Dell XPS 12 review (hands on): Hybrid tops Dell’s new range

Leaked pictures of Dell’s Surface Pro rival, the XPS 12, have been around for some time now, but Dell has only just officially confirmed the existence of the new device. In an announcement that also encompassed the unveiling of two new XPS laptops, we had the chance to go hands-on with the device.

Dell XPS 12 review (hands on): Hybrid tops Dell's new range

The XPS 12 will be available from January 2016 and, to be honest, it’s a bit of a weird one. It takes the detachable hybrid recipe that has proved so successful in the firm’s Venue range of tablets and, by the looks of things, actually makes it worse.

That starts with the appearance: for an XPS device, it’s surprisingly ugly. It’s mostly clad in matte-black plastic, squared-off unstylised edges, and only the kicked-up hinge at the back of the device serves to deliver any kind of visual interest.

Dell XPS 12

This is a detachable hybrid, so the idea is that it’s usable as a laptop but, when you want to kick back and relax, you can pull the two apart and use the screen as a tablet. The problem with the XPS 12 is that the part that joins the two together hasn’t been well thought out.

First, there’s no hinge to speak of. Just a slot with a magnet holds the two halves together, and contacts provide power to the Bluetooth keyboard. There’s no adjustment available at all.

The base has no extra battery to boost stamina, and the magnet – at least in the “pre-production” versions I was shown – proved to be worryingly weak. So weak, in fact, that the tablet came loose from its moorings and fell to the floor during the demo session I attended.

Dell XPS 12

The tablet survived the drop, which proves it’s reasonably tough, and the rest of the specification looks impressive. The XPS 12 will come equipped with:

  • Intel Skylake processors across the board

  • A 4K, “Infinity Edge”, IPS touchscreen

  • Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C connections on the tablet

  • Some models will have Intel RealSense cameras (but only on the rear)

I really liked typing on the keyboard. The keys felt cushioned in all the right places, while remaining positive in action, and the long travel just added to the comfort.


That “Infinity Edge” IPS display looked simply gorgeously, bursting with deep saturated colours and sharp as a tack. Best of all, Dell’s engineers appear to have ironed out the problems I experienced when I reviewed the Dell XPS 13 earlier this year, namely the backlight bleed and over-aggressive dynamic contrast.

As for core components, the Dell XPS 12 I was using (the “Signature Edition”) was equipped with an Intel Core m5-6Y54 running at a nominal clock speed of 1.1GHz bursting up to 1.5GHz, had 8GB of RAM, and was running Windows 10 64-bit.

Aside from this, details of the various options that will eventually be available in January were thin on the ground, and prices aren’t yet available either.

However, given the oddly stilted design, I’m not sure it’s going to provide anything more than a passing challenge to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Google Pixel C and Apple iPad Pro.

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