If you think you need to carry all of your digital files (especially videos and multimedia) with you at all times, stop reading this and go read a review for a more power user-oriented system. Still here? Okay, the Dell XPS 10 ($679.99 bundled with keyboard dock) has one of the longest battery life test results we've seen. You can use this convertible tablet on the longest flight in the world, and still have battery power left over to check your email when you land. An even better use would be for a busy student or business corridor nomad who rarely has a chance to plug in: 20+ hours of battery life means that you can stay connected all day and well into the night. If "Office and the Internet" are your primary needs on a computer, then our new (and first) Editors' Choice winner for Windows RT tablets is the everyday computer you can carry everywhere.
Design and Features
The XPS 10 follows the now familiar hybrid tablet format. Primarily, it's a slate tablet, measuring a slim 0.36 by 11 by 7 inches (HWD) and weighing 1.36 pounds. Connected to its keyboard dock, the system grows to just under an inch thick (0.94 inch) while keeping its other dimensions, and the combo weighs in at 2.63 pounds.
Like other tablets, the XPS 10 is constructed from magnesium alloy and has a soft touch finish. The screen is covered by seamless Asahi Dragontail glass, and has a five-point touch capability. (Asahi Dragontail glass is a strengthened glass competitor to Corning's Gorilla Glass.) The tablet latches to the keyboard dock easily, and can be removed just as easily by pushing a sliding tab on the keyboard dock hinge. When the two are connected, the XPS 10 looks and acts like a small laptop, with a comfortable keyboard and one-piece multitouch trackpad.
Around the edges of the XPS 10 are the tablet's docking/charging connector, a micro-USB port (with included full sized USB port dongle), volume control, micro-SD card slot, and headset jack. The keyboard dock has a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a mini-HDMI port (with included mini-HDMI to full HDMI dongle), and charging port. You can plug the AC adapter into the dock or the tablet's docking connector for charging, one AC adapter is included with the tablet, and one with the keyboard dock ($180). Since you have both chargers, you can leave one at home and carry the other with you in your travel bag. If you're in a pinch, you can use a standard micro-USB cable and USB charger to recharge or power the XPS 10, albeit at a slow trickle rate.
One nicety we found during testing are the keyboard dock's built-in speakers. When the tablet is used alone, the sound is fine for Web surfing and alert sounds. When you connect the keyboard dock, the speakers in the dock work in concert with the speakers in the tablet to give you a louder, richer audio experience. The combo won't replace an external soundbar for critical viewing/listening, but with this combo you won't have to turn on closed captioning to understand what's going on (in dialogue-heavy movies), especially if you're sharing the screen with a friend.
The XPS 10's IPS screen measures 10.1 inches (diagonally), which matches the screen size of its other hybrid docking tablet rival, the Asus VivoTab RT. Both screens are physically smaller than the 10.6-inch screen on the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT, even though all three screens sport a 1,366-by-768 resolution. The XPS 10's IPS screen is easily viewable from many angles, and its resolution supports 720p HD video. Any 1080p HD video can be downscaled for viewing on the system's screen, but it's a better viewing experience to watch 720p videos natively instead.
Accelerometers make sure the screen is always pointing "up" whether you are holding the system in portrait or landscape mode. Taps and swipes on the screen were responsive, as were the controls on the physical keyboard dock and trackpad. The responsive trackpad is an improvement over the VivoTab RT and even some ultrabooks like the Vizio 14-Inch Thin + Light (CT14-A4) .
There are two major drawbacks with Windows RT: compatibility and the closed ecosystem. Since the XPS 10 and other RT-based systems run a version of Windows over an ARM processor (the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4), older programs are not compatible with RT. The only source for programs is the Windows Store in the system's Start screen. You can't download and install your favorite browser, you can't buy programs from a third party site (like Steam or Origin), and you can't install many browser plug-ins either. The one plus on the program side is that the system comes with Microsoft Office 2013 RT (Home and Student) pre-loaded, and that the system is somewhat protected from viruses (through Windows Defender and the fact that x86 code won't run on it).
The system is bloatware free, since the only pre-loaded programs are Office, Skype, Dell Shop (physical products from Dell), Getting Started with Windows RT (a help program), and Dell dock settings. Getting Started with Windows RT is a good set of videos and documentation to help new users learn how to use Windows RT and the new user interface. When we pulled the XPS 10 out of its box, we noticed that it only has 15.9GB free out of a 23.8GB indicated. This means that you better view most of videos from online, as you won't have too much local storage unless you pop a microSD card into the XPS 10. Still, 16 GB should be enough for Office files like Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. You can also use Microsoft's SkyDrive for cloud storage.
When connected to the Web, the XPS 10 is an excellent tool. Internet Explorer starts up quickly, and websites load quickly as well. Programs like Netflix and Hulu+ work as you'd expect. However, as stated above, the number of Windows RT compatible apps is still severely limited compared with those for Android Tablets and iPads. About the only thing that RT tablets have over the other mobile platforms are the fully compatible copy of Office and the fact that the OS on RT tablets acts like a typical Windows OS. The XPS 10 comes with a one-year warranty standard with options for extending that warranty through Dell's ProSupport service.
Because of its ARM-based processor, the Dell XPS doesn't run our Windows benchmark tests like 3DMark 11 or PCMark 7. The test that we can run is one of the most important: battery life. The XPS 10 lasts a staggering 11 hours and 34 minutes alone, and tops 20-and-a-half hours (20:36) when connected to its fully charged keyboard dock. This is a phenomenal amount of battery life. It's certainly enough to last the whole flight between virtually any two nonstop points on the planet (currently the Newark to Singapore flight SQ21, at 18 hours, 50 minutes). This means the XPS 10 and dock last a lot longer than the Asus VivoTab RT with its dock (16:03) or alone (9:37). The XPS 10 also outlasted the Microsoft Surface RT (7:45). While all of the RT tablets outlast laptops and tablets with ultrabook-class processors like the Microsoft Surface Pro (4:58), Atom-powered tablets can give you full Windows 8 compatibility and long battery life like the Dell Latitude 10 (19:38 with extended battery).
Essentially, it comes down to what you need out of your tablet. If you need the ultimate in portability and don't care at all about compatibility with Windows, then grab an iPad or Google Nexus 7. If you absolutely, positively need legacy program support or Windows 8 Pro compatibility, then a full-blown Windows 8 tablet like the Editors' Choice Dell Latitude 10 or Microsoft Surface Pro is worth the added expense. However, if you need insanely long battery life and your critical "Windows compatibility" needs are limited to Office documents, then you can get a Windows RT tablet like the Dell XPS 10. It's one of the better RT tablets we've seen so far, and our new Editors' Choice for Windows RT tablets.
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