The XPS 12 isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly one of the more successful attempts to create a hybrid mobile device that can function as both a laptop and a tablet.
Dell describes the XPS 12 as a ‘convertible ultrabook’. Certainly, it ticks all the right boxes on the ultrabook side of things. The smart black and silver case measures just 20mm thick and the XPS 12 weighs only 1.52kg, so it’s easy to carry around with you. It’s sturdily built, though, with a layer of tough Gorilla Glass (the same as used on many smartphones and tablets) to protect the screen.
That 12.5in touchscreen is a real eye-catcher too. Its 1920x1080 resolution is very bright and sharp and looks great when watching HD video or browsing your photo library. The use of an IPS panel also ensures that it has really wide viewing angles – close to 170-degrees.
That's crucial on a device that can be used as a tablet as it needs to work in various positions, from flat on the desk to vertical. Our only minor complaint is that glass (as you might expect) is highly reflective and that can be a little annoying at times.
Prices start at £999 for a model with an i5 processor, but we tested the flagship model with a Core i7 processor running at 1.9GHz (3GHz with Turboboost), 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD.
That combination produced a strong score of 4854 in the PCMark 7 benchmark suite, so it won't break a sweat when running Microsoft Office. It should handle more demanding tasks such video- or photo-editing without a fuss too.
Battery life is good too, providing a full five hours of streaming video, so you should get close to a full day’s work done between charges. The XPS 12 can even handle a spot of gaming action when you’re off-duty.
The integrated HD 4000 graphics struggle at the screen's 1080p resolution, only managing 9fps in Batman: Arkham City with DX11 and high graphics settings. But drop to 1366x768 resolution and low graphics settings and you’ll get a far smoother 34fps.
And when you want to use the XPS 12 as a tablet, you simply flip the screen in its frame and close it against the keyboard. The screen is highly responsive and the high-resolution display means that the XPS 12 works really well for a spot of casual web browsing and using Windows 8 apps, of course.
Naturally, the big screen means it’s larger and heavier than a conventional tablet. You can’t pick it up with one hand whilst browsing the web, as you would normally do with most tablets, so you’ll need to hold it in both hands or rest it on your lap whilst using it in tablet mode.
The tablet mode isn’t entirely successful, but the XPS 12 will definitely earn its keep as a powerful, lightweight Ultrabook that you can use for work on the road or in the office. The tablet mode is really just a nice bonus for when you want to have a bit of fun, or let the kids loose with apps such as FreshPaint.