Reviewers say the Dell XPS 12 is the best example yet of a Windows 8 convertible, packed with blisteringly fast laptop hardware and sporting a bright, crisp 1,080p display that proves very responsive to multitouch controls. Rotating the screen and closing the lid transform the Ultrabook into a large 12.5-inch slate, but experts say its price and size make it better in a laptop-first role.
Are you sure this is a tablet? The Core i5 processor, 128 GB solid-state drive and 4 GB of RAM in the base model might be typical Ultrabook fare, but it's tremendously potent for a tablet. Reviewers say the system blazes through tasks while the 1,080p display looks crisp and clear, with exceptionally wide viewing angles. Battery life lasts between 5.5 and 8 hours, which is great for a laptop but just okay for a tablet. The sound gets loud but is a bit muddled, critics report.
Split personality. The Dell XPS 12's calling card is its swiveling screen, which allows the convertible to switch between a large-screen tablet and a full-fledged Windows 8 Ultrabook. As a Windows 8 device, the XPS 12 can run both traditional desktop Windows programs as well as the tablet-friendly apps found in the Windows Store. Yet the Windows Store's selection is currently very skimpy, severely limiting the number of touch-optimized programs available.
The front-facing webcam helps with video chatting but doesn't take especially good pictures, reviewers say, and others are disappointed with the lack of an SD card slot.
Great input tools, iffy interface. Testers say the Dell XPS 12's keyboard, touchpad and touchscreen all feel comfortable and responsive, while the powerful internals eliminate lag entirely. The display sports wide viewing angles and a light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen brightness to match the environment.
As a laptop the 3.35-pound Ultrabook weighs remarkably little, but that heft and the 12.5-inch screen make the XPS 12 bulky as a tablet. Experts say it works better if you consider it a top-notch laptop with the ability to transform into a tablet when needed, rather than the other way around.
The biggest stumbling block will likely be Windows 8 itself, which sports a radically new interface that uses different controls depending on whether you're using gesture controls or the touchpad and mouse. Dell includes several video tutorials explaining how to get around the new operating system; reviewers say this helps to drop the learning curve dramatically, but not completely.
All in how you look at it. If you want a single device that serves as both a functional and powerful laptop as well as a functional and powerful tablet, experts call the Dell XPS 12 a great option and the best Windows 8 hybrid thus far. If you're looking for a more tablet-centric experience, this convertible may be too heavy, large and expensive. Good alternatives include the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display (Est. $500 and up) and the productivity-focused Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 (*Est. $480 and up) with optional keyboard dock (*Est. $150).
The Dell XPS 12 gets an Excellent rating at PCMag.com thanks to a convertible design that functions as both a top-notch laptop and a high-end (if a tad heavy) tablet. "The Dell XPS 12 is a front runner in the nascent hybrid category," Westover says.
Review: Dell XPS 12, Brian Westover, Oct. 23, 2012
2. Laptop Magazine
Laptop Magazine also gives the XPS 12 an Excellent rating. Santo Domingo says, "The Dell XPS 12 represents the most elegant way we've seen to handle Windows 8's dual interfaces."
Review: Dell XPS 12 Review, Joel Santo Domingo, Aug. 29, 2013
3. Computer Shopper
ComputerShopper.com says the Dell XPS 12 delivers a potent combination of fast performance, great design and comfortable ergonomics. On the downside, the hybrid is a bit bulkier than conventional tablets.
Review: Dell XPS 12 Review and Ratings, Brad Chacos, Oct. 25, 2012
The Dell XPS 12 proves to be a versatile and well-designed device full of power and portability, Ackerman says. Nevertheless, "for all the hype about touch and tablets with Windows 8, the XPS 12 still works better as a laptop than as a slate," he writes.
Review: Dell XPS 12 Review: A Unique Take on the Convertible Laptop/Tablet, Dan Ackerman, Oct. 23, 2012
5. Notebook Check.net
NotebookCheck.net wholeheartedly recommends the Dell XPS 12 after testing its mettle in several benchmark evaluations. "A sensational start: The XPS 12 is an amazing pick of hardware built by Dell," Schönborn says. "Even though we tested the precursor model, we found few flaws."
Review: Review Dell XPS 12 Convertible, Till Schönborn, Oct. 23, 2012
The Dell XPS 12 isn't for people looking solely for a tablet, Wollman notes. However, its versatility makes it worth considering for those who want to carry a single device. "Though the XPS 12's size and weight make it a bit unwieldy as a substitute tablet, it's still a compelling option if you're in the market for a high-end, touch-enabled Ultrabook," she says.
Review: Dell XPS 12 Review: With the Launch of Windows 8, 'Convertible' Takes on a New Meaning, Dana Wollman, Oct. 23, 2012
Unlike other reviewers, Null calls the Dell XPS 12 heavy, loud and hot compared to more mainstream tablet-only slates. "As a laptop, I have no real complaint with the XPS 12," he says. "But, tragically, it's largely unusable as a tablet." He gives the device 5 points out of 10.
Review: Dell XPS 12: Flippity Doodad, Christopher Null, Oct. 23, 2012
8. Laptop Magazine
Dell rises dramatically to earn a grade of B in this report. Phone support is most improved, and some questionable up-selling practices have apparently been discontinued. Live chat is also helpful but the website is difficult to use.
Review: Dell Tech Support: 2013 Rating, Daniel P. Howley, Oct. 21, 2013
Dell's tech support ranks below average among 10 laptop vendors in this year's Readers' Choice survey at PCMag.com. On the plus side, the company's ranking is higher than in recent years.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013