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11/7/2012
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Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy

When I found myself without power for four days in Manhattan, Dell's Windows 8 tablet was my main link to the outside world. See how it fared.

This was to have been a standard review of the Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 convertible, then Hurricane Sandy hit. I live in the part of Manhattan that went without power for four days, so I needed something light, easy on batteries and able to suck up Wi-Fi. The XPS 12 isn't perfect, but it came through on all those counts when it mattered.

Sandy's outer bands hit the tri-state area Monday afternoon, Oct. 29. By evening, winds were howling outside my high-rise on the East Side. Still, the power was hanging in and I thought I'd gotten off easy, compared to shore areas that were getting pummeled.

Then the sky lit up. The Con Edison substation on East 14th Street had been deluged with sea water, and a transformer blew up. The lights flickered, and then they were gone. Virtually all of lower Manhattan was in darkness. No building lights, street lights or traffic lights. And, for those of us on high floors, no running water. Even nearby NYU hospital blacked out as its generators failed.

I did about the only thing I could. I went to bed, hoping the power would be back with the dawn. It wasn't. That was Day 1 of what would turn out to be four days of living out of a backpack. I'm not complaining. Many parts of the area were, and still are, in far worse shape. (Click the following link for ways to help). So I schlepped uptown each morning to those neighborhoods that had juice. In the days that followed, there was lots of furtively slipping in and out of hotel lobbies, restaurants, pubs, gyms -- any place that had running water and, almost as important, Wi-Fi service.

[ Learn more about Hurricane Sandy fallout. See Hurricane Sandy Twitter Rumors: Lessons For Business. ]

That's where the XPS 12 came in. Dell had sent it up from Texas a few days earlier, and the timing couldn't have been better. My company-issued laptop, an aging Lenovo T-61 on Windows XP, weighs about 5.4 lbs, compared to 3.3 lbs for the XPS 12. Trust me, that makes a difference over 40 blocks.

Dell XPS 12
Dell XPS 12 flips easily from notebook
to tablet configuration.
The old Lenovo's battery, which needs replacing, now uses about 20% of its power just booting up, and the laptop has trouble maintaining a constant Wi-Fi connection. By contrast, the Dell's lithium-ion battery gave me about six hours of constant, unplugged use. It's also a Wi-Fi magnet. Back home now, it detects several networks the Lenovo isn't even aware of.

Getting onto the Internet was invaluable during the blackout. I could let friends know I was okay, communicate with my employer and find out what was happening in the region. The XPS 12 takes full advantage of Windows 8's ability to restore a Wi-Fi connection from standby in about a second. It does this by prioritizing operations in the networking stack, saving network preferences and performing other time savers. Also key was the fact that the XPS 12 boots up from a fully off state in about 8 seconds. That's important when you've got impatient New Yorkers waiting for your hard-won space at Starbucks.

The Dell unit feels solid, and appears to be just that. It got nary a scuff or scratch despite constantly being shoved in and out of a backpack alongside various emergency supplies, including a transistor radio, water bottles, K-rations and a big, bulky emergency flashlight. And this is despite the fact that the display converts from notebook to tablet by doing a 180-degree flip around its axis within the bezel. It seems like a delicate maneuver, but it held up fine.

As I said, The XPS 12 is not perfect. The 1080p touchscreen is sharp and responsive, and the keyboard clicks satisfyingly. But I found the trackpad next to useless. Frequently the cursor would simply fail to follow my fingers across the pad, and the pressure points for left- and right-clicking are tough to hit consistently. I didn't find this too big a deal, however. The touchscreen obviates most of the need for a trackpad to begin with.

[Update 11/12/12: Our original test model was a preproduction unit. Dell provided us with an updated unit that appears to resolve the issues with the trackpad. And, although we found no real problems with the touchscreen on the first unit, the display on the new one feels especially snappy and responsive to the touch.]

Also, don't expect to just bring this or any other Windows 8 device to your office and plug right in. Once InformationWeek's office near Penn Station reopened it became my new base (I usually work from home). But getting onto our corporate network and connecting to various resources proved to be a challenge. For instance, there is not yet a Windows 8 driver for the Kyocera 8100 printer that I needed to access.

Other users have told me that SAP on Windows 8 remains problematic. These kinds of issues will be common in the enterprise until the Windows 8 platform matures. Legacy Microsoft applications, like Office 2010, installed without a problem, however.

Starting at $1,199, the Dell XPS 12 isn't cheap. Especially when you consider that competing devices, like Microsoft's $499 Surface tablet, can also get you online and onto your social media networks in a hurry. But the Dell XPS 12 runs Intel's proven Ivy Bridge architecture, can handle all of your legacy software, and is now officially storm tried and tested.

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S. Kyle Davis
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S. Kyle Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2012 | 4:34:14 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Man, I'm really sorry for all the stuff y'all have dealt with up there. Our prayers are with you.

I enjoyed this review. It's interesting to see these devices used in real-life situations, and looked at with an honest, appreciating eye. It's good to see that the XPS seems to be a fairly solid device (I think you put it through a pretty decent fire test there!). It's too costly for me, but it's still pretty cool.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2012 | 4:39:04 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
thanks Skyle, appreciate the thoughts
bashdrew
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bashdrew,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2012 | 10:27:05 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
I enjoyed reading your review of the XPS 12. Would you know if a wacom digitizer pen will work on the touch screen? I really want a hybrid but one of the things that I wanted is something that I can take down notes on. Thank you.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2012 | 4:38:55 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
thanks bashdrew. I just checked with Dell. The XPS 12 does not support the Wacom digitizer pen. The display is incompatible.
bashdrew
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bashdrew,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/9/2012 | 3:03:17 AM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
thank you for checking this for me. i really want the form factor of the xps 12 and been waiting for good reviews like this one, but i need something that i can write on, just like the galaxy note. i guess i have to look into the latitude 10 which supports the wacom pen. thanks again.
R0nin
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R0nin,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2012 | 1:53:47 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Hi Paul, glad to hear you were able to weather Hurricane Sandy. What a tragic event and our heart goes out to all your fellow New Yorkers and surrounding areas who were (and still are) affected.

I usually don't comment on articles, but this was a piece that was well done. I enjoyed reading it especially with the perspective you were able to add 'surviving' your environment with it. It sounds like Dell has put together a winner here, and it might actually succeed, despite their foibles, as a viable Windows 8 hybrid.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2012 | 4:37:33 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
thanks R0nin, much appreciated...
Eric (Seattle)
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Eric (Seattle),
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 9:56:49 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Thanks for the write up Paul. Did you ever work with the XPS 12 out of your lap and did it get warm?
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/12/2012 | 7:34:40 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Eric, I did use the XPS 12 in my lap and there were no issues with it getting too warm
kmandal
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kmandal,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2012 | 2:50:00 AM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Hello

Thank you so much for the detail review of the New Dell XPS 12. I am curious to know how this hybrid performed in the Tablet mode during your test? was the performance in the tablet mode as good as performance in the laptop mode. I am sure it will perform very nicely as a laptop but I am not sure how it may perform in the tablet mode. Also, during your test of Dell XPS 12 , how did you feel about the weight of the computer in the tablet mode. I will appreciate your answer very much.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/12/2012 | 7:36:02 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Kmandal. The system performed very well in tablet mode. But might be a bit too heavy for some to use as an everyday tablet
Umar Jamil
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Umar Jamil,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/27/2012 | 2:38:25 PM
re: Dell XPS 12 Windows 8 Tablet Vs. Hurricane Sandy
Cool Stuff!
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