Dell's latest premium offering, the freshly unveiled XPS 11, is a hybrid tablet, combining the convenience of a tablet with the productive capability of a laptop in the same vein as the Dell XPS 12 (2012) or the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S.
The XPS 11 is a Windows 8.1 PC, so you'll be able to use it for productive work in the office or classroom, and kick back to enjoy media and games as well.
In designing the XPS 11, Dell borrowed liberally from Microsoft and Lenovo. But cribbing the best elements from the top products in the category may be just what is needed to make the Dell XPS a top hybrid tablet. Some of the more strikingly familiar elements of the XPS 11 include the 360-degree hinge, which is a dead ringer for Lenovo's own "multi-mode hinge," letting you open up the XPS 11 like a normal laptop, but then open it further, allowing it to fold back around into a tablet form factor.
The second is the capacitive touch keyboard, which seems very much like the Touch Cover used with the Microsoft Surface Pro. This capacitive touch keyboard has no moving parts, making it more of a typing sensor than a keyboard made up of buttons. The individual keys are delineated by a glossy black grid directly on the surface of the laptop chassis. While this will allow for laptop-like use, the difference in keyboard styles is pretty jarring. The lack of tactile feedback introduces a bit of a learning curve, and during the hands-on session with the laptop, I watched another journalist struggle to correctly type the name of a website into a browser correctly.
The benefit of this new keyboard style, however, is that the keyboard will be far less prone to damage when folded back in tablet mode, a real concern with the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S.
The XPS 11 itself is a well-made device with a machined aluminium and carbon fibre chassis, giving the device a weight of 1.1kg, and a sturdy design that never felt cheap or flimsy. The screen is protected by an edge-to-edge layer of Gorilla Glass, and the display is a stunning 2,560 x 1,440 resolution affair with 400 nit brightness, so you should be able to easily read it during the day or night.
The XPS 11 is also configurable with an array of processor options, ranging from a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 up to a Core i5, with 4GB of RAM. Storage options offer 80, 128, or 256GB SSDs, and the port selection boasts not one but two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port, headset jack, and an SD card slot. When so many tablets and hybrids opt for smaller mini and micro-sized ports, it's nice to see a device that doesn't require extra adapter dongles to use basic features.
The Dell XPS 11 hybrid will be available in November over in the States, starting at $1000 (£620). The UK price and availability are still to be confirmed.