The introduction of Windows 8 and its ability to work seamlessly with touchscreen computers has given manufacturers a new lease of life in terms of product design. Dell has come up with a unique 'flip and fold' touchscreen Ultrabook that it claims will turn your laptop into a tablet in seconds. We managed to get hands-on time with the device, so here is our first Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook review.
Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook screen
The first thing that we really ought to talk about is the Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook's crazy screen. The most noticeable thing about it is that it rotates through 180 degrees, to allow you to use the device as both a laptop and a tablet, albeit a pretty big and heavy tablet (1.54kg) that would soon tire your holding-arm out before too long.
The actual mechanics of the Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook are reasonable and steady. Flipping and folding the screen is very straightforward and doesn't require any real effort or brainpower to do, which is a good thing. What isn't a good thing is that the screen only turns 180 degrees, so when you get too confident and spin it too quickly it comes to a rather abrupt stop at the 180-degree mark. It would be surprising if a significant percentage of people don't overdo it with the flips, over this laptop's lifespan. That said, the laptop's overall feel was very solid and when you take a look at what rugged materials it's made from - machined aluminium, carbon fibre and Corning Gorilla Glass – it's not hard to see why.
The touchscreen itself is impressively clear and responsive to the touch. The Ultrabook boasts a Full HD (1080p) screen with 160-degree viewing angle. From our time with the XPS 12 Duo we can confirm that the screen looks sharp and bright from all angles. Oddly we found the physical Windows button on the touchscreen very useful and reassuring.
We did discover one fault while using the Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook, and this was that the laptop's accelerometer wasn't in the screen itself but underneath the keyboard. This became a bit of a drag when using the screen as you have to tip the whole laptop up to flip the screen's direction.
Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook build
If you take away the flip screen of the XPS 12 Duo, the overall look and feel of the Ultrabook is exactly what you'd expect from a modern Dell laptop, with familiar curved edges and a carbon fibre finish in a traditional colour scheme.
The keyboard is nice and spacious, with plenty of room to rest your mits either side of the mouse/touchpad. The keys had a nice effortless action. Typing on the touchscreen was also a relatively pain-free experience.
On the model we at hands-on time with, the mouse/touchpad did not support multi-touch or basic Windows 8 functionality such as bringing in the Charms Bar from the right-hand side of the screen (a feature that did work on the XPS 12's touchscreen). We have since enquired with the representatives and the Dell website, but it's still unclear if this was a sample unit's driver error or whether it is not supported on the XPS 12. We will of course look into this further when get one to test for our full review, which will replace our hands-on review as soon as possible.
Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook specifications
The interesting thing about Ultrabooks is that all of the specs are not a million miles apart, due to the hoops that need to be jumped through to gain ‘Ultrabook' status. There are really no surprises with the XPS 12 Duo, you can get it with either an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5- or i7 processor and with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM.
The Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook of course comes with a Windows 8 operating system as standard; a 12.5-inch Full HD (1080p) touchscreen; 128GB of SSD space; 6-Cell Lithium Ion primary battery.
Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook verdict
The Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook is a bit of a strange one, with prices starting at £999, meaning it's not ridiculously expensive and still nowhere near cheap. What we're trying to say is that for someone to part with a grand, then a product has to do a lot to convince buyers.
This laptop's specs suggest that is certainly not the lightest or fastest Ultrabook by a long way. Nor does it offer the best storage or battery performance. So what you are effectively left with is reasonably specced laptop with a flippy Windows 8 touchscreen. Is that worth £1,000? We're not so sure.
The Dell XPS 12 is a novel Ultrabook that can feasibly be used as both a laptop and a tablet, or though it isn't up for debate that it makes a better laptop then it does tablet. It's specs and price are reasonable, but not really impressive on face of it. From our hands-on time with it, we found it easy to use and nicely responsive too. If you're looking for a laptop to get the most out of Windows 8 on, then this should definitely considered as its Corning Gorilla Glass HD touchscreen is very impressive.