Sorry for the lift from the old Superman comic books..It’a bird! It’s a Plane! No it’s Superman. But it does aptly describe my first impression of the Dell XPS 12 convertible. Microsoft started it off by creating Windows 8 a hybrid touch friendly Operating System because Apple had made Touch Screen Tablets so popular. Now a touch friendly interface requires a touch screen to work at it’s best so PC makers started hanging touch screens on their latest machines. It was only a short leap from there to the resurrection of the hybrid notebook.
Out of the box the XPS 1 Convertible Touch Ultrabook reflects all the things Dell can do well. The build quality of the XPS 12 is outstanding. It’s made from a combination of carbon fiber, aluminum and magnesium. The result is a strong and relatively lightweight 1.5Kg (3.35 pounds) design that doesn’t bend or flex. It’s difficult to find anything wrong with the build quality or spotless attention to detail.
And Dell didn’t scrimp on the technical details either. Under the hood you will find up to a top of the line third generation Intel Core i7 3517U processor clocked at a very nimble 1.9GHz combined with 8Gb of RAM. My demonstrator is the entry level model with a i5 3177U processor at 1.7GHz and 4Gb of RAM. This is a pretty powerful portable computer. There is no dedicated graphic card but the Integrated Intel HD 4000 Graphics will deal with anything you would expect from a notebook like this including low end gaming. All of this power drives what is certainly the best screen in the class, a beautiful 12.5 inch panel with an eye popping 1920 x 1080 resolution.
So let’s turn this little beauty on and see what happens. As expected the screen is spectacular with bold colours and text as sharp as the printed word. I find the XPS 12 really easy on the eyes to work on the XPS 12 especially for text work, I am writing this on it. The keyboard is a typical Dell, excellent and comfortable even for touch typing. The trackpad big and bold however leaves much to be desired..I found the matte surface to be slow and draggy..it felt like my fingers were always sticking and the multitouch gestures come nowhere near the versatility and smoothness of the Apple trackpads.
All the power under the hood makes for great performance scrolling of the Windows 8 tiled interface is smooth and quick with none of the jerkiness I have experienced on some computers. Applications open quickly and run smoothly…this is a really nice Ultrabook to work on..with the exception of the above mentioned trackpad I found myself using the touch screen a lot and it really does help make Windows 8 more comfortable to work with. However, the reach across the keyboard is a bit unnatural and I wonder about repetitive stress injuries to the shoulder. I found gesturing on the screen put quite a strain on the upper arm and shoulder. I guess we will see as more people start using touch screen computers.
Now to this Ultrabooks’s most distinctive feature, the swivel screen. I found the hinge to be well built so I have no worries about flipping the screen. It turns the XPS 12 into a large and heavy tablet. Handy I suppose for some situations but I wonder if it is worth the additional complexity and weight. While some may find this to be a valuable feature I think most will use the XPS 12 as a very powerful UltraBook most of the time.
I am a sucker for small notebooks so I like the XPS 12 but it is a tad on the heavy side with most Ultrabooks coming in under 3 pounds. If you want a solid well built Ultrabook with lots of power even at the entry level and one that will quickly convert to a tablet then you will love the XPS 12. However, expect to pay for all this good stuff. The price starts at a pretty lofty $1300 reaching $1800 for the top of the line model.