LAS VEGAS--For all the attention ultrabook laptops have gotten over the past several months, a few big players have been conspicuously absent from the party.
Dell stood on the sidelines during the holiday 2011 ultrabook rush, but is now jumping in with the new XPS 13.
Using Dell's high-end XPS brand, the XPS 13 is an impressive entry in the ultrabook race, at least from our brief hands-on time with it. The system goes from 6mm-18mm thick and weighs under 3 pounds (but just a hair under, at 2.99 pounds, according to Dell). It has a backlit keyboard, and an Intel Core i7 CPU, but only integrated Intel HD3000 graphics. Storage options are 128GB or 256GB SSD drives.
At first glance, the XPS 13 isn't as flashy as some of Dell's other consumer laptops, but not without reason. Dell's pitch is that the XPS 13 is part of the Consumerization Ecosystem, which means that the lines between a company's consumer and professional laptop lines are blurring, a point we largely agree with. The XPS 13 is meant to be the kind of consumer laptop that business users ask their IT departments for, and Dell is eager to accommodate, with a nearly identical IT version offering TPM and other IT-friendly technology.
After playing briefly with a sample system, we liked the overall design. Its footprint is smaller than most 13-inch laptops', leading Dell to claim it's a 13-inch laptop in a 12-inch body (that's a bit of a trend these days: X-inch laptop in a Y-inch body, but being as laptop sizes aren't set in stone, it's also a hard claim to disprove). The look reminds us more of Dell's corporate Latitude line than anything else from the outside, but inside it has edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass over the screen and a large clickpad.
While Dell may be late to the ultrabook party, don't forget that the company largely pioneered the ultrathin laptop with the Adamo and Adamo XPS systems from a few years ago. These forward-looking designs were ahead of their time (and sadly not supported for very long by Dell), but their DNA lives on in other ultrathin laptops.
The XPS 13 will be available early in 2012, starting at under $1,000.