Dell XPS 12 review: A clever convertible Ultrabook

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

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Touch actions on the display all work well, although the press-to-click touchpad was more finicky than I expected. It registers a click best if you press near the bottom of the pad, where a touchpad's physical buttons are normally found. Also, while many of the Windows 8 touch actions are emulated via touchpad behaviors, some of them have a hair trigger. For example, the side-swiping gesture to swap apps kept firing even when I wasn't doing anything remotely resembling a side-swipe on the touchpad. I had to shut off that gesture completely to keep the system from channel surfing between apps. (I suspect that many of these issues can be fixed with a touchpad software upgrade.)

Typing is quite comfortable. The Chiclet-style keys, my favorite layout, don't have the kind of full-blown mechanical action I've seen in, say, Sony's notebooks, but they're good for long-form productivity. The backlighting can also be dimmed or shut off completely with a function key. One minor keyboard gripe: I had to hit the spacebar dead center to make sure it registered a keystroke. I'm used to tapping the outer edges of the bar, but that didn't always work here.

Since Ultrabooks lack an integrated optical drive, Dell's tool for generating recovery media can use an external USB drive as its target. You'll need at least 5.76GB of free space to back up the base system, so make sure you have at least an 8GB flash drive handy. I was grateful for the relative absence of bloatware shoveled into the system, barring the Intel networking and Dell systems management tools.

Clever engineering makes the Dell XPS 12 a slick fusion of Windows 8 tablet and notebook form factors. The downsides -- a hefty price tag and the lack of Ethernet jack and disk activity light -- detract only slightly from this highly usable and lightweight Ultrabook.

Dell XPS 12 at a glance

PriceStarts at $1,199
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3427 @ 1.8GHz (as tested; other processor options available)
Memory4GB (8GB available)
Storage128GB SSD (256GB SSD available)
Weight3.35 lbs. (1.52 kg)
DimensionsHeight: 0.59 to 0.79 inches (15 to 20 mm). Width: 12.48 inches (317 mm). Depth: 8.46 inches (215 mm).
Display12.5-inch Full HD WLED @ 1920 by 1080 pixels
Battery47 watt-hours
Ports2 USB 3.0 (1 with PowerShare), 1 Mini DisplayPort, 1 headphones
Touch UI10-finger multitouch
Management featuresTPM
Sandra 2013 score4.21kPt

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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