The XPS 12 isn’t particularly generous on its connectivity, thanks largely to its slim, tapering lines. However, it does pack in most of the essentials. On the left-hand side there's a rotation lock button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a spring-loaded power slider, a volume rocker and a stereo speaker. The right-hand side, meanwhile, houses a second stereo speaker, battery indicator button with five white LEDs, twin USB 3.0 ports and a mini DisplayPort.
As you might have noticed, the big absentee here is an SD card reader. Even if Dell couldn’t have fitted a full-size one, a microSD reader would have been better than nothing. We also feel that on a consumer laptop, it’s nice to have an HDMI option in addition to DisplayPort. Of course this can be achieved using an adapter, however you won't find one included in the box.
On the wireless side of things, the Dell XPS 12 comes with the usual Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 4.0 combo, with no option for mobile broadband. The front-facing webcam captures HD video but, as usual, doesn’t provide amazing quality. That said, it's perfectly adequate for video chatting, which is after all its primary function.
The XPS 12's keyboard is, if anything, even better than the already good effort on the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook. Layout is flawless, while keys are well-spaced too. Just like Lenovo’s laptop keyboards, keys are slightly concave, though they don’t have the classic Lenovo ‘smile’ shape.
They also offer good feedback, with a decent amount of travel and reasonably firm click, and for typing in the dark there are two levels of white LED backlighting. While the overall typing experience on the Dell XPS 12 doesn’t quite match the mighty Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it holds its own against the best of the rest.
Again, the large, glass touchpad will be familiar to anyone who has seen one of the other high-end XPS models. It’s finished in smooth matt black which matches its soft-touch surroundings nicely, also making it lovely under the finger. It’s not quite as responsive as most of the touchpads we've encountered recently, but a quick tweak of the settings mostly resolves things.
As with most premium Ultrabooks and convertibles these days, the touchpad’s buttons are integrated into the pad’s surface. We've often found this can be a little hit and miss, however Dell’s implementation is flawless with great action on each button and no dead zone whatsoever.
Like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, the convertible XPS 12 is a bit big and heavy in its tablet mode, and for this reason it’s best to view it as a laptop first and a tablet second. However, if you can rest it on a surface – such as your lap or a table – then it’s a joy to use. The soft-touch back in tablet mode provides a comfy grip, while the rounded edges mean it doesn’t become too painful on the fingers.
The Dell XPS 12’s unique flip-screen approach doesn’t just lend itself well to being used as a tablet either. If you’re sitting across from someone at a table using this XPS in ‘laptop mode’, you can just flip the screen to show them what you’re working on.
Like all high-end convertibles, the XPS 12 supports 10-finger touch, which is nice for local multiplayer touch gaming. Ironically, its high 1,920 x 1,080 screen resolution makes many elements in Windows 8’s ‘classic’ desktop mode too small to press with complete assurance, but then that part of Win 8 wasn’t really designed for touch anyway. Still, with many rivals offering digitizer stylus input, this is one area where the 12 falls a little short.