profile of PaulVerhoeven

Tech Review - Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook

The ultrabook isn't something I tend towards using: as a gamer, and game critic, I need something with a tad more muscle. Not actual muscle, mind you. I might be weird but I'd never use a computer knitted together as a terrible unison of muscle tissue and metal.

Note to self: get back on topic.

Anyway, I occasionally get sent computers to look at, use critique (please don't hit me), and this week I'm having a road test of the new Dell XPS 12. I've used one or two of the older model Dell XPS machines before - they're always light, sleek, and make a pretty decent run at being a macbook air substitute - but the XPS 12 is an odd hybrid.



See what I mean? It's an ultrabook that transforms into a tablet. Full disclosure: I use an iPad, so my tablet standards are pretty damnably high. Also, I'd never used Windows 8 until I got my hands on this baby rig, and the XPS 12 was made with Windows 8 firmly in mind. It's the axis on which Dell's probing of the tablet market revolves, and it does make navigating on the big, bright screen relatively easy and moreish.

In order to allow for the crisp, solid frame on which the screen pivots to turn the machine into a tablet, you're going to have to deal with a scooch more weight than some ultrabooks. To be honest, though, I've been playing with it for a fortnight and I've not been phased in the slightest; it's still a tight, light little package. 

Also, I roadtested it with some game titles, and here's how things panned out: Xcom Enemy Unknown runs smoothly on the lowest settings, but no higher. Half Life 2 runs seamlessly. Indie titles like Braid, Sworcery, Bastion and Limbo all run perfectly, as expected. For a laugh, I installed Mass Effect, booted it up and had a run around; it wasn't unplayable, but I did have to shut down after the brutally sluggish framerate put me off. However, you shouldn't ever expect your ultrabook to be your gaming rig; that it can run even small charming titles is a massive bonus.



The mousepad has a few minor issues; it sometimes sticks and becomes unresponsive, requiring you to slide your finger around to wake the cursor up. This is probably the biggest issue I've had with the XPS12, but it's not a dealbreaker. I've been writing all my articles for TheVine.com.au on it, as well as using it for general internet debauchery, and all in all it's a pretty excellent machine for hauling around and making your primary means for communicating with the world. Also, the display and sound are good enough that I've been using it to binge on entirely legally downloaded shows that I obtain and watch entirely legally.

So in short, it's a lovingly made little machine, and whilst it might not be a stunning example of a usable tablet, it's a great ultrabook in its own right. Also, the novelty of being able to transform your ultrabook into a tablet with a flip of the screen? I can't see that wearing off anytime soon.

/Paul

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