Dell XPS 12 Hands-on: Best 2-in-1 Keyboard Yet

Dell's new XPS 12 is the tablet that can replace the tablet that can replace your laptop. Featuring a high-resolution 12.5-inch display and detachable keyboard, this Surface Pro 4 challenger will be available in November for a starting price of $999.

As befitting its name, the XPS 12 has a premium look and feel. It attaches to the included keyboard dock very securely using just magnets—I could lift the entire thing up by the tablet—yet detaches simply by tilting the tablet forward slightly. The XPS 12 can be configured with a 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) display, though a 1080p option is also available. 

Unlike Microsoft's tablet, the XPS 12 ships with a keyboard. The starting price of $999 means that you're saving about $30 if you were to purchase the Surface and its Type Cover together. However, the XPS 12's backlit keyboard feels vastly better than Microsoft's; while thicker overall, the Dell's keys have a travel of 1.9mm, which is better than you'll find on even its XPS notebooks. However, you can't fold the keyboard over the tablet and have it remain in place.

MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)

Made of a magnesium allow with soft touch paint, the XPS 12 weighs 1.75 pounds and measures 11.46 x 7.6 x 0.31 inches, making it slightly thicker and heavier than the Surface Pro 4 (1.69 pounds and 0.33 inches thick). The XPS 12's keyboard adds an additional 1.1 pounds.

The device has a front-facing 5MP webcam and a rear-facing 8MP webcam; it's not a RealSense camera, as on the HP Spectre x2. Two Thunderbolt 3 / USB Type-C ports will let you connect the tablet to up to two external displays, and Dell also ships a USB-C to USB-A adapter with the tablet. 

For a starting price of $999, consumers can get an XPS 12 with a 6th-Generation Intel Core M5-6y54 processor, 1080p display, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. You can also boost the storage to 256GB. With a 30WHr battery, the XPS 12 should last up to 10 hours on a charge, according to Dell. 

Another key difference between the XPS 12 and the Surface Pro 4 is the the Dell does not ship with an included stylus, whereas Microsoft's slate does. Also, there's no way to attach the stylus to the XPS 12; you have to stow it in a magnetic Premier Folio, also included. 

We're certainly interested to see how the XPS 12, outfitted with Intel's Skylake processor, will perform. From our brief hands-on, we were impressed with the quality of the keyboard, and could see using it to get some real work done. But that will have to wait for our full review.

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LAPTOP Reviews Editor