Dell XPS 12 Two-Day Thoughts

I bought a Dell XPS 12 because I needed a full-featured laptop for when I travel (and for when I don’t feel like sitting at my desk in my office; for example, right now, when I’m sitting in one of the recliners in our front room), and have spend a couple of days playing with it, writing on it, and generally getting used to it. Here are my thoughts on it so far.

* One, people have wanted to know why I went from a MacBook Air for my last machine to a Win8 laptop this time around. The short answer is: because I felt like it. The longer answer is that with the exception of exactly one thing, which I will get to in a moment, I don’t particularly have a preference for one OS or manufacturer over the other. While the Air I had was a gorgeous little computer, the XPS 12 has all the features I want (including some I can’t get on a Mac laptop yet) and better integrates with my desktop environment, which is also a Win8 box. So it seemed reasonable to go this route this time around.

This cavalier attitude regarding manufacturers and OSs will possibly start a holy war in the comments, but whatever. At the end of the day, computers are machines I use to do my work. The Win8 environment, for various reasons, best supports what I do for my work. And this particular computer seemed to have the best feature set for me. So there we have it.

* And, yes, this XPS 12 is a sweet little computer. I bought the fully-specced out version, because I intend to have it for a few years and don’t want it to chug on programs any earlier than it has to. That means that its guts (8GB RAM, i7 processor, 1920×1080 screen, etc) are not too far off from my desktop computer from a couple years back. The main differences there: A smaller hard drive (but this one has no moving parts and so is much faster to boot up and find things), and slightly less capable graphics, which I notice only if I’m trying to play graphics-intensive video games, which I don’t typically do on my laptops anyway. It also comes with a touchscreen which swivels on hinges into a tablet mode, which is a useful but idiosyncratic feature will I will explore in a minute.

So far there isn’t really anything I’ve thrown at the XPS 12 that it hasn’t been able to handle perfectly well, which is good — and which is why I needed the upgrade in the first place, since after my Air was stolen I was using a netbook which was increasingly limited in what it could do. It’s nice to have a fully capable computer which is also in an ultrabook format (i.e., tiny — this is a 12.5-inch screen and weighs three and a half pounds). Also, it has a lighted keyboard, which as silly as it may sound has become a deal-breaker for me in laptops; at this point, I won’t buy a laptop without one.

* That said, there are some idiosyncrasies of the machine that people who are interested in it for themselves should probably consider. First, while the computer’s screen is, flatly, gorgeous — a 1920×1080 display on a 12-inch screen is well and sufficiently “retina” for most humans –  it also means that text on the screen is tiny, even with the XPS 12 defaulting to displaying text at 125%. My 43-year-old eyes were not particularly happy with that. On the Chrome browser I ended up going into the settings and having Chrome display Web pages (and their text) at 150%, which solved the problem for about 80% of everything I use the computer for; for everything else I’m going in and bumping up text sizes where needed.

Second, the track pad is somewhat less than impressive — it’s yet another twitchy, imprecise trackpad on a Windows machine. This is the one place where I unreservedly have a bias for Apple products: Apple has figured out trackpads so well that they just plain work — and that’s a genuine competitive advantage. I had to immediately go in and start futzing with this trackpad to get it to be functional, and I’m not near done futzing with it, and when it’s as optimized as it can be it still won’t be anywhere as good as an Apple trackpad. And that just makes me sad.

* People are understandably interested in the screen rotating on hinges and becoming a jumbo-sized tablet, so let me talk about that for a second. One, it pretty much works as advertised: You push on the top corner of the screen and it disengages from its frame, turns on a pivot, and reverses. From there you can fold the now-outward facing screen down over the keyboard and it becomes a tablet. This is fun to do and impresses folks, at least the ones I’ve shown the trick to.

But is it useful and functional? Maybe. The tablet mode is fine for reading and looking at stuff but less useful for using the computer as a computer, which I don’t think comes as a surprise to anyone. But even with the reading and looking at stuff, there are a few problems, most of which seem to be the effect of Windows 8, even in “tablet mode,” being less refined than either iOS or Android are at this point. And if you have something in desktop mode and you “go tablet,” then it’s even messier; things on desktop really do assume a keyboard and a mouse/trackpad rather than fingers. There is a keyboard in the tablet mode, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it’s nice and responsive and I had no problems typing with it. On the other hand, like the iPad keyboard, it shunts numbers and lots of punctuation to a secondary keyboard, which deeply limits its usefulness for actual work.

