One bet Dell may have missed was not articulating the center of the sides of frame that houses the rotating display. This would allow you to rotate the display to a 45 degree angle with the lower front resting on the front edge of the keyboard deck for easy touch use while sitting on a table. As it stands, you may rotate the display to 45 degrees, but the upper part of the frame is in the way. To be fair, an articulated frame might be too fragile and complicated for everyday use.
Our new WorldBench 8 suite and scores can't be compared directly with the previous WorldBench 7, however, the 64 turned in by our XPS 12 is competitive and subjectively the unit feels fast. Dropping down to 1366 by 768 and lower was required to get decent game play from the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics--par for the course.
The PC WorldBench 8 score posted by the Dell is 64, which means it's 64% slower than our baseline system, which is a desktop unit with a Core i5 3570k and GTX 660 Ti discrete GPU. By way of contrast, the old baseline system scored a 67, while the Sony Tap 20 (and all-in-one built with laptop class components) scores 40.
Battery life is 4:39 in our revised battery test, which now alternates video playback with some light office scripts. That compares favorably with a couple of other systems under test, like HP's Envy TouchSmart 4, which posted a battery life of 4:07. The Dell posted a PCMark 7 productivity score of 2187, about half the score of our baseline desktop system but compares favorably to the 2058 posted by the Envy 4 TouchSmart.
The 12.5-inch display's native resolution is 1920 by 1080 for Retina-like pixel density, and 1080p movies look nothing short of spectacular. On the other hand, the audio through the speakers is extremely tinny--bring your headset.
The port selection for the XPS 12 is minimal. There are two USB 3.0 ports, and a mini DisplayPort which will drive VGA and HDMI displays--with the additional $33 and $20 adapters. There's a headphone/headset jack, but the unit also features a dual-array microphone next to the 1.3 megapixel Webcam. Connectivity is good--if you don't want or need wired Ethernet, which will also require a $20 USB-to-Ethernet adapter. Sacrificing one of only two USB ports to Ethernet may present problems for some. The XPS's Wi-Fi is 802.11 a/g/n and the Bluetooth is 3.0.
The XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook is a clever and stylish design, and it obviates the need to carry a tablet with you. At least if a Windows 8 tablet is what you want. It's on the heavy side, but that's may be a common theme with touchscreen laptops for the foreseeable future. It could also use another USB port, but that will limit relatively few users.