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back to article Review: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 tablet-cum-Ultrabook

Making a laptop with a screen that spins within its bezel isn’t a new idea. Early in 2011, Dell tried the trick with its Inspiron Duo netbook, but sadly that proved to be a woefully poor device. Now Dell is trying again, this with Ultrabook hardware and Windows 8 as the basic ingredients. It helps that, unlike the Duo, the new …

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Close but

I'm in the market for a new laptop, and for a grand I was tempted... until I read about the (lack of) connectivity. Doh!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Close but

Then buy a laptop. These half way house devices are exactly that and are always compromised one way or another. They were tried years ago and failed miserably, the only difference now is that they have win 8 and better touch support as such. Still a poor choice, buy a dedicated laptop or tablet depending on your needs.

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Re: Close but

I think it's probably right to omit ethernet from the device but I'm sure Dell could have tossed a dongle in which offered it through USB or thunderbolt.

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Stop

Re: Close but

At home, I have an 802.11n wi-fi router and gigabit switch. In my office, 5M away, I get 12kbps from the router - old house! At work, I don't have any wi-fi.

Wi-fi is fine, when I'm in the lounge, but when I'm actually working, it needs a cabled connection.

I'm tempted by the XPS12 and with a USB->Ethernet adapter, it might be useful.

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The lack of Ethernet is a killer

I'll accept that from my tablet but not a laptop of any description. It's one of the things that make the Air a bad idea, the only way to connect that by a hard wired connection is via a dongle and with that you get a less-than-stunning 10\100 connection. Whoop.

It's a shame because otherwise this looks like a nice device.

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Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

Not sure if you're talking about the Air or this Dell machine, but there is a gigabit ethernet adaptor for the Macbook line, but it has to have the new Thunderbolt port.

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Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

Carrying adapters everywhere kinda negates the point of having a portable device though.

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Stop

Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

So bulky, heavy and unwieldy aren't they? Not!

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Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

If thats your opinion, I take it you feel you may as well just have one on board USB port and make anything run through a USB hub?

Personally, on a portable device I like it to be portable. The grief of having to carry unavoidable stuff (PSU/external HDD/optical drive/Mice, etc (delete as appropriate) doesn't need to be worsened, and the port is small and cheap enough that theres not a lot of reasoning to remove it.

So, yeah, your opinion may vary, but not having an on board eth is a factor in my decision to buy. Ethernet is a pretty standard medium in an office environment so i wouldn't want it as an extra.

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Stop

Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

You're in a habit of dragging your laptop around without a case? If you've got a case then you've got space for both of the adaptor cables we're talking about. RJ45 connectors aren't tiny, and neither is HDMI. For compact use you need a compact connector, plus some sort of adaptor/cable to full size.

Likewise optical media are dying out. For most people there is little need for an optical drive any more. If you're part of the limited set that still need it then there are still machines that suit your needs, but in a bigger, heavier package. You pays your money and you takes your chance, but don't assume that you're in the majority here.

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Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

"You're in a habit of dragging your laptop around without a case?" for the last 2 years for my 10" baby laptop at least, yes. RJ45 and HDMI are tiny compared to this chassis, as is a clip to hold a removable battery, all could be integrated into this footprint. Agree the optical drive is not an option without compromising the design though.

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Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

A USB-Ethernet dongle in the office if you need that, leave it on your desk and use wireless when you're away from the office. I use wi-fi all the time at home, why wouldn't you? Or get a spare home dongle if you like.

But I have an RSI-like keyboard disability so I'm lusting after a true tablet, whose lighter weight is a vast advantage for carry-around use. I also want a Wacom stylus. On the other hand, there's a lot to not like in Windows 8, and the Windows 7 tablet that I got has bad bugs; stylus is intermittent and the darned thing frequently freezes for a full minute. Maybe I got one bad one. But it's an expensive experiment.

Hey, you know on some PCs you have to press a special key to boot from a USB device? Didja try that? Also, try SystemRescueCD. It's not great for apps but it usually takes you from "doesn't run Linux at all" to "doesn't run Linux well", at least. You can get a command line although you may not want that.

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Linux

Re: The lack of Ethernet is a killer

"But I have an RSI-like keyboard disability"

Long term Linux user then?

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Acer Travelmate

I had an Acer Travelmate tablet/laptop in 2005 that wasn't so different. The C204TMi, which I bought in the UK and used for several years had a screen that slid forward over the keyboard to get into tablet mode.

It probably would have last a bit longer if Acer's sales & support weren't so rubbish.

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No Eth, No HDMI, No sale

Fancy enough looking but these hybrids still feel like a jack of all trades gimmick.