Reviews of the XPS 12 note that the computer in tablet mode is heavy, and I suppose it is, but honestly, three and a half pounds isn’t exactly a horrible burden. I noticed that to the extent I’ve used it in tablet mode I’m typically sitting or lying down and have the thing propped up on my knees. Whether I’m subconsciously tailoring my use of the tablet to compensate for its form is an open question, but even if I am it’s not really a problem.

At the moment I see the tablet mode more as a nice little extra than a genuinely useful part of the computer, and that’s fine since I bought it to be a laptop, not a tablet. It’ll be nice if the tablet aspect becomes more useful over time.

* This is a Windows 8 machine and I have to say I am still pretty ambivalent to Win8′s user interface for people who use their computers to do actual work. As some of you might remember, on my desktop I’ve banished the Win8 “Start Page” by using Stardock’s “Start 8″ program, which causes the computer to go directly to the desktop screen, and allows me to get to work without having to step out of my process. I speculated at the time that the Start Page might make more sense on a smaller screen, say, the one I have on the XPS.

Well, now I have the smaller screen and I’m still not terribly convinced of its utility; I mostly still find myself blowing through the start screen to get to the desktop. Again this is more of a reflection of my own workflow than anything else; if I was largely using the computer for recreational activities I might have a different reaction. I’m going to stick with the start screen for at least another week, but if it doesn’t start making sense for me (rather than being just another bit of work I have to do to get to the work I have to do), then I’m gonna buy another copy of Start 8 and drop it onto this machine as well (note that once I get to the desktop, I like Win8 just fine — it actually is an improvement on Win 7).

So: I like the XPS 12 so far, and for those folks looking for a Win8 Ultrabook, I think it’s well worth your consideration, so long as you’re aware of its quirks.

56 thoughts on “Dell XPS 12 Two-Day Thoughts

  1. “This cavalier attitude regarding manufacturers and OSs will possibly start a holy war in the comments, but whatever. At the end of the day, computers are machines I use to do my work.”

    This. Exactly. After 20+ years in IT supporting Windows, Unix, Macs, everything, this is what it comes down to: all hardware sucks, all software sucks — pick the flavor of suckage you can live with. All design (hardware, software) processes are about choosing compromises. At the end of the day, you want to minimize the compromises that feel wrong for you.

    I have friends and family ask me about Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux. I always ask them what they want to *do* with their computer. Then we find out what apps and peripherals are available to do it, and drive the OS and hardware requirements from there. Doing it the other way just leads to excessive compromise.

  2. For writing the most important part of the computer-writer interface is the keyboard. That’s why I use a MacBook Pro. I really like the keyboard.

    Operating System? Depends upon what you are used to. I had some bad experiences with loosing work when Windows crashed. That has never happened with any ‘Nix variant, but on the other hand my backup practices are probably better.

    I run Linux on my Desktops and Server. I just works, and that’s what I need. I don’t want to spend time messing with it. That was my other complaint with Windows, I always had to do something with it, whether it was upgrading the anti-virus or whatever. But that partly depends upon settings, and I’ll admit to being paranoid about what Apple or Microsoft might install on my computer without bothering to tell me – both companies have bad reputations for doing this and saying sorry afterwords.

    Overall user comfort is the key. If you aren’t comfortable with what you are using, it’s the wrong computer.

    Wayne

  3. This post hit home because of something else I read last night, over on Nicholas Carr’s ‘Rough Type’ blog.

    I don’t want to be a ‘Mac guy’ or a ‘Windows guy’ or even a ‘Linux guy.’ I want tools that work, as opposed to be wedded to a platform.

    If you’ll allow it, here’s the link to the Carr post. It’s smart and to the point: http://www.roughtype.com/?p=3077

    Scott A.

  4. Wayne Borean:

    “That’s why I use a MacBook Pro. I really like the keyboard.”

    Yes, I liked the Macbook Air keyboard too. The keyboard on the XPS 12 was generally well-reviewed and using it now I can say it’s pretty good: Solid feel and nice travel (and, of course, backlit).

