Premium looks and design cost a pretty penny. If you seek a gorgeous-looking and feeling laptop-tablet hybrid, the Dell XPS 11 is a fashion model in its class. The Lenovo Yoga 2 is a lovely rubberized machine, and the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 has an exquisitely-made magnesium frame. These rivals have their own appealing characteristics, but the XPS 11 feels like it's in a whole other level as a truly luxury item.
I loved the carbon fiber body of the XPS 11. It's a material you don't see very often on electronics - aside from the faux-patterned back of the Motorola Droid Maxx - and at the same time it does not look gaudy like carbon fiber rims on a minivan. Instead, it's subtly implemented to add strength and personality to the laptop, matching form with function.
When I opened up the laptop for the first time, I was greeted by an equally beautiful screen with lavishly deep colors just begging to display high-resolution content. And with 802.11ac Wi-Fi built-in, the XPS 11 is prepared for the advent of beyond-HD streaming.
While I could gush on for days about the Dell XPS 11's body, the same rubbery coating is also extremely susceptible to scuffing and scratches. Already a smudge magnet for oily fingerprints, this exterior developed some scars by simply sliding it across an unsanded wooden bench.
Then there's that keyboard. It's an admirable effort on Dell's part to eliminate the awkwardness of gripping the device against a keyboard in tablet mode, and it works. However, when I actually sat down to work on this review, my typing experience devolved from "This is okay" to "I just need to get used to it," and eventually hatred.
It's also disheartening that this premium laptop does not have the performance chops to back up its gorgeous screen. While most tablets deliver a mix of battery life and enough power to deal with everyday web browsing, the Dell XPS 11 pours all its energy into powering that sharp display, sacrificing battery life and performance.
Dell set out to make a tablet device first that could convert into a laptop when users needed it, and it has succeeded, partially, with the XPS 11. Last year, the Dell XPS 12 turned heads with its unorthodox screen-swiveling design. This new hybrid laptop is an evolutionary step that's lighter and more refined. While it's not treading any new ground already covered by the Yoga 2, the XPS 11 is more than a carbon copy, thanks to its build quality and high-resolution screen.
There's a lot to consider before picking up an XPS 11. It works somewhat as a tablet and much less so as a laptop, with some big caveats for both use cases. The Yoga 2 is a much more balanced tablet-laptop hybrid that offers a physical keyboard for those who can get over touching buttons on the hybrid's backside. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 2 is a smaller but similar tablet.
With the XPS 11's high price point, there are dedicated laptops to consider with such a large budget, including the Acer Aspire S7 and 11-inch MacBook Air. With all its trade-offs, the Dell XPS 11 is simply too expensive to recommend outright, but if you have the cash to burn, this hybrid is a looker with an equally beautiful screen.