With the debut of its radically thin and light XPS 11 ultrabook, Dell has taken direct aim at a couple of Lenovo’s convertible PCs, namely the IdeaPad Yoga 11S and Yoga 2 Pro. Like those two Yogas, the 2.5-pound Dell comes with a pair of articulating hinges that allow you not only to open the lid for laptop use, but to keep folding it back a full 360 degrees, until the screen and keyboard are back-to-backâ€”thereby transforming the device into a tablet. Indeed, Dell likes to call the XPS 11 a tablet that can serve as an occasional ultrabook, while the slightly larger XPS 12 is vice versa.
While last year we lauded the Yoga’s overall design, Lenovo’s decision to include a full-sized, chiclet-style keyboard caused a couple of comfort issues. It made, first, for a very thick tablet. Second, we found that feeling the keys (even though they’re disabled) beneath our fingers as the “back” of the tablet was just plain, well, weird.
For the XPS 11, Dell addressed this issue by going with a flat, capacitive touch keyboard, similar to the thin, flat keyboard covers Microsoft sells for the Surface Pro. The upside of this approach is that you get a very thin ultrabook, but then you also get a keyboard that provides little to no feedback, not to mention a lot less comfort, during typing. In fact, the keyboard is such a drastic difference from what most laptop users are used to that it just may be this device’s Achilles’ heel. We’ll look at the keyboard in greater detail in the Features section.
Despite where you come down on the keyboard issue, the XPS 11 is otherwise one thin, light, attractive, and well-built 11.6-inch ultrabook. It comes with a nice-looking, high-resolution (2,560×1,440) screen, and it performed reasonably well on most of our benchmark tests.
Dell offers three different models of the XPS 11, starting with a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB solid-state drive for $999. The next model up comes with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB SSD and sells for $1,249. Our review unit was the $1,449 flagship, which is the same as the previous except for a 256GB solid-state drive.
Mostly, we liked this laptop. Granted, the flat keyboard will undoubtedly turn off many would-be buyers, but then, this hasn’t been much of a deterrent for Surface Pro shoppers. Our opinion? It was bold of Dell to experiment like this. Whether you should buy the XPS 11 or not probably depends on whether you can live with the keyboardâ€”so we suggest that, if you can, you give it a try before you buy.
Upon removing the XPS 11 from the box, we were impressed with its light weight and super-slim profile (0.4 inch at its thinnest point). Both the lid and the underside of the chassis are made up of a carbon fiber weave and aluminum frame that look and feel not only durable, but also quite elegant and substantial. It’s just a hair heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.4 pounds), and therefore very easy to carry.
Despite the system’s thinness, Dell managed to work in several expansion ports, including two full-size USB 3.0 ports. You’ll find one of these, the AC power jack, a mini HDMI port, the audio jack, a speaker vent, and the volume toggle located on the left edge. The other USB port, another speaker vent, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and a security lock are all located on the right edge.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.