The Dell XPS 12 is the latest 2-in-1 laptop-tablet to compete in the hybrid category inspired by the Microsoft Surface Pro.
These Windows tablets transform into laptops when attached to a keyboard accessory. Some, such as the HP Spectre x2 and the Lenovo Miix 700, even have an adjustable kickstand like the Surface Pro.
But not the Dell XPS 12. Instead of a kickstand, the XPS 12's Premier Keyboard accessory has a cradle that keeps the tablet upright at a fixed angle. Magnets secure the XPS 12 to the keyboard. I could lift both the tablet and the keyboard together by holding either the tablet or the keyboard.
However, tilt the tablet forward in its cradle by even the tiniest bit and the slate detaches from the keyboard. You can rest the tablet on the keyboard in a closed position, and the additional magnets at the sides of the keyboard will keep the tablet firmly in place.
Initially, this seems rather clever as it takes minimal effort to detach the two, unlike other hybrids which require a bit of force. But after using the XPS 12 for a while, I started to have some reservations. For one, to ensure that the viewing angle of the device is usable as a laptop, the back of the keyboard juts out, making the device thicker than expected when closed. I was also troubled by the ease of knocking the tablet from the keyboard cradle.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core m7-6Y75 (1.2GHz)
GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics 515
SCREEN SIZE: 12.5 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, SD card reader, audio jack
BATTERY: 30 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
BATTERY LIFE: 2/5
On the other hand, the keyboard feels more solid than the Surface Pro's Type Cover keyboard. Key travel is very good and comparable with a laptop. The glass touchpad is also smooth, responsive and supports Windows 10 multitouch gestures such as using two fingers to scroll and pan.
The 790g magnesium alloy tablet is about as light as the Surface Pro 4. With the keyboard, its weight balloons to 1.27kg, bringing it on a par with ultrabooks.
The XPS 12 has one of the best displays in its class. Its 12.5-inch screen has a 3,840 x 2,160 pixel 4K screen resolution and its bezel is slim. The display is bright and vivid, with impeccable viewing angles.
With two USB 3.1 Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3 for up to 10Gbps transfer speed, the XPS 12 is future-proof. Its slim power charger also uses the Type-C port.
However, you will need an adapter for the widely used USB Type-A devices. Thankfully, Dell has bundled a USB adapter, but you will need another adapter to connect the XPS 12 to an external monitor.
Because of its fast solid-state drive, it feels as zippy as a typical ultrabook, despite the XPS 12 having a less powerful Intel Core m7 chip.
Apps seemed to start up promptly and I did not experience any slowdowns.
It lasted just three hours in our video-loop battery test - no thanks to a relatively small 30 watt-hour battery and the sharp and bright screen, which is a power guzzler.
• Verdict: The XPS 12's unique magnetic dock does not feel secure enough and its battery life is dismal. On the bright side, the screen is excellent.