That first wave of Windows 8 convertible laptops wasn’t always great. Awkward “slider” designs that compromised the keyboard and trackpad were all-too-common, and not many of them could manage much more than five or six hours on a single charge. That’s not terrible, but by the time you’re spending $1000 or more on a laptop you should be entitled to something a little better than “not terrible.”
Dell’s XPS 12 didn’t have the first problem—its unique flippable screen didn’t get in the way of its keyboard or trackpad, and while it was a little chunky it still managed to be one of our favorite Windows 8 convertibles. Almost a year later, we have the XPS 12’s successor in our hands, and it doesn’t fix what isn’t broken. Dell hasn’t changed the design since last year, but it has knocked $200 off the entry-level asking price and added new Haswell CPUs from Intel. If the XPS 12 is anything like the 2013 MacBook Air or the new Acer Aspire S7, these will help solve the battery life problem.
It should make the XPS 12 even more appealing if you’re looking to buy a new system to run the upcoming Windows 8.1.
We called last year’s XPS 12 the Windows 8 convertible laptop to beat. While other good convertibles (and even some promising-looking Haswell tablets) have shown up on the scene since then, the Haswell version is still very good. Like most convertibles with non-removable keyboards, it remains a sub-optimal dedicated tablet at best. But aside from some thick bezels, the convertible mechanism doesn’t keep the XPS 12 from being a good, well-built laptop that just happens to turn into a husky tablet.
That said, the new XPS 12 isn’t a huge upgrade from last year. If you’ve been waiting on a Haswell version of the laptop to boost battery life, this revised version is the answer to those prayers. If the older XPS 12 wasn’t your cup of tea for other reasons, go ahead and move on—this is just a slightly updated version of the same laptop.