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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There's no doubt that the Dell XPS 12 is a superb Ultrabook, which really challenges the competition in terms of quality and power. The build quality, performance and comfort packed into a diminutive 12.5-inch laptop is unrivalled, and anyone looking for a true ultra-portable laptop should make sure they check out the Dell XPS 12.

We love the touchscreen laptop form factor, which really works with Windows 8, and being able to run the latest apps, play games and then work on a document and run programs such as Photoshop is a genuinely exciting proposition.

Unfortunately, as a tablet, the Dell XPS 12 is far from perfect. It's too heavy to be held comfortably, and while it's great for presenting or showing off photos, we didn't use it in its converted state as much as we would the Sony Vaio Duo 11 or even the Asus Taichi. Even if it was a standard Ultrabook, weight would be a complaint, especially as the Toshiba Satellite Z930 is half a kilo lighter.

We liked

The Full HD display is one of the best you'll find on a Windows laptop, and the build quality all over the Dell XPS 12 is superb. The keys are comfortable to use, despite the 12.5-inch chassis, and the inclusion of a touchscreen really makes this one of the best Ultrabooks money can buy.

While it may be too heavy to be used as tablet in the traditional sense, it's easy to forget the Dell XPS 12 brings this functionality at no extra cost. Pound for pound the Dell XPS 12 stacks up against any laptop competition, even the latest MacBook Pros, and the fact that it doubles as a tablet should be seen as an added bonus, not a reason to buy.

We disliked

When this left Dell's design labs, someone must have noticed it was too far too heavy. At nearly 1.6kg (3.4lbs) it's noticeably bulky as a laptop, challenging the notion of a 12.5-inch device as something you can slip into a bag and forget about.

What's more perplexing is that the head-honchos at Dell expect us to hold and use it as a tablet. At three times the weight of an iPad 4, they must believe Windows 8 customers are muscle-bound superheroes, and using the Dell is not a comfortable experience.

If you're looking for something lightweight, then look elsewhere. If you're looking for power, you have a perfect ultra-portable laptop right here.

Final verdict

While the Dell XPS 12's build is bloated, many will argue the price is too. However, despite the price tag, we believe it actually represents good value.

While many will baulk at the £1,299/AU$1,499/US$1,199 asking price, anyone considering the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display will find a surprising pedigree here. The display is one of the nearest you'll find in terms of colour and vibrancy, and for less than the Mac you get a faster processor, twice the storage and the option to use it as a touchscreen tablet.

The Dell XPS 12 is one of the most powerful Ultrabooks you'll find. It might be heavy and awkward as a tablet, but when you consider the value that's on offer, with the blistering processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD drive, there's more than meets the eye.

Having tablet functionality is an added extra that enables you to get the best out of Windows 8 when you need it, which makes the Dell XPS 12 a real heavyweight, in every sense of the word.