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The Dell XPS 12 originally came out in 2013 and it’s reception was lukewarm. That has clearly had an effect on Dell, who have basically decided to reinvent the XPS 12 from the ground up. Today’s XPS 12 is a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop, that has the look of an ultrabook but is a tablet above all else. That’s a step in the right direction, as previous convertible attempts have been both underpowered and poorly designed. So the question becomes – Does it live up to the quality of other XPS systems? Let’s dig into it.

XPS 12 Design

The XPS 12 will immediately leave an impression on you with it’s black-on-black design that when closed, looks very similar to an ultrabook. On handling it, you’ll notice the solid construction and the great feel it has in your hands. It’s durable and feels strong in your hands, weighing in at 2.8lbs. You will also quickly realize that this is no ultrabook, but rather two independent components that come together to give it that look – it is a 12.5″ tablet and a keyboard dock. The tablet part itself weighs 1.75lbs, which is more than the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 tablets, but it definitely feels more durable than those two as well.

Dell XPS 12 Ports
1. Speaker | 2. Media Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC) | 3. Thunderbolt™ 3 supporting: Power in/charging, PowerShare, Thunderbolt™ 3 (40Gbps bi-directional), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps), VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and USB-A via Dell Adapter (sold separately) | 4. Headset jack | 5. Noble lock slot | 6. Power button.

The keyboard feels a lot better than other tablet keyboards, with rigid construction and incredible backlit chiclet style keys. The trackpad is also easy to use and very accurate. The keyboard is reasonably sized but feels really great when typing on, albeit a bit smaller than I am used to. The tablet section houses all the major components and connections including: Stereo speakers, an SD media card reader, two USB-C ports for charging/powershare, a headphone jack, a 8MP front back, and 5MP front facing camera with microphone. I have no real complaints at this point, and so far the XPS 12 is living up to what I hoped it might be.

XPS 12 Display

Display wise, the XPS 12 is both fantastic and flawed. The UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD screen is touch enabled for obvious reasons – and the picture quality is just fantastic. I noticed how bright it can actually get, and on a quick search for the more ‘technical’ stuff, found that it indeed is one of the brightest screens in a tablet. My one major issue with the display is that when it is in the keyboard dock, it’s rather frustrating being locked into a single viewing position – it’s also not practical in a world where I need flexibility to be able to use it in my lap, packed in on a plane or in a coffee shop where angles aren’t always directly 90-degrees to the screen. This is a major flaw in the design and really detracts from the overall product.

XPS 12 Performance

With an Intel 6th Generation Intel Core™ m5 6Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive, and Intel HD Graphics 515, the performance of the device was solid. There were no times where I felt like it was lagging during regular use. Under more intensive usage, such as photo editing or having many tabs open while streaming YouTube did lead to some lagging. I also notice that the SSD is a bit slower when compared to others on the market. For mobile on-the-go usage this would be just fine.

 XPS 12 Screen

XPS 12 Battery

Here’s the other major problems with the XPS 12 – battery life. In my tests, at various light settings and usage, my battery life was between 4 hours and 7 hours. On average it worked out to just over 5 hours, which is very poor in my opinion. While other tablet devices have battery lives that extend up to 10 hours (advertised anyway), to only get about half of that is a real shame and is quite disappointing. Perhaps that’s the tradeoff with having a backlit keyboard and such a bright screen, but I feel like those two should have been mitigated with a bigger battery.

Overall

The XPS 12 is a valiant effort at building a better 2-in-1, but it falls short in a couple areas. The hardware inside is quite good for the most part, though a faster SSD would be preferable. The screen itself is beautiful, bright and detailed, however using it with the keyboard is less than ideal due to the lack of viewing angles. The battery is also a major weakness of the device when compared to others on the market. Lastly, the price point – starting at $1500 for the base model (128GB/1080p), and $1800 for the 4K 256GB model is no small investment, and is certainly on the higher end when compared to competitors. Overall, it’s just not something I can get behind.

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