No HDMI means no discerning media whore is gonna get it. And no ethernet port is gonna seriously affect its use as a business tool.

I'll have to stick to my £200 notebook for now...

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Facepalm

Re: No Eth, No HDMI, No sale

displayport -> hdmi/dvi/vga adapters are cheap enough, in the order of £10-15. If you're spending £1000 on a laptop you can afford £10 for a display adapter, and yes displayport -> hdmi will support the audio component also, so no need to get your panties in a twist over the laptop being no good for media.

Similarly a usb->ethernet adapter is ~£5-15 if you need it. Personally I'm a big fan of wired ethernet too, but ti's not the end of the world to have to use a usb one, at least both the ports are usb 3.0.

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Anonymous Coward

Who wants to ....

Run spyware like Ubuntu on a machine of this class. If you're going to buy quality hardware like this, run a proper OS - the fantastic Windows 8 all the way. Thus freetards need not apply.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who wants to ....

Lolz at 'fantastic' and 'Windows 8'.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Who wants to ....

"the fantastic Windows 8 all the way"

Thanks! New keyboard please.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who wants to ....

Seriously though, what do you replace the crapware a semi-decent portable comes with with? Windows 7? Bet you can't get all the drivers you need. Wait for someone to port OSX to it? No ta. So some Linux distro is the only realistic alternative for the time being.

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Happy

The fantastic Windows 8 all the way....

fan·tas·tic

/fanˈtastik/ Adjective

1.Imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality.

2.Of extraordinary size or degree.

Synonyms

fantastical - fanciful - fancy - bizarre

Sounds about right to me....

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Windows

Re: Who wants to ....

@AC 1424

Alas, it has started... the chap tried booting off the Ubuntu stick and no boot. UEFI? Just change a BIOS setting?

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Stop

What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

You can now buy perfectly good USB 3 gigabit dongles, and Apple do their own Thunderbolt -> gigabit adaptor. Both of these are no more bulky than an adaptor cable that you'd need to put a physical port on a compact machine. Hardly a show stopper.

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Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

Oh, and while I'm at it, DisplayPort is a superset of HDMI, you can buy cheap and simple adaptors that will let you plug it in to HDMI devices.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

Because it is another level of crappy adaptors you need to have. And also it ties you to OS choice/versions for which your USB/Thunderbolt/whatever to Ethernet bridge actually works well (if at all) on.

Come on, a RJ45 socket is not *that* big!

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Stop

Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

RJ45's aren't big? You're kidding right? You need at least 14mm, plus some space for the board and the case. You can fit 2 USB ports into the same height. Did there look to be space for two USB ports (one on top of the other, not edge to edge) on the Dell?

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Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

Yet another bloody dongle to misplace/lose.

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Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

It's not a show stopper, just incredibly irritating when a lot of folk (which surprises you even though people keep commenting on the fact) use ethernet constantly. I use my Ethernet port more often than a USB port, hence why it bugs me when I see numerous new laptops with no ethernet port and yet numerous USB ports.

So it's not a show stopper, but can you not see why it irritates people when a) They need to buy extra gear to use a popular connectivity method, and b) remember to carry this adapter/dongle (no matter how small) around with them.

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Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

indeed, I have an XPS 15 with DP and that displays to HDMI (and VGA projectors) just fine. The adapters are not too unreasonably sized. It should be noted that the XPS15 only has 2 USB ports too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's with this "it must have a Gigabit Ethernet port" fetish?

Dell say "Height 8-20mm" so it is not impossible, given the total size, to have something RJ45-ish in there.

Is it really so important to have a few mm off a thing you wont ever slide in to a tight hole anyway, compared to supporting standard connectors?

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Paris Hilton

I really hope

That isn't a pube stuck to the keyboard in the in photo

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Anonymous Coward

There are other Linux distros besides Ubuntu...

...as long as there weren't any real show-stoppers on the hardware front, I wouldn't mind seeing Arch running on this fella. It even makes my venerable Eee 701SD run smoothly, so I bet Arch would go like the proverbial off a clean shovel on an XPS 12.

Wonder if anyone's managed to install it on one of these yet?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are other Linux distros besides Ubuntu...

True, but in my experience Ubuntu has been one of the better ones for installing without hassle. Well done for the reviewer to point this out - for me a laptop that can't have alternative OS installed on is just not an option (add to the the lack of gigabit Ethernet). No sale for me Dell!

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Re: There are other Linux distros besides Ubuntu...