  5. Appreciate the review. Very curious about whether you keep the start screen. Of course, they dragged me kicking and screen to Win7 from XP not that long ago, so I won’t be joining you too quickly.
    Your comments on the trackpad are sufficient to convince me to stay where am I, which is stuck in Lenovo/Thinkpad-land, because I can’t really abide poor trackpads, so I shut mine off and use the trackpoint instead. That won’t work for most folks. But I’m with Devin, above–it’s about what works for you, and the right tool for the right job–not about inflicting your viewpoint on others.

  6. Well done with the post. I feel the same way about Operating Systems and have trouble explaining to people that it is more about what you want to do and the rest of your environment. I suppose being heavily invested in an OS is better than a religion so there’s that.

    I know I’ll be returning to this thread for the holy war though anyway. Could be a good one.

  7. to me, the most important questions (after making sure the power is enough to do the things I need to do, of course) are, in no particular order (i.e. all of them dealbreakers):
    * the keyboard (or rather the palmrests in front of it) can’t end in a sharp corner, it has to be rounded
    * non-glossy screen
    * there has to be a trackpoint, it has to be possible to turn off the touchpad.

    which pretty much leaves me with Thinkpads and nothing else. At work, I’ve been given an Acer TravelMate and it’s downright impossible for me to type on the stupid thing for more than 5 minutes because my fingers go to sleep (because of the sharp corner/edge digging into my palm). So I brought my own private keyboard ..

  8. Dave Robinson: I’ll agree with you on classic Alan Scott. Jury’s still out on the New 52 guy.

    I totally agree with our host about trackpads on Macs. I have always abhorred trackpads and instantly hunted for the setting to disable them on every PC laptop I’ve owned, whether running Windows or Linux. But on the Mac, I actually find myself missing it when using a regular old wheel mouse (whaddaya mean I can’t swipe sideways?). I even use *Lion’s “natural” scrolling direction on the trackpad (though I installed Scroll Reverser so I could leave the mouse wheel in its “unnatural” configuration). The downside is that I got used to it (almost instantly upon starting to use it, in fact), so when I switch to my my HP laptop (for Linux stuff) I find myself trying to do Mac-y things on its trackpad, which is not multitouch or, really, useful at all.

  9. This cavalier attitude regarding manufacturers and OSs will possibly start a holy war in the comments, but whatever. At the end of the day, computers are machines I use to do my work. The Win8 environment, for various reasons, best supports what I do for my work. And this particular computer seemed to have the best feature set for me. So there we have it.

    Well said. The idea that there’s one true OS for everyone is pretty silly. Different people have different needs and different preferences. Arguing that everyone should use the same computer and the same smartphone is like saying we should all live in the same type of house, drive the same type of vehicle, and prefer the same type of jelly.

  10. I find trackpads nothing but a massive annoyance. I couldn’t find a laptop without one, so I just keep it turned off all the time. I use a wireless mouse to do all the pointing. It always does what I want, as opposed to some predictive software’s version of what I should want.

  11. As an alternative view, I use the trackpad so much that using a mouse now seems foreign. But then I remember when people were complaining about the early Macs because you had to use a mouse and that required you to take your fingers off the keyboard. Different squids for different kids.

  12. The peace must be the coming of spring (AmigaDos ++, DragonFly ++, … never mind, whichever gets your tasks done.) I was hoping it had a trackpoint, but that doesn’t seem to be an option from Dell now. I hope you get years of happy use with it, Scalzi.

  13. More or less the way I feel. I went for Windows because everyone in the house is on it, and it’s the system I know. No evangelical preference. I bought an Asus, Zenbook, because, well, it’s beautiful.
    Yes, to all the Windows 8 things. I love it, but that’s despite the Start desktop. I bypass it too. On my PC and the ultrabook. I love it because of the security, which just fits in, the search function and because it’s slicker and faster. Anything that boots up in less than 20 seconds is fine by me.

