touchscreen in its design, throws in some good specifications too.

As such, our review unit included a third-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive, running Windows 8 in 64-bit. With specs like this, we’re inclined to believe it’s the top-end model, though you can find the XPS 12 in another variant with a Core i5, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive.

Regardless of the model selected, the display on the XPS 12 is a 12.5 inch Full HD screen, running on In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology, the same type used in Apple’s iPad, and like that model, includes touch control. Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass protects the display from any random scratches or knocks it might suffer.

Above the monitor, you’ll find a 1.3 megapixel camera and microphone, while a Windows 8 touch button sits on the screen just below the frame.

There’s a keyboard on the inside and a touchpad too, while the materials used in this machine include carbon fibre and aluminium.

Ports on this laptop include two USB 3.0 ports – one of which works with eSATA drives – as well as a Mini DisplayPort connector, headphone jack, and AC adaptor port.

Buttons on the left side of the computer include an auto rotate button, power switch, and volume rocket, while the right side features a battery meter.

Performance

These days, it can be hard to work out exactly what you need. Computers are designed for multiple uses, and you may not be able to make your mind up between a laptop or a tablet.

Well hold onto your horses, because that’s exactly what Dell has designed the XPS 12 to be: a hybrid tablet notebook that dares to do both.

In the hands, it’s a reasonably weighty machine. Dell calls the XPS 12 an Ultrabook, but it’s still thicker than the svelte machines that normally carry that branding, which is actually a set of internal design rules and specifications manufacturers have to follow in order to have them called this.

It’s quite noticeable how thick this is, though Dell hasn’t made any compromises, building the touch-based XPS to include some of the strongest materials that have ever graced a laptop, including Corning’s second generation scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass covering the Full HD 12 inch touchscreen, and reinforcing the frame of the laptop with magnesium while adding carbon fibre to the chassis.

It’s certainly one impressive machine, at least from a build level, and we’re particularly enamored with Dell’s idea of what constitutes a hybrid laptop tablet.

Rather than go with the whole “pull the screen out from the keyboard” idea that other manufacturers have gone with, Dell is trying a different tactic, putting the display on a hinge that allows you to push it and change where it faces.

You can either make it face you in the laptop configuration, acting as a touchscreen for a regular laptop, or push it and rotate it to the cover of the laptop, disconnecting it from the keyboard and mouse in the laptop frame, and switching the entire thing to act as if it were a very thick and powerful tablet computer.

This is helped by a metal frame where the display normally sits, allowing the hinged screen to maintain rigidity while you’re flipping it around.

While we’re sure Dell could have come up with other ways of making this work, and we can recall older tablet style PCs having the entire screen pivot, Dell’s logic of just making the display change positions actually makes a lot of sense, and means it’s really easy to convert this touchscreen notebook into a tablet computer.

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Price (RRP)

$1999

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Strong hinge; Flipping screen is an excellent concept; Rubberised carbon fibre chassis is harder to lose grip on;

Product Cons

Heavier than you'll expect; Tablet operation can be a little buggy; Mediocre battery life; No SD card slot;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Design

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