Tablets that convert into laptops are all the rage right now, with all the major companies offering some kind of transforming device. Dell's XPS 12 was the company's first hybrid device, offering a screen that flips over.
The XPS 10 meanwhile is fundamentally a tablet first and foremost. It can be used with a keyboard dock as well though, which turns it into something resembling a netbook. It's running on Windows RT, rather than full-fat Windows 8, meaning you can't install regular desktop software.
The range starts at £339 for the 32GB tablet. If you want the keyboard dock with it -- which you almost certainly will -- you'll have to shell out £459. The top 64GB model with the keyboard comes in at the peppery price £524.
Should I buy the Dell XPS 10?
No. Its outward design, though dull, is inoffensive enough, but it's ruined by appalling build quality. The back panel came away from the frame so much that I thought it was removable (it's not). The screen is acceptable but is dwarfed by an enormous bezel that makes it look squashed in and cheap.
Its saving grace is the keyboard dock, which allows for more comfortable typing while providing extra battery life. Unfortunately, it's an optional extra that'll add an extra £120 onto the price. That pushes the XPS 10 into the lower end of the mid-range laptop arena, putting it in direct competition with more powerful machines running full-fat Windows 8. This version of the software allows you to install desktop software -- something you can't do on Windows RT.
At £400, Microsoft's 32GB Surface tablet is a little more expensive than the £340 demanded for the same capacity XPS 10, but for that you get a considerably better quality -- and better looking -- machine.
Design and build quality
If you didn't guess from the numbers in the name, the XPS 10 is a 10-inch slate. It measures 274mm wide and 177mm deep, making it slightly narrower than Apple's iPad. It's not difficult to hold and weighs in at 635g, meaning you won't feel too bogged down by it.
If you attach the keyboard base, it becomes 1.3kg and measures 24mm thick at its fattest end. That definitely keeps it portable enough to hurl into a backpack and whisk off on a trip. The dock will also help protect the screen from stray keys if you don't have it in a sleeve.
Design wise, it's really not something to write home about. The back consists of a large piece of matte black plastic, broken in the middle by the shiny Dell logo. It's bordered the whole way round by a silver strip. It's inoffensive enough but it doesn't look anything like as lush as the iPad's all-metal back.
Nor does it feel anything like as expensive. The tablet's casing is extremely creaky when you poke and squeeze it and it's possible to distort the screen's image when give it a little bend. Worse still, that silver edging actually comes away from the body in places -- so much so in fact that I thought at first that it was removable. I eventually realised that it isn't -- I was just breaking it.
Build quality seems extremely poor. I have no faith that it will be able to put up with much abuse and I certainly wouldn't want to invest the £400 in something that I doubt would be in one piece down the line. It's possible that this is an isolated build quality issue but it doesn't fill me with confidence. By comparison, Microsoft's Surface tablet felt exceedingly well put together, with no unpleasant creaking and no loose panelling.
It doesn't get much better when you pop it in the keyboard dock. For a start, you have to be quite accurate in where you're placing the tablet to make sure the points line up -- it's easy to get the clips to slot into the wrong part of the tablet. It also doesn't hold the screen in place as firmly as I'd like, resulting in a lot more creaking from the tablet when you open and close it.
Around the edges of the tablet you'll find a micro-USB port, a microSD card slot, a 35mm headphone jack, a power button and volume rocker. Attach the dock and you'll get an extra two full-sized USB 2.0 ports and a mini-HDMI port.
The keyboard on the dock is slightly smaller than the ones you'll find on Dell's full-sized XPS laptops, but it's still fairly comfortable and easy to type on unless you have particularly giant hands. The trackpad is reasonable, but you'll find it much more comfortable to poke and swipe your way around Windows 8, switching to the dock only when you need to type something.
Although the screen measures 10.1 inches on the diagonal, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's smaller. For some reason, Dell has given it a whopping bezel the whole way around making the actual display area look incredibly boxed in.