Dell XPS 12 review: A clever convertible Ultrabook

Dell's unique twist on the laptop-cum-tablet is sleek, sturdy, highly usable, and pricey

Dell's entry into the Windows 8 convertible-notebook market bridges the gap between a tablet and a notebook through some wonderfully clever engineering. Instead of using the keyboard as a dock for the display, the display flips around inside a frame to convert this 12.5-inch notebook PC into a proper (if slightly heavy) Windows 8 tablet. The price tag is also heavy, though: The Dell XPS 12 starts at $1,199 and goes up from there.

We were shown a production prototype of the XPS 12, so there might be minor changes in the model we saw and the actual shipping product, but the basic concept should remain the same.

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The flippable display locks into place when turned, thanks to magnetic clasps along the top and bottom. It takes a bit of a push to get the display to pop out of place and turn, but with a little practice you get used to the amount of force needed. Be careful when flipping the display around, though. Not only can you pinch your fingers, but you need to keep the display fully upright to avoid smacking against the keyboard when turning. Make sure you have clearance behind the unit as well.

The XPS 12 lacks a couple of niceties that users might miss. There's no built-in Ethernet jack, which helps keep the system slender, but a Targus-brand dock sold by Dell can add wired networking and a slew of other connectivity functions. The other inconvenient omission: There's no system-drive activity light.

Longtime Dell users may remember the way their notebook batteries had a built-in power meter. The XPS 12 has a similar offering: Push a button on the side of the unit, and a row of lights indicates how much juice is left without you having to crack the whole thing open. With the power-saver profile enabled, I used continuous Netflix playback to run down the battery, wringing 2 hours, 40 minutes of usage out of the system before it forced itself into sleep mode. (Dell claims 5 hours, 36 minutes with Mobile Mark 2012.)

InfoWorld Scorecard
Hardware (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Usability (30.0%)
Security and management (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Dell XPS 12 8.0 8.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 8.2
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