  14. Macbooks do have the best trackpads — I love the one I use for work. When it came time to buy my own laptop with my own money for home use, I couldn’t justify spending Macbook money just to stream Netflix and do my taxes. I ended up getting a Lenovo which has the best trackpad I’ve tried in PC-dom, but still can’t quite match Apple. Windows 8 also has some new gestures, and having a good trackpad experience would make it better…

  15. The Mac Trackpad is where it’s at. The Dell trackpads are dealbreaking trash. I don’t even hate Windows 8/Metro as much as I hate that glitchy, slow trackpad – at least I can FIX the Win 8 interface.

  16. I have an XPS 15. I love the computer but I dislike the trackpad. The problem comes from where it’s placed. My fat hands rest on it when I type causing the cursor to skip around my documents inserting half sentences into places that I never intended. Extremely frustrating! I just use a mouse and turn the trackpad off most times. But in an airplane… well, that’s where things get interesting. With no room for an external mouse things get twitchy and those little overpriced bottles start looking attractive.

    I also run two monitors alongside my laptop when I’m home so I can have multiple documents open. I also have a trusty keyboard mouse combo by Logitech.

    When you are home would you consider using second screen? It might help with the eye strain (obviously this would be for when you aren’t typing away before bed or working from the dining room table).

  17. I’m having a laugh at all these newly minted OS Moderates here.

    Well done, John! You are a voice of peace and reason.

    It seems to me that increasingly, the OS is the thing that launches the browser.

    I have found that even after getting to the desktop on my wife’s Win 8 laptop, I find myself being frustrated by the Win 8 experience. But then again, I also find the Mac experience fairly frustrating.

    I’m more likely to direct my partisan wrath at the user interfaces of the tools I use, such as the more recent versions of Microsoft Word and the cross compiler I use.

    I mostly ignore my track-pad. I see no reason to disable it. I leave the dongle for a wireless mouse permanently plugged in. Modern dongles have a sufficiently low profile that I can stick the laptop in the bag without removing them.

  18. I’ve been using Windows 8 for a week, and I’ve grown to sort of like the Start screen. I find that it doesn’t interrupt my workflow too much, since I got used to hitting the Windows key and starting to type the name of the program that I want to use in Vista/7. I do still think that having the default media playing programs launch as a full-screen tablet-style app is not good at all for a desktop computer; luckily Windows Media Player is still buried in there, and I just need to set it as the default player for files.

    There’s a really sharp dichotomy between the Modern (aka “Metro”) environment and the Desktop, though, and like you I usually blow right past the Start screen and go to the Desktop. Windows-D has become a go-to keyboard shortcut, as has Windows-X (brings up a useful menu that includes the Control Panel) and Windows-Q (Opens Search dialogue).

  19. The Holy War is getting old, especially since Apple is now twice the size of Microsoft. It’s no longer “cool” to use Apple, since you are just like everyone else now. Though like all things, I am sure the next technology feud is coming soon to your neighborhood blogs. Maybe Beta vs VHS, the sequel?

  20. @Mike “It seems to me that increasingly, the OS is the thing that launches the browser.”

    I’m curious if you have used ChromeOS at all? I’ve heard that’s basically what it is, but have only talked a handful of friends who have actually used it.

  21. [People are understandably interested in the screen rotating on hinges and becoming a jumbo-sized tablet, so let me talk about that for a second]

    No, post a video showing it!

  22. I’ve got OSX, Windows and Ubuntu on various machines – like all of them for different reasons: Ubuntu is lightweight, easy to find good freeware for and it’s close enough to WinXP for casual users; Macs have great hardware build quality, pretty easy to build a complete (all-Apple) network and some really good if expensive software; and Windoze is – what everybody uses, so it’s easy to find cheap hardware and software.

  23. @Robert Enders

    I’m a touch typist, able to churn out 100 wpm. When I have to compute in a dark room, I curse when my keyboard’s not lighted. Why? Because I use a mouse. You have to take your hand off the keyboard to use the mouse, then put it back onto the keyboard to type. Sometimes with my right hand on the mouse, I shift my left over to use the arrow keys or the num-pad. Sometimes I shift my right hand over to use the num-pad. (I only use the top-row numbers for stuff that’s shorter than a zip code.) All that hand shifting means I have to search for home row all the time, which I can find with keyboard dimples and what-not, but is much easier and quicker if I can just glance down. Try using your computer (not just typing) in a dark room and you’ll see.

