Dell XPS 12 Haswell Ultrabook (late 2013) full review

Dell XPS 12 Haswell Ultrabook review

Dell’s XPS 12 was one of the more successful attempts to create a convertible laptop/tablet device for Windows 8, and this latest version provides improved performance and battery life courtesy of its new Haswell processor. Take a look at Tested: best laptops with Intel's 4th-gen Core 'Haswell' processors.

Rather than trying to be all things to all men, the XPS 12 is first and foremost an attractive and powerful laptop. The 12.5-inch device measures 20 mm thick and weighs 1.52 kg, so it’s as light and portable as many Ultrabooks, while its Intel Core i7 offers the processor power of a desktop replacement laptop. See the original (non Haswell) Dell XPS 12 review.

Unlike some hybrid Windows devices, the XPS 12 doesn’t allow you to separate the keyboard and screen panels, which means that you can’t simply use the screen on its own as a self-contained tablet. However, it does offer a kind of pseudo-tablet mode in which you flip the screen over so that it covers the keyboard while still facing up towards you. See Microsoft Windows 8 review.

It’s bigger and heavier than a conventional tablet when used in this way so you can’t really hold it in one hand while tapping on the screen with the other. But you can at least rest it comfortably on your lap while you put your feet up and browse the web or watch streaming video. Visit What is an Ultrabook anyway?

It’ll earn its keep in either mode, though. The moulded keys on the keyboard are comfortable and responsive, and the ‘soft touch’ black paint that surrounds the keyboard and trackpad has a pleasant, tactile quality to it. The screen is a delight – bright and colourful with crisp, sharp 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution and excellent viewing angles. Take a look at best laptop of 2013.

The stereo speakers are a little tinny, but loud enough for listening to music or for streaming video. In fact our only complaint about the basic design is that the XPS 12 doesn’t include an ethernet interface or card slot along with its Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 ports and Mini Displayport video output.

Dell XPS 12 Haswell Ultrabook review

This Haswell version of the XPS 12 is currently only available in a single configuration, priced at £1149 with a Core i7 running at 1.8 GHz, 8 GB memory and 256 GB solid-state storage. That’s expensive, of course, but not excessive for a Ultrabook. In contrast, a 13-inch MacBook Air with 256 GB SSD starts at £1129 without either a touch-sensitive full-HD screen.

The Haswell processor continues to impress, even though its clock speed is slightly reduced from the 1.9 GHz of the original Ivy Bridge version of the XPS 12. Performance when running the PCMark 7 benchtest rises from 4854 to 5205 points, and this XPS 12 is more than powerful enough to handle Microsoft Office, PowerPoint presentations or even video-editing.

The integrated HD 4400 can’t cope with Windows gaming at full 1920 x 1080 resolution, but if you drop to 1280 x 720 and Medium graphics quality you can get a playable 27 fps from games like Stalker: Call of Pripyat.

The biggest improvement, though, lies in battery life. The Ivy Bridge version of the XPS 12 provided 5 hours of streaming video, but that figure rose to a 6 hours and 45 minutes when we tested again with the same test.


Dell XPS 12 Haswell Ultrabook (late 2013): Specs

  • 1.8 GHz i7-4500U (3.0 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 8 GB DDR3L-RS memory
  • 256 GB SSD
  • 12.5-inch (1920 x 1080) glossy TN touchscreen display
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • WiDi 3.0
  • 1x Mini DisplayPort
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1.3 Mp webcam with built-in mic
  • headphone socket
  • 47Wh, non-removable lithium-ion battery
  • 317 x 215 x 20 mm
  • 1.52 kg