Dell XPS 10 review: A serviceable if unremarkable tablet

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.

James Martin/CNET

Hardware features
The Dell XPS 10 houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor running at 1.5GHz. The tablet comes in both 32GB and 64GB varieties, with or without the keyboard, and its microSD slot will support cards of up to 128GB. The tablet has 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 4.0, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a built-in compass, but no GPS.

Performance
Since the Surface RT's release last October, its performance and, by extension, the performance of Windows RT have seen noticeable improvements that are mirrored on the Dell XPS 10. Apps open more quickly now than they did a few months ago; however, the performance of the Internet Explorer browser still noticeably lags behind how it performs on both the iPad and the Nexus 10. And by noticeably, I mean about 3 to 5 seconds on average.

The Dell XPS 10's screen features a 1,366x768-pixel resolution stretched over a 10.1-inch space. While it looks just as sharp as the Surface RT's screen, the screen displays a slight yellow tint and its brightness doesn't reach the same heights. However, it's just as responsive to swipes and taps.

I did encounter quite a few bugs in my time with the XPS 10. A couple of times after connecting the keyboard, the screen would freeze and I'd need to disconnect, then reconnect it to get it working again. Also, the screen's brightness would dim if I bent the tablet in a certain position, regardless of changes to the light the ambient light sensor was receiving.

Tested spec Dell XPS 10 Asus VivoTab RT Microsoft Surface
Maximum brightness 335 cd/m2 495 cd/m2 391 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.76 cd/m2 0.45 cd/m2 0.27 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 443:1 1,100:1 1,448:1

The XPS 10 houses a Snapdragon S4 CPU with an Adreno 225 GPU. I used both Riptide GP and Hydro Thunder Hurricane to test the GPU's mettle. The XPS 10 delivered frame rates slightly higher than the Surface RT -- which houses a Tegra 3 processor -- managed, translating into decent, but not impressive performance compared with the silky-smooth frame rates Riptide GP delivers on the fourth-generation iPad and the Nexus 10. Also, unfortunately, in neither game on Windows RT can you configure the resolution.

The Microsoft Surface RT on the left and the XPS 10 on the right. James Martin/CNET

I used the XPS 10 disconnected from its keyboard for a few hours, watching video, surfing the Web, and playing games, and still had battery life to spare, and my purely anecdotal findings were that its battery seemed to drain slower than the Surface RT tablet performing similar tasks. While the XPS 10's keyboard accessory houses its own battery, it doesn't appear to have a battery life warning, so presumably it will just suddenly stop working in miduse.

Also, unlike the Asus VivoTab, the battery in the XPS 10's keyboard doesn't "feed" the tablet's battery and, unfortunately, the tablet's battery drains before the keyboard's. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here .

Battery life (in hours)
Dell XPS 10 (no dock) 9.6
Dell XPS 10 (with dock) 15.7

Conclusion
The Dell XPS 10 starts at $500 for just the tablet and runs you $680 for the tablet and keyboard with 32GB of storage. While it's a fine alternative, at those prices it can't match the value that Surface RT offers. However, those looking for a more laptoplike experience may find the XPS 10 a worthy purchase.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Dell XPS 10 (Windows RT)

Part Number: CNET-Dell-XPS-10

MSRP: $499.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications

  • Type Microsoft Windows RT