  24. I am with you on the lighted keyboard, it is a dealbreaker for me too. In low light situations the black keys just are too hard to deal with, and I have enough eyestrain already. I ordered my Dell specifically to get that option.

    I too will be curious to see how the tablet “swivel” holds up to frequent use, more moving parts means more chance of problems.

  25. There is not enough Holy War here. The ONE TRUE OS is Mac OS 10.5.8! (…Maybe 10.6.8 in a pinch, though now I need a Safari add-on to enable “referrers.” *grumble*) All else is HERESY! HERESY that will not allow me to run my old Painter 7, and the version of Word that I have tamed and trained to proper obedience! Also, the one true computer is the first version of the MacBook Air. Even if it’s lost a foot. >_> Bow ye down and worship the three-footed MacBook Air, ye heathens!

    Is that enough Holy War now? I don’t want the popcorn market to crash.

  26. OK: let me see if I understand this correctly, John. You bought a maxed-out Dell XPS-12, which, if I follow the link in your post, has a 256 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM (1333 MHz dual channel DDR3 SDRAM), i7 processor, 1920 x 1080 screen (12.5 inch diagonal), and weighs 3.35 pounds. According to the Dell website this costs $1699.

    For the same price there is also the 13 inch retina MacBook Pro ( http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs-retina/ ), with a 256 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM (1600 MHz dual channel DDR3L SDRAM), i5 processor, 2560 x 1560 screen (13.3 inch diagonal), and weighs 3.57 pounds.

    The rMBP’s a tiny bit heavier (0.22 pounds), but also a slightly bit larger (0.8 inch diagonal). A slightly less capable processor (i7 vs. i5), but also slightly more capable RAM (1600 MHZ vs. 1333 MHz). But with a considerably better screen (13.3 inch, 2560 x 1560 which is 227 PPI vs. 12.5 inch 1920 x 1080, which is 176 PPI [Pixels Per Inch]: about 30% better), and a superior trackpad. On top of that, AFAIK the Mac performs considerably better in real life battery tests (about 6.5 hours for the 13 inch rMBP, and about 4.5 hours for the Dell XPS-12). Also, you can run Windows on a Mac through the native Bootcamp or third-party solutions like Parallels, VMWare Fusion or Virtual Box (OK: you need to buy Windows 8 separately, which can cost anything from $40 — upgrade — to $199).

    So basically the biggest difference is getting Windows 8 on the retina MacBook Pro (install- and cost-wise). But then you have a superior screen (I have the 15 inch retina MacBook Pro, and it is awesome), a superior trackpad and better battery life.

    Each to his own, obviously, but at this point I’ll only let people pry my maxed-out 15 inch retina MacBook Pro from my cold, dead hands…;-)

    Although the ChromeBook Pixel does look nice (but is not available in my country).

  27. shineanthology:

    The MacBook Pro is underpowered graphically for the amount of screen it has, which is something nearly every review noted, and I wasn’t convinced I needed that much screen real estate for a laptop for what I use it for, something confirmed by the fact that I had to make adjustments to a 1920×1080 screen to be comfortable. I don’t see the logic of buying specs I would not use, as opposed to specs I would.

    Which is to say I bought the computer that I thought would be useful to me in the real world, not merely the one that looked best on paper.

  28. @Icarus: seriously mate? He posted the link to Dell XPS 12 in the first sentence, with a video right there. How lazy have we become FFS…? *sigh*

    Thanks to John for the thorough review – even though I’m an IT geek & not an author, I fully understand how important the backlit keyboard is, after putting up with a work Dell 3450 without one for over a year. There are just some things that must be done in the dark! ;)

    Thank to Chris C for plugging Stardock’s ModernMix – I’m actually thinking about upgrading my main Win7 PC just because of this!

  29. “I’m going to stick with the start screen for at least another week, but if it doesn’t start making sense for me (rather than being just another bit of work I have to do to get to the work I have to do), then I’m gonna buy another copy of Start 8 and drop it onto this machine as well (note that once I get to the desktop, I like Win8 just fine — it actually is an improvement on Win 7).”

