Dell XPS 11 review: Dell's hybrid takes a Yoga-like turn

Ports and connections Dell XPS 11
Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery
While there isn't much room for ports on such a thin system, the XPS 11 does a good job of giving you the things you're most likely to need. It's especially nice to see a full-size HDMI output, when so many small systems we've seen lately have Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB, and microSD card ports.

The good news, again, is that the base model of the XPS 11 costs $1,049.99, roughly comparable to what you'd pay for a Surface Pro 2 plus keyboard, or a Lenovo Yoga. The bad news is that only gets you a Core i3 CPU and very small 80GB SSD. A more reasonable Core i5/128GB model is $1,249.99, with another $200 on top of that to add a 256GB SSD. Plenty of reasonably nice Core i5/128GB ultrabooks -- with designs that are not nearly as sharp-looking, to be sure -- are available for $900 or less.

Unlike some smaller laptops and hybrids with Intel Atom or other low-power CPUs, the XPS 11 has the same Intel Core i5 processor you'll find in many ultrabooklike systems. While in overall performance it lagged a bit behind other premium products, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and 11-inch MacBook Air, the XPS 11 can hold its own as an everyday performance and productivity machine, as long as the keyboard cooperates.

For a superportable system such as this, battery life is key, and the XPS does an excellent job here, running to 5 hours and 50 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's especially important if you plan to set it up in its kiosk mode for extended movie-viewing sessions.

Conclusion
The Dell XPS 11 is so close to what I'd love to get in an ultraportable hybrid that I was predisposed to like it a lot. That made the funky typing experience that much more disappointing, and I'm frankly shocked that Dell's own in-house testing didn't result in a change before this product was released. And it's not just me. Everyone in the CNET offices who tried the XPS 11 had a similar reaction.

Apart from the hard-to-use keyboard, the design and build quality of the XPS 11 are fantastic. It costs a little more than I'd like to spend on that particular set of components, but this is a laptop-tablet hybrid that's only one or two tweaks away from being really amazing.

HandBrake multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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System configurations

Dell XPS 11
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GGB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 256GB Samsung SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 128GB Samsung SSD

MacBook Air 11-inch
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (Sharedl) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 64GB SSD

Asus Transformer Book TX300C
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD1 SanDisk 128GB SSD, HD2 500GB 5,400rpm Hitachi

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Weight 2.5 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4200
  • CPU Intel Core i3 (4th Gen) 4020Y / 1.5 GHz
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