Dell XPS 10 review: A serviceable if unremarkable tablet

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MSRP: $499.99
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Dell XPS 10 includes expandable storage and a depressible Windows button, and its $180 keyboard features plenty of useful ports as well as an extra battery.

The Bad There are a few annoying performance bugs. The base tablet doesn’t have as many ports as the Surface RT. It lacks a kickstand and its keyboard isn’t as comfortable to type on.

The Bottom Line The Dell XPS 10 is a valiant effort at a Windows RT tablet but doesn’t pack enough value into its base package to favorably compete with the Surface RT.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0

If you're reading this review of the Dell XPS 10, you either have already considered or will in the very near future consider the Microsoft Surface RT first. It's simply an overall better tablet value, thanks to its slightly wider screen, better build quality, more comfortable keyboard accessory, built-in full USB, and Micro-HDMI. Yes, this is a review of the XPS 10, but I think it's important to know what sets these tablets apart. The XPS 10 does feel more like a laptop when paired with its keyboard and gets a battery life advantage thanks to the keyboard's built-in battery; however, to get the complete package it'll also cost you more than the Surface RT.

The XPS 10 is a fine effort, but once compared with what the Surface RT offers, it comes up a bit short. And while the Surface RT holds its own even without its keyboard, the XPS 10 feels stunted without its keyboard accessory.

That old tablet feel
Like many recent tablets, the Dell XPS 10 is mostly black in color and highlighted by silver trim along its edges. Its corners are smoothly rounded and as 10-inch tablets go, it's fairly light, weighing about as much as a current-generation iPad. The tablet feels quite plasticky compared with the Surface RT and doesn't take much pressure to bend; there's a slight bit of screen warping when you apply pressure to the back of the tablet.

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James Martin/CNET

Measuring about an inch in width, its bezel is wider than most tablets', giving it a bit more thumb room when held. In the top bezel is an ambient light sensor with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera sitting less than an inch away. Directly below the camera on the bottom of the bezel is a depressible Windows home button.

Dell XPS 10 Asus VivoTab RT Microsoft Surface RT
Weight in pounds 1.38 1.18 1.5
Width in inches (landscape) 10.8 10.37 10.8
Height in inches 6.98 6.7 6.8
Depth in inches 0.36 0.37 0.43
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 1 0.81 0.81

Along the left edge from the top are a headphone jack and a volume rocker. The power/sleep button sits on the top edge, while a noticeably oversized door lies next to it, hiding the comparatively small microSD card slot. The bottom edge houses dual speakers, a Micro-USB port, and a charging/connection port. On the back, near the top middle, sits a 5-megapixel glass-covered rear-facing camera.

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James Martin/CNET

The 32GB version of the XPS 10 starts at $499, and for another $180, you can get this here fine keyboard accessory. The keyboard features a similar black-and-silver design motif to the tablet and includes two full USB ports, a Mini-HDMI port, and an additional charging port. The keys are a bit small and to my big hands the keyboard feels a bit cramped when typing. However, compared with the Surface RT, the XPS 10 is much more compatible with typing on your lap thanks to its much more laptoplike design.

RT back atcha
It's been a few months since we've seen a Windows RT tablet, and other than some performance improvements, not much has changed. Windows RT is the "lite" version of Windows 8; if you're interested in the details of its operating system, check out the Windows RT section of our Surface RT review.

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James Martin/CNET

Three months following the debut of Windows 8/RT, I'm still a fan of its touch interface and still believe that both Apple and Google can learn a thing or two from Microsoft in this respect. For those of us intimately familiar with those other touch interfaces, getting accustomed to Windows touch may take some time -- I hated it at first -- but if you're new to touch interfaces, you'll likely pick it up quickly. Just to be safe, Dell includes a few video tutorials covering the basics of the interface and a written FAQ for those completely new to the Windows RT experience.

My feelings about Windows RT haven't changed much. It's not perfect -- certain features that would be helpful on tablets are still missing, but the overall experience is still impressive. Search is still extremely powerful and the split-screen feature is still one of the coolest on any tablet.

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