The Dell XPS 12 joins the short list of Windows 8 convertible tablet-Ultrabooks to hit the market after that new OS launched in late October. The XPS 12 just started shipping this month, and it has everything you love about the XPS line mated to the older Dell Duo's easel-mounted touchscreen. The build is extremely solid, upscale and attractive with Dell's signature carbon fiber surfaces (top and bottom this time), an aluminum frame and soft-touch painted magnesium wrist rest. Unlike the Duo, this isn't a plasticky netbook with a touchscreen, but a premium ultraportable that starts at $1,199.
The XPS 12 has a lovely 12.5" full HD IPS touchscreen with 400 nits brightness and Gorilla Glass. It has wide viewing angles, extremely sharp text and pleasing colors. 1920 x 1080 means 1080p videos play without scaling and photos look very detailed. Windows 8's new Live Tile interface scales perfectly on high res displays, keeping everything the same readable and touchable size as they'd be on 720p displays, but the desktop UI (the other half of Windows 8 that looks much like Windows 7) still suffers from shrunken touch targets and text. You can scale fonts on the Windows 7 side of things, and Dell wisely ships it set to 125% zoom, as does Sony with their Vaio Duo 11 that runs full HD on an even smaller 11.6" display.
The most interesting thing about the Dell XPS 12 is the rotating display. This is a very thin display panel that's attached via two tiny mount points to the aluminum frame. Magnets prevent unwanted rotation and it feels well-engineered and easy to use. The traditional hinge that holds the frame is very stiff, so the display doesn't wobble too much when you poke at the screen. The easel design is intriguing and functional, but we do worry about how well it will hold up over the years.
The laptop weighs 3.35 lbs, which is heavier than the 2.89 lb. Vaio Duo 11 but lighter than both the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 and Lenovo ThinkPad Twist convertibles. It's easy to hold and grip thanks to the carbon fiber finish and is fine for use on a table or lap. At twice the weight of the iPad and Android 10" tablets, you won't be holding it in your hands for an hour of reading unless you're a body builder.
Third generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 ULV CPUs power the machine, with Intel HD 4000 graphics. In other words, it's a standard Ultrabook. The base model has the usual 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a Samsung PM830 SSD drive. For a pricey $1,699 you can get it with the 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U ULV CPU, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD. You can also order it in a variety of in-between configs, like the $1,499 Core i5 with a 256 gig SSD.
Other goodies include an excellent island style backlit keyboard that's every bit as wonderful to use as the XPS 13's, a 1.3MP webcam, dual band Intel 6235 WiFi (compatible with WiDi) and Bluetooth. It's available now, though Dell has a backlog so don't expect it to arrive before Christmas.
Here's our Dell XPS 12 video review. Our full written review will follow.