    I used Start 8 for about six weeks and then switched back to the fullscreen menu. Hard to say why the fullscreen stopped bothering me, but one day I just sort of realized “Hey, this is exactly like the start button, only….bigger.” Somehow, it no longer feels like I’m going away from whatever I’m working on when I go to the start screen. I just, umm, do it and go about my business. I’m on the Win 8 box in my office for 8-10 hours a day, in a job that involves a lot of writing. Surprisingly, I find it a little easier to concentrate while using 8 than in previous versions of Windows, and easier than on the Mac the Win 8 box replaced.

    Scott A.

  30. @D. Paul Angel: indeed; since The One True OS has left us, it doesn’t matter.

    I have me a spiffy little Chromebook (non-Pixel, b/c REALLY) and since most of my computer time is browsing, it’s more than enough. I don’t have to patch anything or refer to a manual; once in a while it asks to restart/update and in about a minute I’m going again. There are word processing and other work-type apps. There are game apps. There are more apps available to do stuff than you could ever use. There’s a bit of internal memory, and both USB and SD slots. I used a mouse for the first couple of weeks, but now am all track-pad.

    If you spend most of your time in a browser, this is the one to get. It’s lightweight, no roaring fans, it’s shiny and thin, and you can have multiple users if you want. Long battery life, does Bluetooth, can be anchored to your phone if you want, $250.

  31. John… thanks for the review of your work tools. It’s always interesting to see the evolution of what you get to do your work. In the spirit of curiosity, and no Holy War-age incitement intended, you mentioned that the XPS 12 has some features you can’t get on a Mac laptop yet — besides the flippy touch screen thing, what is missing from the Mac-side of the hardware/ OS fence that Win8/ XPS 12 provides? Thanks again!

  32. I’ve been getting interested in the Dell XPS lately, so this review comes at a good time. My Dell Inspiron is quite nice, but gets real hot real quick, its fan is hella noisy even after replacement, and it’s got some annoying touchpad issues like the ones you mention. The heating problems seem somewhat addressed from what I’ve heard from XPS users, but I’m sad to hear the touchpad is still annoying. What driver brand does it ship with?

  33. I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet, but you can resize the text in a browser window on the fly. Ctrl + or Ctrl – (the buttons next to the backspace key). Quick and easy to get the size you want. I’m pretty sure this works in any browser.

    Hope it helps.

  34. When I bought my ultrabook, I just couldn’t get it with Win8. So scared that the bugs are not worked out. Not ready for that kind of interface, even though I use an iPad too. Of course, when Windows first came out in 19(whatever year it was), I was resistant. I didn’t want to switch from DOS. Took me years to realize that using Quicken to write checks was great. Give me a year or two, then I’ll switch.

  35. Pfft. You’re all wrong. Windows? Mac? Linux? All mere also-rans. The One True OS is clearly Plan 9.

    Because, c’mon, an OS where the *name itself* is a science fiction reference! ;)

  36. After using a MacBook Air, I can’t imagine going back to the trackpad in a Windows machine. I’m not sure what’s more surprising, that the MacBook Air is so perfect or that seemingly no Windows manufacturer can get theirs working as well. I have a beautiful Acer ultrabook sitting behind me that’s as nice as the MBA in every way except for the damned track pad.

    The only preference I have by OS is that the Mac version of Scrivener is the best writing tool I’ve ever used and the Windows version lags far behind.

  37. Am I the only one who thinks A.Beth is channeling Chang Who is Not Chang?

    I added the Modern Mix to my Windows 8 laptop and it is a godsend. Praise be the Stardock.

  38. Do much cut & pasting? I coded on Wintel from 1992 to 2007 and struggled with RSI. Solution was a split keyboard. After switching to MBP from 2007 onwards, no RSI. Why? Check out how your wrist looks typing Ctrl-C on a PC versus Command-C on a Mac. Seems to have made a difference, for me.

    BTW, I has 3 Dell XPS’s before the switch. Hope their support has improved.

  39. My favorite cut&paste time period was when I was using a Sun Solaris keyboard where there were buttons to the left of the main keyboard marked “cut” “copy” “paste” “select-all” etc. Press one button and voila. I still miss that keyboard.

