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The Dell XPS Duo 12 Ultrabook is constructed from durable materials — machined aluminum, bonded Corning Gorilla Glass and carbon fiber — for an experience that’s premium in every way.
The review below is for this tablet by By David Pearlman "sound fanatic" (Arlington, MA), which represents the first generation version of the Dell XPS (with the I5-3337u processor; the so-called "Ivy Bridge" generation processor).
The XPS Duo 12 is one of a new breed of convertible laptops created to take advantage of the Windows 8 paradigm, which allows use as both as tablet and a laptop. While this category is expected to grow, right now, there are essentially only a modest number of entrants, and only two that could be reasonably be called innovative: The Dell XPS 12 (this one), and the Lenovo Yoga 13. The Dell and Lenovo sport similar power specs (cpu, memory, hard drive, battery life), but the Dell has a much higher resolution, better, screen. In my opinion, the Dell takes that competition handily.
Focusing on the XPS 12, this is a terrific piece of hardware, with a lot of pros, and only a few significant cons.
Beautiful super high resolution 1920x1080 12.5" screen
Very high build quality
Terrific innovative screen that rotates in the frame to go from laptop/keyboard to tablet configuration
Very responsive with even the base configuration of an Intel I5 processor and 4Gb memory
Incredibly fast boot time (10-15 seconds)
Very good keyboard
Responsive touchscreen which operates in both laptop and tablet modes
Fast SSD drive in all configurations
Decent webcam (1.3mp)
Light, portable charging cable.
Bluetooth, Wireless N (5 + 2.4Ghz)
Backlit keys on keyboard
Battery life is 5-5.5 hours.
Weight is 3.5 pounds, which isn't heavy, but isn't super light for a 12.5" laptop. A bit heavy feeling in tablet mode
Speakers are predictably mediocre for a small laptop
Base configuration has only a 128Gb SSD hard drive. However, the hard drive IS user replaceable.
No HDMI or VGA port. Only a graphics mini displayport, which means you will need to carry a mini displayport -> HDMI or VGA adapter if you want to use this for business or with a TV/external monitor.
Memory is soldiered to motherboard and is not upgradeable. Fortunately, even the base configuration 4Gb of memory is more than sufficient.
Only two USB ports (both USB 3.0, however)
Battery is not easily user swapped/replacable
No built in media card reader. If you want to the SD card from your camera, you'll need to carry an external reader.
Of the cons, the worst, in my opinion, is the fact that the battery is not easily swapped/replaced. While the 5-5.5 hour run time is pretty respectable, one can expect battery life to diminish over time, and I am not looking forward to dealing with that eventuality. Also, I like to carry a spare battery to swap out for long trips. That's not possible here.
Having struggled with various underpowered Android based tablets, including the Asus TF301/keyboard dock, I can say that using the XPS 12 in tablet mode is like a huge weight has been lifted. The XPS 12 screams when surfing the web, which is something I can't say about any Android (or Mac) tablet I've used--and I've used a lot of them.
People have complained about the lack of apps in the Windows 8 app store--and it's true that the Windows 8 app store is pretty anemic compared to Andoid or Mac. But some of the most important apps are there (Skype, Netflix, etc.) and it's still growing. There are enough to make using the tablet mode acceptable now...and the responsiveness provided by the Intel I5 processor makes it a pleasure to use.
There are a few configuration options available for the XPS 12, all related to the processor (a few speeds of I5 and I7), memory (4Gb or 8Gb) and hard drive size (128Gb or 256Gb). My recommendation: Any of the available processor speeds will be more than acceptable and the difference between the I5 and I7 processors for almost any user will be negligible. Similarly, most users will not need the 8Gb of memory. Windows 8 runs perfectly fine on 4Gb of memory. Unless you plan on running memory hog processes (advanced video editing, certain scientific apps, etc.) you won't need the extra memory. If you do need the extra memory, however, you need to order the laptop with 8Gb installed from the factory, as the memory is not user-upgradeable (it's soldiered to the motherboard...grrr...) A larger hard drive than the 128Gb SSD that comes installed on the base model is definitely a nice feature. But the hard drive IS user replaceable, and the incremental cost of getting the 256Gb mSata SSD from Dell is more than it would be to buy that 256Gb mSata SSD on the aftermarket and clone your 128Gb drive onto it. (You will also wind up with a spare 128Gb drive that way). Unless you are scared of the idea of hard drive cloning/migration, I'd recommend that path. Please note that this laptop uses the mSata configuration hard drive, rather than a full sized SSD to save space. mSata drives tend to be a bit more expensive than standard SSD drives.
Overall, this is a terrific laptop, and buying the least expensive configuration version is, for most, the recommended route.
Discount only applies to items shipped and sold by Amazon.com. This offer is valid until September 20th, 2014, and while supplies last
Dell has released a second generation version of the XPS 12 (Dell XPS 12 XPSU12-5327CRBFB 12.5-Inch Convertible 2-in-1 Touchscreen Ultrabook (Carbon Fiber)). It is almost identical to the one sold and reviewed here with one significant difference: The new version uses Intel's latest "Haswell" series processor. This results in a bump of the run time on a full charge from around 5+ hours to around 8+ hours. Almost all other specs, physical characteristics, and performance measurements remain the same. But you do get a major improvement in run time per charge. Whether this justifies the increased cost for you will depend on how you plan to use the laptop.