Dell Latitude 12 7000 review (hands-on): Dell 2-in-1 swells the ranks of Surface Pro rivals

The world of 2-in-1 tablets is expanding rapidly at CES 2016, with Dell's Latitude 12 7000 the latest to jump on the bandwagon

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If CES 2016 has been notable for one thing, it’s how many manufacturers have decided to release me-too Surface Pro clones. Well, now it’s the turn of US giant Dell to get in on the act with the Dell Latitude 12 7000 2-in-1, launched alongside a slew of other Windows business laptops.

In days gone by, the words “business” and “laptop” might have been more likely to induce yawns than the giddy excitement a new smartphone or games console brought, but in the modern world the line between business and consumer devices is becoming increasingly blurred.

These days, you can put devices such as this Surface Pro wannabe and the might of the Surface Pro 4 side-by-side and you might struggle to tell which was designed for the office and which for the home. And that’s most definitely a good thing, because – as long as your IT department is feeling generous – this sort of device might well be offered to you as your next work PC.

Dell Latitude 12 7000 review: Design

There are two roads manufacturers can go down when building a 2-in-1 tablet hybrid such as this new Dell. They can build a kickstand into the chassis of the tablet itself, as with the Surface Pro 4 or HP Elite X2, or they can make an official folio case, in the style of the iPad Pro.

The Latitude 12 7000 takes the latter approach, wrapping its 12.5in-screened tablet in a folio case that’s coated in what can only be described as a school-trouser, textile finish. Perhaps I’m being a little unkind – on a different day, one could quite easily think of it as smart-suit grey. Either way, it’s a touch drab, although it seems a reasonably practical design.

With the tablet part docked into the keyboard case – courtesy of a series of magnets and some contacts in the centre of one edge – it can be used as a compact laptop. And, like the Surface Pro 4, it can be propped up at any angle, thanks to a continuously adjustable kickstand. This makes it ideal for use on a desk, but slightly less suitable for lap-typing, since there’s a gap between the kickstand and the rear of the keyboard.

Still, the base of the keyboard feels stiff and its backlit keys are comfortable to type on, with a decent amount of travel and a soft, cushioned action more akin to what you might expect on a high-quality Ultrabook. It’s the touchpad that most impresses, however: its silky finish has a wonderfully high-quality thunk to it when you click the buttons. If you need to get a decent chunk of work done, this is a hybrid that, not unlike the HP Elite X2 I looked at recently, looks willing to oblige.

It’s light, too: the tablet part weighs 731g and measures 8.1mm – not bad for a 12.5in tablet – while the keyboard adds 673g and 17mm for a total weight of 1.4kg and thickness of 17mm. It’s worth noting that Dell will also be offering another battery booster keyboard option that adds a mere 1mm to the overall thickness.

What this all boils down to is that, if you fancy slinging it in a bag for a spot of work down the local coffee shop, you can feel safe in the knowledge that it will weigh you down no more than a Surface Pro 4.

And, once you get back to the office, there’s plenty of flexibility from a connectivity point of view, too, with two USB Type-C sockets (Dell generously also includes a Type-C to Type A conversion adapter), optional 4G and a microSD expansion slot for adding flash storage.

The only concern I have with the design is with the magnets that attach the tablet to the case and docking contacts. The tablet doesn’t snap into the dock anywhere near as strongly as it does on the Surface Pro 4, and during my hands-on time with the tablet, I found it fiddly to get it all seated and working properly. Let’s hope these are merely pre-production niggles, though, because I like the design a lot.

Vital statistics

Dell Latitude 7000 12

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Screen size

12.5in

12.3in

Resolution

3,840 x 2,160

2,736 x 1,824

Dimensions (WDH)

291 x 8.1 x 193mm

292 x 8 x 201mm

Weight (tablet only)

731g

766g (m3 model)

Weight (with keyboard)

1.4kg

1.37kg

Dell Latitude 7000 12 review: Display and core specifications

With Windows 10 coping so much better with scaling on high-DPI screens these days, the way is finally open for manufacturers to go crazy with the pixels, and Dell obliges here with the option of a Gorilla Glass-topped 3,840 x 2,560 IPS touchscreen, which delivers a pixel density of 352ppi and claimed top brightness of 360 nits.

Nominally, this is a sharper screen than the Surface Pro 4’s. That’s impressive, and Dell also offers pressure-sensitive stylus compatibility, although its “Active Pen” is an optional extra and not included in the box, where Microsoft throws it in for nowt.

One thing that isn’t an option, however, is to up the power to the top-end number-crunching power of a Core i5 or Core i7 processor. Unlike the Surface Pro 4, the Latitude 7000 12 is only available with the latest generation of Intel Core m processors (the 2.2GHz m3-6Y30, 2.8GHz m5-6Y57 and 3.1GHz m7-6Y75).

Dell Latitude 12 7000 review: Docking contact

That bodes well for battery life, but not for CPU-intensive tasks such as video encoding and rendering. Elsewhere, storage options run from standard 128GB SSDs right up to super-fast, 512GB NVMe drives. You can choose either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and there’s a cheaper, Full HD touchscreen option for those who care more about pounds than pixels.

With such a mainstream business laptop supplier now producing 2-in-1 devices – and this isn’t the only one in the range, there’s also the smaller 10.8in Latitude 7000 11 – it’s looking increasingly like this is product sector that’s going to explode in 2016.

It’s great to see, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on one for a full review.

Further reading: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review: Expensive, but a great piece of hardware for running Windows 10

M7-6Y75.

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