Review Ultrabook Dell XPS 12

The Dell XPS 12 joins the short list of Windows 8 convertible tablet-Ultrabooks to hit the market after that new OS launched in late October. The XPS 12 started shipping in December 2012, and it has everything you love about the XPS line mated to the older Dell Duo's easel-mounted touchscreen. The build is extremely solid, upscale and attractive with Dell's signature carbon fiber surfaces (top and bottom this time), an aluminum frame and soft-touch painted magnesium wrist rest. Unlike the Dell Inspiron Duo, this isn't a plasticky netbook with a touchscreen, but a premium ultraportable that starts at $1,199. It features third generation Intel Core i5 and i7 ULV CPUs, 4 to 8 gigs of RAM and fast SSD drives. The XPS 12 runs both the Modern UI with Live Tiles and the traditional desktop with support for Windows 7 programs (x86, .exe apps).

Ultrabook Dell XPS 12

Full HD Display

The XPS 12 has a lovely 12.5" full HD IPS touchscreen with 400 nits brightness and Gorilla Glass. It has wide viewing angles, extremely sharp text and pleasing colors. 1920 x 1080 means 1080p videos play without scaling and photos look very detailed. Windows 8's new Live Tile interface scales perfectly on high res displays, keeping everything the same readable and touchable size as they'd be on 720p displays, but the desktop UI (the other half of Windows 8 that looks much like Windows 7) still suffers from shrunken touch targets and text. You can scale fonts on the Windows desktop side of things, and Dell wisely ships it set to 125% zoom, as does Sony with their Vaio Duo 11 that runs full HD on an even smaller 11.6" display.

Design and Ergonomics

The laptop weighs 3.35 pounds, which is heavier than the 2.89 lb. Vaio Duo 11 but a little lighter than both the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 and 12.5" Lenovo ThinkPad Twist convertibles. It's easy to hold and grip thanks to the carbon fiber finish and is fine for use on a table or lap. At twice the weight of the iPad and Android 10" tablets, you won't be holding it in your hands for an hour of reading unless you're a body builder.

Horsepower and Performance

Third generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 ULV CPUs power the machine, with Intel HD 4000 graphics. In other words, it's a standard Ultrabook. The base model has the usual 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, 4 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM and a 128 gig Samsung PM830 SSD drive. For a pricey $1,699 you can get it with the 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U ULV CPU, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD. You can also order it in a variety of in-between configurations, like the tempting $1,499 Core i5 with a 256 gig SSD and 8 gigs of RAM. While the performance gain of the Core i7 isn't huge, many of us will be tempted by more storage space. The 4 gig model uses single channel RAM and the 8 gig uses a dual channel configuration for a slight speed boost.

Battery Life

So far, Windows 8 convertible Ultrabooks haven't had stellar battery life. That said, the Dell XPS 12 leads this lackluster pack with 5 hours and 30 minutes of runtime on a charge with average use at 50% brightness. In our test we edit MS Office documents with Outlook running in the background, stream HD video for 45 minutes, surf the web with 8 tabs open and play music for 30 minutes. The Dell comes out ahead of the Vaio Duo 11 (not including the Vaio's optional sheet battery) by 30 minutes and lasted a full two hours longer than the Asus Taichi 21. It also outlasted the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (which admittedly drives a larger display) by 35 minutes.

Ultrabook Dell XPS 12

Keyboard and Trackpad

Like the XPS 13, the XPS 12 has a superb island style keyboard that's a joy for those of us who spend a lot of time writing. The sculpted keys keep your fingers located and there's good key separation along with better than average travel for a thin machine. The white backlighting is effective and it has three levels (off, medium and bright). The XPS and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga have the best keyboards in the convertible Ultrabook space.

Ultrabook Dell XPS 12


The Dell XPS 12 is a very likeable and powerful full Intel Core convertible Ultrabook with an excellent full HD display, superb keyboard and beautiful fit and finish. We're taken by the carbon fiber surfaces that aren't just cool looking: they make for a grippier and cooler computer. Performance is in line with third generation Intel Core i5 and i7 Ultrabooks and the fast Samsung PM830 SSD drives are icing on the cake. We also appreciate that you can order the machine with 8 gigs of RAM when some manufacturers stop at 4 gigs. Our only complaints? At nearly 3.4 pounds, this is a compact but heavy Ultrabook that's best supported by a table or your lap, and there's no digital pen option for educators, note takers and artists.

Go to review all tablet and Ultrabook
Price: Starting at $1,199


  • Display: 12.5", 1920 x 1080 IPS LED backlit display, capacitive multi-touch, 400 nits brightness. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Mini DisplayPort. Supports Intel WiDi wireless display.
  • Battery: 47 WHr, 6 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.
  • Performance: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U or 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U. 4 or 8 gigs DDR3 1600MHz RAM (single channel for 4 gigs, dual channel for 8 gigs). 128 or 256 gig SSD drive (Samsung PM830).
  • Size: 12.48 x 8.46 x 0.59- 0.79 inches. Weight: 3.35 pounds.
  • Camera: 1.3MP webcam with digital dual array mics.
  • Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, dual array mics and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Realtek ALC3260 with Waves MaxxAudio 3.
  • Networking: Integrated dual band Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0.
  • Software: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro 64 bit available.
  • Expansion and Ports: Two USB 3.0 ports, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio.TPM optional.

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