Dell XPS 12 (2014) review

Dell takes Windows 8 into flip-screen territory

XPS Duo 12
The XPS Duo 12 is a convertible Windows 8 Ultrabook

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While the Dell XPS 12 is a dubious tablet, it's a magnificent 12-inch laptop.

Inside you'll find a top-of-the-range third generation Intel Core i7 3517U processor clocked at a very nimble 1.9GHz. It's the same type of low-power processor found on all Ultrabooks, and this is part of Intel's guidelines. However, the speed of this chip certainly stands out from the crowd.

To back up this meaty processor is 8GB of RAM, which is unprecedented in a portable laptop of this size, and as you'd expect, there's no dedicated graphics, with all visual eye candy handled by the Intel HD 4000 graphics on the Core i7 chip.

Dell XPS 12 review

With a processor this powerful, you can still expect to render HD video and edit pictures without any hassle, and gaming will be within reach, albeit, with the settings turned down.

If the size and speed of the Dell XPS 12's processor was unprecedented in this form factor, so is the screen. No expense has been spared, with the 12.5-inch panel sporting a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

The Ultrabook's visuals are brilliant, with bold colours and a smooth clean picture combining for an eye-popping experience.

Dell XPS 12 review

The only Windows 8 rival in terms of resolution in this field is the Asus Taichi, which packs two of these beauties into a thinner and much lighter chassis.

However, immediate comparisons will be made to Apple's Retina display, which is now available on the iPad 4 and MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display and MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display.

While the Dell XPS 12's sharpness and depth of colour aren't far shy of Apple's tech, it doesn't compete in terms of sheer vibrancy and we prefer the Retina's sumptuous colours, absorbing depth and almost blinding brightness.

Dell XPS 12 review

There's a gigantic 256GB SSD drive, which is enough space to make this diminutive Dell anyone's main machine, and brings all the performance boosts of the technology, with fast boot times and lightening quick system navigation.

You won't find a bigger solid-state drive on any laptop, and it's again a colossal offering on such a minute machine.

While we mentioned that the build is heavy for a 12.5-inch laptop, the flip side is that it's one of the best-built ultra-portables we've used. First there's the swivel component of the laptop lid, which runs the risk on paper of being flimsy and wobbly.

Dell XPS 12 review

However, it's so solid when docked into position that you wouldn't notice that it swivelled unless you were told. A firm push is all that's required to spin the screen, and it slots back into place with a satisfying click.

The body itself is also extremely solid, with zero flex in the chassis, as if the body was carved from a single piece of carbon fibre.

The trackpad also has the wonderful soft texture that graces the rest of the Dell XPS 12, but it's slightly unresponsive, with a muddy feeling that's slow when navigating the old Windows interface.

Dell XPS 12 review

The keyboard, however, is a triumph, with the backlighting making it easy to type in dim conditions. And the beauty of the 12.5-inch chassis is that you still get full sized keys. They're beautifully cushioned, and the Chiclet style is the same as you'll find on its bigger brothers the Dell XPS 14 and Dell XPS 15.

In terms of ports and connectivity, the Dell is a slightly mixed bag. There's two USB 3.0 ports, one of which has the ability to charge devices when the laptop is off, which is incredibly useful for those on the move. However, there's no HDMI, with DisplayPort the preferred method of AV connectivity.

Another slight disappointment is the power cable, which still has a transformer brick, where many manufacturers have dispensed with this on low power machines.

Dell XPS 12 review