User Experience and Conclusion
The XPS 10 is being released into a crowded marketplace and it has more than one battle on its hands… as a tablet it has to compete with the likes of the Galaxy Tab and iPad. As a productivity tablet there is the Transformer range and as a Windows RT based device there is competition such as the Surface from Microsoft.
Starting with the hardware side the XPS 10 compares well with all of the above. There is minimal flex in the back and it is incredibly easy to hold thanks to the soft touch coating. Equally the silver coloured edges look nice compared to black plastic. The hardened, scratch proof glass provides resilience on the front and when combined with the dock we get an extra level of protection. This is only enhanced by a very robust dock connector and hinge with plenty of resistance to hold the screen at our preferred angle. We also like the keyboard provided by Dell, it is responsive and the touchpad is both accurate and offers a solid left and right click.
In terms of other design elements there is also a lot to like about the XPS 10, the button layout is decent and it is always good to see expandable storage. It is also reasonably light and we love the decision to go with a keyboard dock of this style. There are a few tweaks we would have made though, for example moving the audio connector closer to the bottom edge of the device to allow our headphone cable to trail more neatly. We find the slot covers on the bottom edge to be completely pointless… they are far too easy to lose and little additions like a function button for Print Screen would also be useful. We would also have liked to see a standard USB port at the thickest part of the tablet (next to the docking connector) but the ability to charge via the existing micro-USB is appreciated.
As with many high end tablets the XPS has two cameras with the front unit ideal for video calling and the back more for image capture. The quality of that back 5MP camera isn’t great, but neither are most alternatives (Surface has a terrible 1.2MP lens) and given the right light images on the XPS 10 turn out fine. Just be aware the capture is a little slow so stable hands are very much required and this particular lens drops in quality quickly in low light conditions.
We also found the overall performance of the XPS 10 to be good. We would have loved to see a quad core CPU in here (maybe Tegra 3) but the dual core model handles Windows RT fine with resuming from sleep a pretty fast experience…a bonus as booting from off is a little slow. In fact this tablet feels more robust and snappy than the Surface when using the OS which was somewhat of a surprise to us. Battery life is good at around 7 hours normal use from the tablet and in excess of 10 when docked and we like nice touches such as dual band Wi-Fi. Also the screen is crisp and clear with decent viewing angles but we would have liked to see a higher resolution.
For the UI the basics are reasonably simple. Hit a tile to open the appropriate software but Microsoft have done a less than great job on explaining how to use the various screen edges which leaves the user feeling a little lost on first boot. Rather than the basic tutorial on first boot Microsoft (or Dell) could have utilised something similar to Android where we get an overlay as we move about the OS for the first little while… even getting us to perform the key interactions there and then so that novices know the various swipes and what they do. Thankfully, off to the right of the start screen Dell have added a small tutorial which will assist somewhat but the fact that one had to be included says a lot.
Dropping into desktop mode offers the user an interface which is an area where we exceed the experience on other OS’s. It makes file management easier although those with larger fingers will find selecting items in Windows explorer a little harder. It is intuitive though. press items once for a left click, press and hold for the right click menu. We also get nice Windows based USB support too which means more of our devices are compatible and managing external storage, etc is easier here than on other mobile operating systems.