Dell XPS 10 review
Because Windows 8 is a combination of tablet-style touchscreen interface and a traditional Windows desktop, it makes sense for Windows 8 portables to follow the furrow ploughed by Asus with its Transformer tablets. The XPS 10 does just that, thanks to a detachable keyboard and trackpad that turns it from a tablet into a laptop.
Desktop and touchscreen
The XPS 10 is available in pure tablet form but you’ll want the detachable keyboard once you flip to the desktop side of the OS. In this case that OS is Windows 8 RT, which means that even though there's a desktop interface beneath the "Metro" touchscreen front-end, only Microsoft-certified apps can be installed on it. Currently that amounts to the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote) and the Explorer browser, all of which are pre-installed on the XPS 10.
Working on the desktop feels fast enough but the teeny weeny fonts and icons are a bit fiddly to operate. Compared to an Android-based Asus Transformer series running Polaris Office, the XPS 10 running MS Office is vastly superior. The software is much more advanced and the familiar file management of Windows RT is a big plus. The inability to install third-party desktop apps makes the XPS 10 less prone to being invaded by viruses and spyware, so you shouldn’t need to worry about an army of security apps clogging up the system and slowing things down.
Working on the desktop
Aside from installing apps, the RT desktop works as you’d expect a Windows machine to. For example, you can download a file via a browser, copy it to a folder and then open it with either a desktop app or, in the case of a music file for example, an app running on the Metro interface.
The screen flaps around a bit when the keyboard and tablet are connected but it’s perfectly usable on your lap, unlike the Microsoft Surface, which needs a tabletop to be firm enough for QWERTY typing. The styling and build is businesslike rather than stylish, with a rubbery feel to the rear panels, faux chrome detailing and a hinge mechanism that's reasonably sturdy.
In this age of invisible pixel edges and Retina displays, the XPS 10's 1366x768 lacks the pin-sharp clarity of the iPad and Chromebook Pixel but it's certainly not ugly. The RT Metro interface itself throws plenty of colour around, and video plays back with accurate colours. There's enough power for the XPS 10 to tackle even 1080p/50fps video files – the onboard video app will drop frames with demanding files such as these, but it does a much better job of keeping pace with higher-spec video content than other mid-range rivals, and gets on with 720p content just fine.
On the Metro side of Windows 8 RT, things runs smoothly here but as we’ve found with other Windows 8 devices, there are numerous little delays and blank screens to be endured, with poor signposting around the OS. Still, those are generally teething problems that fade away once you get used to it, and when you’re in a Metro app, performance is rarely a problem.
Windows 8 app store
At the moment the Windows 8 app store is mostly populated with smaller apps rather than rivals to big productivity or creative apps, but it's still feasible to use the XPS 10 for basic image editing, for example.
As a mobile blogger's tool the XPS 10 is a much more flexible solution than a Chromebook, thanks to its ability to work perfectly well online or offline, and within that tablet/laptop middle ground it also beats Android hybrids for more serious, everyday jobs.
Review by Tony Horgan.