Review of the Haswell Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook Convertible

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My Nexus 7 recently died, so I was in the market for a tablet. Also, my old laptop was… old. So I needed a new laptop. Plus, Intel’s Haswell processors had just launched. So I decided a few months back that I would be getting a 2-in-1 device; a Haswell Ultrabook convertible.

While plenty of Ultrabooks are getting Haswell refreshes, only a few so far are convertible form factors. No doubt many more will launch before year’s end, but as I said in the first paragraph, my situation was dire. So I decided on the refreshed Dell XPS 12 (not to be confused with the older, non-Haswell Dell XPS 12).

The Facts

Well, I think everyone is waiting on the laptop-to-tablet conversion money-shot, so here it is:

Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about the specs. They’re pretty run-of-the-mill.

  • 2.6GHz 4th-generation (Haswell) Intel Core Processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • 128GB SSD
  • 12.5″ LED-backlit 1080p touch-screen
  • 50WHr Lithium Ion battery

The Verdict

At $1200, this is a mid- to high-range machine, and the build quality feels like it. All rubberized carbon-fiber and aluminum, the thing seems indestructible. The backlit chiclet keys have plenty of travel and are a joy to type on. At 3.25lbs, it’s the lightest laptop I’ve ever owned, though still noticeably heavier than the Macbook Air.

The transition to and from tablet mode is easy and quick; the hinge feels strong and locks in place perfectly. The only time I really worry about it is when I have it in tablet mode and I accidentally pick it up by the frame around the screen (rather than the screen itself). Since it only locks at the top and bottom, it’s concerning to feel the flex of the frame but see the screen stay in place. My advice (should you purchase one) is not to do that. The tablet operation is great (whether in Metro or on the Desktop), though this offering is much heavier than actual tablets. It certainly isn’t comfortably usable one-handed; it’s better for sitting on the couch with it in your lap.

Battery life is sensational; I’m getting ~9 hours of Netflix streaming and ~8 hours of moderate use (web browsing). Playing Metro games doesn’t drain the battery much faster than that.

If I had to nitpick, I would point out two shortcomings. The first is the weak WiFi. Although I haven’t had the connection completely crap out on me yet, the signal strength frequently drops below 50%, even sitting a few feet from the router. The second shortcoming is the lack of an SD card slot. With a 128GB hard-drive, I really wish I had the option of popping in a 64GB SD card for watching movies on a long plane ride.

Long story short, it’s a great laptop and I definitely don’t regret the purchase. I was skeptical about the flip hinge, but now I frankly can’t imagine using another form factor (especially the awful keyboard-on-the-bottom Lenovo Yoga).

 

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