["Arch guy" again] I agree - Ubuntu makes a lot of effort on the easy-to-install/use front, and Arch isn't recommended for the "newbie" (nor does it claim to be). On the other hand, I was writing "off" this sentence in the review:

"Trying to boot Ubuntu off a USB stick proved equally fruitless. In short, this is not a machine for the home tinkerer or the more casual Linux buff."

Arch is a great distro for customising a lean and fast installation (especially on more limited hardware), but you do really need at least some idea of the "nuts and bolts" of Linux to get the best out of it.

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Re: There are other Linux distros besides Ubuntu...

I suspect the inability to boot Ubuntu is due to UEFI and/or Secure Boot (more likely the latter) as mandated by Microsoft for Windows 8.

AFAIK it's not yet possible to boot Linux without disabling Secure Boot, which then prevents Windows 8 from installing.

I dare say someone has done it, but until Canonical, RedHat, the Linux foundation et. al. get around to adding it to the installers "normal" users are out of luck.

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Stuff the lack of connectivity... a swivel screen? WHAT?

Seriously, anyone who thinks that swivel screen is a good idea is silly. Regardless of the materials used, they're rubbish and break easy. Especially with latches that will snap off with any excessive force. It's just another thing to go wrong and makes the tablet mode pointless being really heavy and bulky to use.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stuff the lack of connectivity... a swivel screen? WHAT?

Yeah I wonder what it's going to be like after being swivelled 500-1000 times - or just outside warranty... seems a compromise - either get a Macbook Air (or similar ultra notebook ) and save some weight / bulk or get a tablet.

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Re: Stuff the lack of connectivity... a swivel screen? WHAT?

Yeah, that swivel... my gut instinct is that I prefer the Lenovo Yoga form-factor... nice and simple, fewer moving parts. I have no reason to think that this Dell will fail, though.

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Anonymous Coward

How retro

I spy Eurostile typeface for the key legends.

Meh, its too heavy for a tablet and not enough ports for a proper laptop. no doubt battery life will suck balls too once Win 8 has attracted all the barnacles it needs to make it function adequately.

I'm waiting for a laptop the screen just comes right off with a wireless link to the body which can thus still have a sensible spec.

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Re: How retro

"I'm waiting for a laptop the screen just comes right off with a wireless link to the body which can thus still have a sensible spec."

Depending on whether the new Atoms are anything useful or not, and providing you are looking for a tablet(ish) sized screen, the HP Envy X2 might be an interesting option.

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Re: How retro

Yep, I saw this

"the Dell machine is certainly light enough for prolonged two-handed use in tablet form."

and laughed. 1.45kg light enough for prolonged use. I think not. Great if you're into weight training.

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Re: How retro

I know that geeks don't exactly have a reputation for physical prowess, but ISTM that a trip to the gym (or failing that, being a parent) would solve your lack of arm or shoulder strength if you struggle to hold a 3lb device for any length of time.

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I've no use for this,

but the keyboard looking like it was borrowed from an old, scientific calculator, has cheered me up no end. Now, can someone please install Win8 on Major Morgan, or a Speak'n'Spell?

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Re: I've no use for this,

I quite like the retro font.

The keyboard on the Thinkpad reminds me a little of the old BBC Micro leyboards.

Then I did get a C64x case.

Though for this, I'll stick to my Asus Transformer for my tablet to notebook needs.

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Happy

Re: I've no use for this,

Retro all the way! If I had my old Amiga lying around, I'd happily rip the innards out and hide my RPi inside - having a keyboard sitting under my telly is already making me smile, having an ugly, beige keyboard, with a large backside, could only make my smile wider.

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JDX
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Looks cool but...

... like looking cool is pretty much it. Like it would be great to see someone using it in a TV show but rather pointless to own.

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Stop

Re: Looks cool but...

Tablets on TV shows are so 2 years ago.

They'll be portable 3D holographic transparent displays that can upscale a grainy CCTV image to catch a numberplate (lisence plate) from the reflection on a window.

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K
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Docking Station...

Could have resolved all the connectivity problems that people are bitching about!

I doubt Dell though of that and its a great shame really, I'm yet to see a true "Business class". I work with a laptop and have docking stations at the office and home, so I get the benefit of every connectivity you can think of, along with portability when I need it.

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Re: Docking Station...

It has USB 3.0 so you can use a port replicater stuffed into one of the two USB 3.0 ports

Most manufacturers seem to be going this way, rather than the propriety docking stations.

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Re: Docking Station...

Thumbs down for stating a fact...

is that because you disagree with the USB3.0 port replicators?

or

was I wrong?

or

Did I deliver the message in a less than pleasing manner?

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