Dell's XPS 12 is an ultrabook with a difference, featuring a flip-over touchscreen that enables it to be used as either a tablet or a conventional clamshell laptop, making it a good match for the capabilities of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.
Announced at the IFA conference in Berlin last August, the XPS 12 has only been shipping since November, following the launch of Windows 8 itself.
Like Dell's earlier Inspiron Duo system, the XPS 12 features a pivoting screen that rotates 180 degrees up or down within the frame of the screen bezel. This design allows it to be used like a standard laptop, or configured with the screen facing upwards when the lid is closed, turning it into a slate-mode tablet.
However, with a weight of 1.54kg, the system is rather heavy for holding and using like a tablet, although the touchscreen functionality is a welcome addition to the capabilities of an ultrabook.
For example, with its high-definition touchscreen in addition to a keyboard and touchpad, the XPS 12 allows the user to choose the input method that suits them best, which we found very convenient for using Windows 8.
This fact makes the XPS 12 an excellent choice for those looking for a Windows 8 portable, apart from the usual caveats about ultrabooks, namely the non-removable battery, skimpy I/O capabilities and lack of access to the memory and disk for maintenance and upgrades.
The XPS 12 also has no mobile broadband capability, restricting users to connectivity by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
We also experienced the occasional difficulty with this system, such as it refusing to switch back the display orientation, and the mouse pointer disappearing completely after being woken from sleep mode.
Another area where Dell's XPS 12 falls distinctly short is in its I/O capabilities. Here it has two USB 3.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort output plus a combo headphone/microphone port, and that's it. There is no Ethernet, no SD Card reader, nor a standard VGA output.
The lack of an Ethernet port or a docking connector means that XPS 12 users are likely to have to rely on the standard Wi-Fi for communications, unless you can source a USB Ethernet adapter or mobile broadband dongle to fit your needs when in the office or roaming, respectively.