The UX of the Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Screen Ultrabook

I recently gave my Samsung Series 9 to my wife as a hand-me-down present.  This left me without a new laptop.  I obviously couldn’t live with that, so I had a choice.  Either buy a new laptop or get one through work.  The one I lusted after was the Acer Aspire S7.  That thing is awesome.   I loved it in the Microsoft store.

However, money was tight and they wouldn’t let me expense it.  So I decided to get one that was available through the company, which meant Dell.  I ended up with the Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch screen Ultrabook.

Once I used the Acer, it was hard not to compare.  The Dell was a little chunky.  The gold standard for slim and sexy is the Apple Mac Air.  The Acer stood up to it matching sexiness, but the Dell does not.  The key is the front, it doesn’t taper to a sharp enough edge.

The reason for this is the convertible touch screen.  You can flip it around and be holding it in tablet mode.  This is a neat trick, but I find myself not liking it.  The keyboard is just too useful for me.  I don’t like typing on the tablet alone.  Besides, as a tablet, it’s too thick.  It’s like having those Heely shoes with the roller skate built in.  It makes the sneaker just too fat to wear as regular sneakers.  Once you have the wheel socket, you want to use it.  I wanted to use the keyboard, why tuck it away??  This made me miss the Acer S7 which was a pure laptop and not convertible.  Additionally, I find myself popping out the screen from the dock by accident.  Whenever I adjust the screen, it pops out.  In the end, I think convertible is not good.

The touchscreen itself works great and I find myself touching it plenty.  Especially for scrolling on a webpage.  I was shocked how well it works even in desktop mode.  The only complaint is about the resolution.  Native it is 1920×1080 on a 13 in screen.  This makes some windows text so itty-bitty that it is hard to touch.  I don’t need any of the text to be that small.  I have yet to figure out the best solution to this, other than dumb down the resolution.

Windows 8 is good on a touch screen, but realistically, I am not going to use this device for games the way I use my old iPad for games.  It’s too heavy and the battery life is too short.  I added a few apps, but I do find it strange that the desktop and the metro mode are so different.  I find myself in desktop mode 99% of the time.  Maybe when there are more compelling apps, I will change my behavior.  Keep in mind that I don’t play many games anyway.

Speed is OK, not spectacular, but all right.  This is somewhat depressing since I got the super deluxe model with the i& processor.  Side note:  Remember when megahertz would tell you exactly how fast the machine was.  66 mhtz, 400 mhtz.  It was all so simple.  Now I have no idea.

The machine runs a little bit hot on my lap, which is a bummer.  Especially since the old Samsung Series 9 ran so cool.  I wonder if the Aspire is hot as well?  Bootup speeds are are fine.

Generally speaking the laptop is fine.  I think the Acer would have been better, but then again, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  I’ve been using Office 2013 on it, but I will leave that review for another day.

Lastly, a prediction:  I think touch screens are here to stay.  I imagine 5 years from now, all screens have touch capability.  It’s convenient and not too expensive.  It’s the wave of the future.

Not a perfect review, but an interesting and usable machine.  B-.


4 replies on “The UX of the Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Screen Ultrabook”

Hi Glen. I agree about touch screens. Also, the power of these smaller former factors can now equal that of a laptop, so why should I lug around a bigger device with no touch capability. I’ve tried the Surface, but know that the RT is not for me. I would like to test drive the Windows 8 Surface though. The keyboard is pretty good from twenty minutes with it so far. The other possibility is the Nexus 10. I have one of these and with a keyboard it could be great, but finding the right keyboard and resulting form factor is a chore. Same with the iPad. I know I need the keyboard. Annoyingly with the Surface, you have to connect the screen and keyboard together; the connection is not wireless. Otherwise, you would have ergonomic options. The Surface and Nexus are easier to fit in with corporate IT than the iPad.
Have you tried the Surface or a tablet with keyboard?

Why would anyone want a portable computer/tablet that doesn’t run window applications. I think Microsoft realized this and tried to create laptops that take the best parts of tablets. However, Microsoft created an in-between product that gives you 75% of a laptop and 75% of a tablet. Should they have waited until they could release a product that is as powerful as a laptop, battery life and weight of a tablet, removable/wireless keyboard, etc? Or do they set the stage for something like that, whenever it is ready. I am surprised that they haven’t really pushed voice recognition to replace the keyboard. The voice recognition software on my phone has less errors that my regular typos. It would take a while for people to get used to dictating everything, especially for work, but in the end, wouldn’t that be much more efficient.

The Dell is definitely 100% of a laptop and 75% of a tablet. Tablets are just lighter and better battery.

I couldn’t imagine using voice recognition. Like right now, I am in a conference room and it would be totally inappropriate. I use it in the car, when I can’t type sometimes.

What we need is an implant in my brain that lets me think emails to people. Like Flash Gordon.

Thanks for this review Glen. I too am searching for new laptop for my wife and have considered handing down my Samsung Series 9 13″ 2012 model which I actually love! I would only do this if I found something out there which is better, and so far no luck. I don’t like the look of this Dell “transformer” and the Acer Aspire 7 looks nice but the battery and noise issues would get to me. So for now, the Samsung looks like it’s staying.

Also, I look forward to your thoughts on Office 2013. I installed on a Windows 8 machine and persisted with it for a while but ultimately I couldn’t live with it for real work and had to blow it away and go back to 2010. I have my own reasons for this but keen not to pollute your thoughts.

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