Dell's Windows 8-Based Fall Refresh For 2012
Tom's Hardware was recently invited to a press event in New York to preview Dell's line-up of Windows 8-oriented Inspiron and XPS families of notebooks, tablets, and accessories. Without question, the company is all-in across its portfolio. We had a few minutes to check out each piece of hardware on display (there were quite a few), so we wanted to pass on our initial impressions and commentary.
Ten-point capacitive touch is becoming a standard option on many of Dell's models at a $100-$200 premium. Some other surprises included a fantastic multi-jointed articulating monitor, a new touchpad, and a reboot of the Duo 12.
We did notice the company from Round Rock, TX continuing to tweak and apply its round-rectangle design language across its consumer-oriented products, which we liked. It's good to have a recognizable aesthetic that invokes a strong classic look.
None of the company's 2012 models have user-serviceable batteries, though, in deference to a desire for more anorexic figures across the board.
Dell's S2340T Monitor
Dell is adding a mid-range 23” monitor called the S2340T with a native 1920x1080 resolution to its line-up. What's new, though? Well, that T stands for touch. The S2340T gets the aforementioned articulating monitor stand that allows the display to adjust not just up and down, but also tilted parallel to the table and even pressed flat, like a pad of paper hovering over a desk. Unfortunately, the stand doesn't seem to allow pivoting to portrait mode or rotating around the Y-axis, but those are minor points.
What’s the big deal about the stand? For a large display with a touch-screen, it's ergonomically more comfortable to use, since the flexible mount helps reduce touchscreen fatigue.
The back of the screen's stand sports a nice docking station-like complement of ports: power, HDMI input, DisplayPort input, two USB 3.0 connectors, and a USB 3.0 uplink. Better for the rat's nest to be confined to the back of the pedestal than crawling up the monitor, in my opinion. Kudos to Dell on this design decision.
The S2340T is already available on Dell's site for $650.
Inspiron 14z And 15z Are Siblingz
When I walked up to the table, the red Inspiron 15z (available with a touchscreen) wanted to hug my camera like a supermodel. Needless to say, I ran my hands all over this firecracker to confirm that the red anodized brushed metal is finished all the way around the keyboard and clamshell top. Although there's nothing new to report to hardcore Dell fans, this system is still eye candy in the sea of straight-as-an-arrow black and grey conformity shipping over from Asia. I did not test to see if the red trim is switchable, as it was on the previous edition.
Meanwhile, the Inspiron 14z returns after a minor refresh. More on the 14z shortly. I wanted more of that 15z.
More About The Inspiron 15z
Of the Inspiron notebooks, I consider the 15z's keyboard to feature the best overall design (a result of steady improvements over time). Its chiclet-style keys are decked out in Dell’s signature design language, it's backlit in a beautiful blue color, and the proportions are nice.
The key font is softened, from the older alien-like appearance of sibling models to a classier curvier Corbel-like look. The keys on the right side of the board aren't quite what I'm used to, but the full-sized arrow keys and paging buttons shouldn't take long to get used to. The half-sized function keys along the top appear improved from the previous generation, and the raised surface on the down arrow is a nice touch as a frame of reference.
Dell hides the 15z's power button in the notebook's left hinge (a new design element). But we're note quite sure what the three buttons in the upper right-hand corner are supposed to be. They almost look like an afterthought.
Ports And Connectors On The Inspiron 15z
The Inspiron 15z's hinge is sturdy, and the laptop, closed, is thin.
Because Dell is moving away from user-replaceable batteries, the bottom of the 15z is clean, aside from a handful of vents.
Available ports and slots include what appear to be four USB 3.0 connectors, SD/MMC slots, a power receptacle, a Kensington lock, wired Ethernet, HDMI output, and a headphone jack. Farewell and good riddance, legacy VGA. Dell also offers optional DVD and Blu-ray drives, which help explain why the 15z isn't as diminutive as some of the other Ultrabooks we've tested.
Inspiron 14z Looks Good, Too
Dell's Inspiron 14z makes a reappearance with Windows 8 and third-gen Intel Core processors. It’s slightly smaller than the 15z, but as you can see here, it shares the same good looks.
Similarly, the XPS 14 and XPS are back as well, stepping things up in the hardware department.
Dell XPS Duo 12
No doubt, a lot of people are on the edge of their seats waiting for this refresh of Dell's XPS Duo 12. The old-school Duo 12 broke ground on the concept of a convertible. However, its Atom-based processor often ended up sucking exhaust fumes from speedier competition.
This time around, however, the Duo 12 emerges with its tires spinning and an Ivy Bridge-based processor under the hood. Although there's a corresponding price increase, I think it's well worth getting away from the anemic Atom. The 12.5" screen (with durable Gorilla Glass) is naturally designed for touch input.
As a laptop, this one looks good. But flip the screen around and you're sure to attract some attention.
More About The XPS Duo 12
Configured as a laptop, the XPS Duo 12 is fairly average-looking (aside from the fact that it's a fairly thin Ultrabook). There is a big of space between the display and its surrounding frame, but that's really the only indication of this machine's flexibility. I'm not sure I like the border around the keyboard, but otherwise this machine looks like it came right out of the same design lab as Dell's XPS 10.
The internals are, of course, much beefier than the Qualcomm Snapdragon-based tablet, though. As mentioned, Dell is using an ultra-low-voltage Core i3, i5, or i7 CPU, up to 8 GB of low-voltage DDR3 memory, and as much as 256 GB of solid-state storage attached via mSATA.
XPS Duo 12: Tablet Mode
The pieces of the XPS Duo 12 feel like they fit together more securely in tablet mode.
It’s likely the XPS Duo 12 will lock horns with Asus' upcoming Taichi. Personally, I think the Duo 12's screen is both more innovative and practical. I'd like to see Dell pursue clever designs like this more often.
The TP713 Wireless Touchpad
Perhaps the most intriguing product was Dell's upcoming TP713 wireless touchpad. The sample I held was most definitely pre-production; it had more more Xs on the back of it than an adult book store.
In all seriousness, though, we get our purest sense of Dell's instantly-recognizable design philosophy from the TP713—a rectangle with rounded corners that complements the aesthetics of every Dell product launching this quarter. I spent some time clicking around on the touchpad, and while there weren't any exotic-feeling materials in play, the device is comfortable enough to use and it looks good next to Dell's current keyboard design. A faint white line delineates where you'd press for left and right mouse clicks.
Although Dell didn't make it clear at the time, this touchpad does support multi-touch gestures. No mention is made of handwriting input or Asian character entry, though we can confirm that the pad registers input from one edge to the other.
Inspiron One 23 All-In-One
Dell's Inspiron One 23 all-in-one system gets a 10-point capacitive touchscreen in time for Windows 8. There are no other major changes to the 23 (if it isn't broken, don't fix it). Dell already had Sandy and Ivy Bridge-based options available with up to 8 GB of memory and up to 1 TB of hard drive space, after all.
Rather, the 23 keeps its handsome looks and clean lines. You only need to hook a power cord up to this thing. And unlike the One 27, this model features a removable stand so you can use an optional VESA wall mount. Both models include a wireless mouse and keyboard.
Bought a notebook from them this time. But never gain!
My money is going to Samsung/Asus next time.
Hows about a Thinkpad? :P