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Dell XPS 12 (2015) Review - Display and Software Review

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Dell XPS 12 (2015) – Display

The screen on this machine is quite spectacular. Although a 1080p option is available, this top-end model has a 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution, which makes for a razor-sharp 352 pixels per inch (ppi).

It’s clear from the start that viewing angles are excellent, and colours positively leap from the screen. Sure enough, these impressions hold up under test conditions, where my colorimeter measured an impressive contrast ratio of 1,339:1 with a hefty 446 nits white level. Viewing this display in bright conditions shouldn’t be an issue, despite the fairly reflective screen.

Dell XPS 12 (2015)

In my tests the screen had an sRGB colour gamut volume of 149% in my tests showing it’s highly capable of displaying colours well beyond the most basic palette. A Delta E of 1.69 is also excellent, and shows this screen can pick out fine gradations of colour. Out of the box the colour temperature was a little off, at 7,176K, but it’s close enough not to be a major concern.

The upshot of all this is that this display not only looks amazing to the casual observer but it’s also up to the task for designers, artists and other creative professionals who require accurate colours. What’s more, the screen doesn’t look oversaturated in normal use and is well balanced overall.

It suffers one issue, however: the age-old problem of high-resolution screens on Windows, where the scaling options for making icons and text a more readable size don’t work 100% of the time. While it’s fine for the most part, there were a few occasions where an app would appear at the native resolution (tiny), or was stretched to the right size but look pixellated as a result.  This is particularly common with software that hasn’t been updated to play nicely with high-resolution displays, and there’s not an awful lot you can do about it aside from email the developer to see whether they have a fix. If you have important legacy software, this is well worth bearing in mind.

Dell XPS 12 (2015) – Software

Of course, the XPS 12 runs Windows 10, which in my opinion is a decent enough upgrade over Windows 7 and 8. Certainly, for using this machine in a laptop-style configuration it’s fine. However, where it perhaps falls somewhat – and is why this device arguably begins to make less sense – is as a tablet OS.

Even basic tasks such a locating your apps becomes cumbersome as a result of the clunky Start Menu-based app list. In fact, I found myself regularly turning off the OS’s tablet mode – where everything is made to go full-screen – and using the Desktop interface instead, simply because most of the programs I use are desktop apps anyway and switching between the two styles of interface is jarring.

Indeed, this remains the chief problem with all such hybrid devices. Microsoft still hasn’t found a compelling enough tablet interface to do away with the keyboard/trackpad parts, and as such the touchscreen aspect is really only good for a handful of scenarios such as swiping through a photo album, web browsing and playing some games.

One potential use for a tablet of this calibre, though, is for graphical work – just as Apple has envisaged the iPad Pro being used for creative applications. To that end, there is an optional stylus available for the Dell XPS 12. When combined with the right sketching software, it may make this a convenient sketching platform. However, I wasn’t provided with a stylus to test this.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this summer’s Windows 10 Anniversary update will bring even better support for styluses.

Overall, Dell can be commended for providing a reasonably clean Windows installation. You receive a trial of McAfee antivirus and a selection of useful Dell utilities – but that’s it. No extraneous media software, needless app stores or dodgy games.  

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