Everyone has their own take on the Windows 8 convertible tablet/laptop, but Dell’s hybrid Ultrabook is unique. Rather than twist, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, or detach, like the Asus Vivo Tab, the Dell XPS 12 flips its screen around a local hinge that’s integrated into its bezel.
It’s a bit difficult to describe, but looking at the pictures you probably get the idea. This is a preferable transformation approach to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13’s whole screen-flip mechanism, as it doesn’t leave the keyboard facing out at the device’s base when in ‘tablet mode’.
But the XPS Duo 12’s appeal doesn’t end at the innovative way it transforms either. Its design and build are inspired by the very premium Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook rather than the cheap and cheerful Dell XPS 10 Windows RT convertible, so it looks and feels superb.
Under its metal and carbon-fibre hood the Dell XPS 12 is just as impressive, sporting a 1080p, 400nits IPS touch-screen, up to a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. That’s some serious power for its £999 starting price, so can this be the convertible laptop to rule them all?
There are no two ways about it: just like the XPS 13 before it, the Dell XPS 12 is a beautiful bit of kit. The lid is black, soft-touch carbon fibre, which gives a distinct and attractive pattern. Though it picks up the occasional echo of a fingerprint, it’s generally easy to maintain, and quite rugged too.
This soft black area is surrounded by anodised aluminium trim, which is in fact the frame that holds the swinging 'tablet' part of the laptop. Opening the XPS 12 up, we’re treated to nicely consistent internals. The screen is surrounded by a glossy black bezel and fronted by a seamless sheet of Gorilla Glass, while the keyboard and its surrounds are finished in ‘traditional’ black soft-touch plastic.
An aluminium surround (this time without hinges) separates this from the base’s sides and bottom, which are all soft-touch black. This not only makes the XPS Duo 12 lovely to hold and carry, but ensures it stays safely on your lap too. The only design element we’re not fond of is that the power plug sticks straight out from the right-hand side, rather than being L-shaped.
With the use of all these premium materials – glass, carbon fibre, metal and high-grade plastics – it’s no surprise that the XPS 12 is immaculately constructed. It might not have quite the same rigidity as the 13-inch MacBook Air, but there’s not a hint of creak or unwanted flex, and panels fit perfectly. Both the main hinge and the 12’s unique inner flip hinge are also incredibly solid and offer beautifully defined action.
As a laptop, the Dell XPS 12 is quite thin (23mm at its thickest) and reasonably light (1.54kg). The disadvantage compared to a fully detachable convertible design is that you can’t remove the screen from the keyboard and need to carry around the whole machine at all times. As such, it’s on the heavy side for a tablet but we’ll get into that later.