  40. I have owned my XPS 12 since late January and I’m still feeling the love. I have a couple of comments on your observations:
    1. Touchpad – It needs to improve! It generally works, but it should ALWAYS work. I suspect the problem is software related and I hope it improves with a driver update.
    2. Screen reading size – This is almost never a problem. When the text is too small, i just pinch out the screen and increase the size (either touch pad or directly on the screen). Firefox also remembers the level I left the web site at for my next visit.
    3. Gaming – I don’t know your preference in gaming, but Civilization 5 works beautifully on the machine in tablet mode. I have spent more than 100 hours playing the game using the touch screen in tablet mode. I have occasionally gone back to playing the game using the standard interface and I it is not as enjoyable.

    This is the first computer I’ve owned in years that I’ve been excited about.

  41. I know you won’t get the start menu but if your main objective was to boot to the desktop you could just add a task to run explorer.exe on log on. Simple and free.

  42. I got my XPS 12 in December and am still “futzing” with this junk touchpad. I’ve complained to everyone who has ears about it. The main purpose of the touchpad is to move the pointer around and this even fails at that! Dell thinks releasing new drivers/software for it is the answer, but so far that’s proven false. They need to stop mimicking the screen and get it to function at it’s basic level before trying to throw a thousand features on top of it! It’s very frustrating.

    I have it “useable” but it’s no where near as “useable” as it could and should be. Other than this one very, very large issue I love this computer. I went from a MSI ultrabook to the Dell so I didn’t notice a huge performance increase but the build quality of the Dell is night and day against the MSI.

    Like you, I opted for the maxed spec version and barring me throwing it at a wall due to the touchpad, it should last for quite a long time.

    I guess the only thing that has me a little worried is the hinge. Number one, I have no idea what kind of voodoo they used to even get it to do that. If you look you can’t even see how it’s powered or how they are sending the signal to it… have you figured out how they do that? And really the main worry is how well that design will hold up over time. I’m like you, 99% of the time I’m using it as a laptop. I will turn it into a tablet on a very rare occasion, but I do love seeing peoples faces when I transform it. That alone was worth getting it.

    Anyway, sorry for the wall of text, I enjoyed your review and I pretty much concur with what you’ve said. If you hear a loud scream and the sound of shattering bits don’t be alarmed, it’s just me throwing my Dell XPS 12™ out of touchpad envy.

    *sorry, I know I said I was done but another thing I don’t get about the touchpad/software is this: They pack all those stupid screen mirroring things in there, but they don’t allow you to actually customize any gestures! My MSI had a great feature that would let me set gestures per application and it was freaking awesome! Wake up Dell! :)

  43. Thanks for the review. I just got an XPS 12, the updated version with the new Haswell chip. I went for the i7 processor with the 8MB RAM; like you, I want to have this machine for awhile. So far it’s been 2 days, and I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. I think am a little more open to Windows 8 than you are–I tried Classic Shell, but I didn’t feel like that saved me much time I think you just have to get used to the idea that it’s kind of like having two desktops. ;)

    Have you found any particularly helpful settings for the trackpad? I do find it a bit glitchy even though it’s supposed to be better on the upgraded XPS. Otherwise, I am happy so far. :)

  44. Hi, also have just acquired the new XPS 12 Haswell top. Only a few days of use but very impressed overall. Track pad on mine seems fine, I did play with the track pad settings a little. I did have issues with constant wifi drop outs. I Installed the latest wireless adapter driver from intel and adjusted the power management to max performance and never turn off for the network card.. For those having similar issues it solved the problem.

  45. One important thing about the trackpad.. use the control panel for it to adjust the sensitivity. I found it was much more usable when I adjusted the slider a bit to the left to increase the sensitivity. Before doing that i found it tended to miss detecting what I was trying to accomplish. I do, however, miss having a physical way to detect the left/right button areas, and a side scroll area. Other than that it’s been great.

  46. Another XPS 12 owner here, I came across this review on a mostly unrelated search, but would like to ask: now that you’ve had your 12 for the better part of a year, have you noticed the development of image retention/burn-in on the screen? It might manifest itself, for example, when switching from a screen with high-contrast images to a dark solid color. If I were to switch to the Start screen right now, I could still see elements from my taskbar (image artifacts that are not present on a cloned external display). I don’t know if I’ll be able to post a link to the relevant Dell forum here, so I’ve put it as my “website” in the form below.

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