If the Dell Latitude 13 7370 is a business-focused reworking of the firm's XPS 13 laptop, the Latitude 12 7275 has the same relationship with the XPS 12. Announced at CES 2016, this member of the new Dell Latitude 12 7000 series is a productivity tablet designed with an eye for small form factors and high-end materials usually associated with consumer devices.
We got our hands on an early production unit to find out whether the Latitude 12 7275's blend of mainstream design and enterprise features make it a viable competitor to the Surface Pro 4, iPad Pro and Samsung's newly unveiled Galaxy TabPro S.
Dell's device certainly looks good for a Windows tablet. It measures 291x193x8.1mm and sports some extremely thin side bezels, a design touch borrowed from the XPS range, as is its use of a magnesium unibody chassis. This gives it a solid and sturdy feel without adding much bulk, resulting in a comfortably low weight of 730g.
Two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 can be found on the left edge, but unfortunately there's no full-size USB port. This is a big omission for something that is broadly intended as a laptop replacement, and could easily prove an annoyance for anyone who frequently makes use of USB-based storage, peripherals or data connections in the course of their work. At least it also includes micro SD, SIM and Noble Lock slots.
We do like how the Latitude 12 7275 clamps onto its keyboard dock with a single magnetic connector; it's a smart compromise between latch-free ease of use and ensuring that the tablet doesn't just slide off. There will be two dock options when the Latitude 12 7275 launches in early February: the thinner and cheaper Slim Keyboard, and the Premier Keyboard which includes a much longer-extending kickstand.
We used the Premier Keyboard, which provided a slightly more solid-feeling, laptop-like typing experience than most other keyboard covers we've tried. This comes at the cost of extra heft, but for that you'll get a decent-sized trackpad and well-spaced backlit keys. There's also a fabric loop on the side for holding a Dell Active Pen stylus, although like both keyboards these are sold separately.
The basic model will feature a 12.5in FHD touchscreen, but we tested the cream-of-the-crop 3840x2160 UHD edition with Gorilla Glass NBT which has a resolution and construction setup shared with the XPS 12.
This makes it preposterously sharp, with an incredibly dense 352ppi. The Surface Pro 4 managed 267ppi, for comparison. Colours are vibrant and well balanced as well and, unlike the Latitude 13 7370, the display can be set to be brilliantly bright. As tough as it is, the Gorilla Glass 4 is very reflective and prone to picking up fingerprints, although these are hardly terrible trade-offs for a screen so well suited to professional design work.
Operating system and software
Dell will sell the Latitude 12 7275 with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 10 Pro pre-installed to accommodate businesses still reliant on older Windows systems. Given the choice, however, it's hard to deny that Windows 10 Pro is much better suited in terms of features; the Continuum interface allows it to optimise for touch controls and, when the tablet is in the keyboard dock, a more desktop-like scheme. The improved ‘snapping' controls in Windows 10 also make it much faster to slip multiple windows into a multitasking-friendly layout.
As for business-specific features, both operating systems support Encryption File System, which allows protection of individual files, although only Windows 10 Pro offers full drive encryption through BitLocker - another win for the newer version.
Regardless of which OS is chosen, Dell will load the Latitude 12 7275 with some bonus security and management software - par for the course with Latitude machines - although perhaps especially important here to ensure that business buyers aren't scared away by the consumer design influences. These include Protected Workspace, Dell's collection of anti-malware safeguards, as well as Dell Client Command Suite, an admin-oriented tool for tweaking BIOS and system settings.
We didn't spot much bloatware when inspecting the tablet's storage, so we're happy to see Dell sticking largely to potentially useful utilities rather than useless apps with the out-of-the-box software.
A 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M7-6Y75 powered the particular model we used, but Dell said that a choice of Core M3, M5 and M7 Skylake chips will be available. We also found it was equipped with 8GB of RAM, half of the maximum 16GB option.
The more efficient Core M series provides less theoretical power than the Core i5 and i7 processors in the Surface Pro 4, but it's still more than capable of most tasks. We didn't experience slowdown or significant delays when running multiple applications, but we'll need to take a more in-depth look at the Latitude 12 7275 to determine its benchmarking prowess and ability to deal with tough CAD work.
The sole problem we encountered was a Continuum mishap when the OS failed to recognise that we'd returned the slate to its dock, thus staying in the touch-focused Tablet mode. Admittedly, it's hard to say whether this is a hardware or software issue, but hopefully it will be fixed in the final production builds.
A peek at the 256GB SSD revealed that 200GB of free space was usable, from an actual maximum of 226GB.
That's a decent - not great, not bad, but decent - capacity, and it's worth mentioning that the Latitude 12 7275 achieves parity with other high-end Windows tablets by offering a 512GB SDD option as well. Both drives absolutely smash the 128GB maximum of the iPad Pro, too.
Even against stiff competition, the Latitude 12 7275 looks like it could be a respectable addition to the business tablet market. The lack of a USB-A port is disappointing, but is arguably outweighed by the sleek form factor, ultra-high-res display and promising security focus.
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