Technology Review…………Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook

CRASH!!!!!

Now that the prelude is over, let’s get down and dirty with the details.

HANG UP!!!!!

I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY…………………………………….CTRL….ALT…….DELETE

Can I get a word in here, seriously?

OK.  Joking aside.  Here is my real review.  Yes, it has crashed a few times.  Yes I lost a document or two already.  But that isn’t really a tech review, is it?

I am a man spoiled rotten by Apple and their near flawless products…So I WILL take it hard on this machine.

To begin with, look at that name.  Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook—-They should add a few more words, how about “Tablet Laptop Computer.”  That would do nicely.  And that would almost fully explain the machine.  It’s a Dell, so guess what?  Windows.  Not just any Windows, but shiny new Windows 8!  (Should I use the word Surface, or Pro, or Metro, or Windows Phone Mobile?  I lose track after awhile.)

I am going to start with the machine, then move to a review of the operating system.  You might say, “But SpartanNerd, that ain’t fair!”  Keep yer “buts” down.  This is how I would review a Mac, no?  LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, Hub City Geeks.

To review the machine, just look at these pictures.

Yep.  This machine is a transformer.  It transforms from a laptop into a tablet.

In laptop mode, you can tell that it is clearly inspired by Appl….I mean Intel!  It is an ultrabook, meaning that it is inspired by the MacBook Air, literally, but by saying that it is inspired by Intel, they are skirting the truth that must be mighty uggly to them.  And that has two “g”s.  It has a backlit keyboard, which is cool, but the letters themselves don’t light up.  This takes away from the “jewelry store” effect you get from first turning on a new mac, but it works essentially the same in every other way.  The keys are also “chiclet”style.  As you can see my standard issue model from work that I am reviewing here has a black and grey color scheme.  There is some shinier places on it around the edges, etc.

The trackpad is frustrating.  I am really spoiled with the Macbook Pro’s trackpad.  The one on the XPS 12 isn’t as responsive, seems to want me to actually click it, and doesn’t mimic touchscreen gestures.  In other words, it is a different language than the tablet part of the machine.  Someone might say, “Big deal.  You know it is in laptop mode.”  Well, as you get to using this thing, you start to see that this IS a big deal.  You have to teach yourself two different ways of communicating with the same machine.

One more, sort of minor thing.  Backspace and delete are DIFFERENT BUTTONS.  Has it been like this, and I just forgot?  And the little things count, so here’s another one.  I like to be able to open my screen and the keyboard stay put, because the heavier part doesn’t move.  Any MacBook Pro user knows what I am talking about.  But this don’t happen with almost any other computer, including the XPS 12.

Other things, you turn the machine on via a little switch on the left side.  It has a glowing light, also akin to a Mac.  The USB ports are on the right side of the machine, for when you get frustrated with that trackpad and decide to switch to a mouse.  The USB jacks on mine are very tight.  I have to pull really hard to remove my USB chord from the socket!  There are also battery lights on the right side that activate at the push of a button.  Sound familiar?

So, while you are in laptop mode, you also have the touchscreen that works.  I might sound like someone who writes for Macworld when I say this, but it IS awkward to reach up and touch the screen while you are laptop mode. It just seems wrong.  After awhile, your hand does get tired.  Also, me and every other technology geek out there have trained ourselves…”Don’t touch the screen!”   Now that we can, we feel like, “Why?  I have a mouse attached!”

So, is it a workhorse?  Hardly.  Read the first couple of sentences.  I don’t know how much RAM it has, or anything, but I guarantee it isn’t enough.  MICROSOFT WORD HANGS UP!  Keep in mind nothing else is running besides Outlook.  I hate to think I was playing an intense game on this machine ….shudder…..

I told the SpartanMrs. I would try and be nice, so here goes….It is light.  It is kind of cool looking in laptop mode.  I already like it better than my Desktop Windows machine.  How’s that?  I can sit in my comfy office chair and check my e-mail.  And not walk 10 feet to the uncomfy plastic chair.

Now, let’s transform it.  The transformation is spiffy!  But I have to wonder how long this mechanism will last.  My boss assured me that it was tested hundreds or thousands of times by a sweatshop worker robot.  We’ll see.  I have my doubts, mostly because the springs that make it click in place are made of plastic.  You flip the screen around, and collapse it over the keyboard.  Now you have a tablet computer.

This tablet is supposed to use the ol’ “metro” screen.  But it can switch to regular Windows.  See above for how well this works out.  The tablet stuff feels right here, but the desktop applications don’t so much.

This screen is NOT “oleo-phobic.”  It will pick up your fingerprints, streaks of oil and grime and dirt.  And because it is sort of big……much bigger than an iPad Mini (my preferred tablet,) you can’t easily wipe it on your pants legs.  So keep a hanky handy!  And did I mention elbow grease?

You press the “Windows” button at the bottom, to get a Home Screen effect like you would on an iPod or iPhone.  Other than that, I don’t know what to say, except that sometimes it gets stuck in an orientation that you don’t want, and it doesn’t readily switch the way you want it like an iPad would.  You have to exaggerate motions in the directions to get the re-orientation to trigger.

So what about this Windows 8 Operating System?  I would like to say a few nice things first.  I am glad it isn’t an IOS clone, like Android is apparently.  “Stolen product,” anyone?  The Windows Home Screen (formerly known as Metro, to techies out there) is kind of pretty.  I like how the “live tiles” update stuff.  This is arguably better than what an iPhone or iPad can do.  And the tiles don’t work like IOS icons.  BUT, they aren’t as easy to learn….not as intuitive.

I said a few nice things, but, it has the “I am going to make you work for it” philosophy that Windows has always had.  It isn’t an intuitive system.  I am afraid Apple took the easy ideas already, and patented them.  Not that I believe MicroSoft would have chosen the easiest stuff if they were first to the party.  Remember, they were the first people to market “tablet computers,” and were never able to bust the market open the way Apple did with their trained and groomed crowd of iPhone users.

Here is an example.  I was working in Microsoft Word.  I decided to switch and browse for some clip art with Internet Explorer.  I used the tablet version of the browser.  Then, I was like….”how do I get back to the desktop?  Well, the way this works, is you swipe from the top of the screen to the bottom to close a program.  I did that, which brought me to the Windows Home screen.  But I wanted to see the desktop….and I started to get frustrated, then I remembered.  Swipe from left to right to browse screens.

See what I mean?  If someone hadn’t told me how to do that, I wouldn’t have got it.

How about this, How do you make it sleep?  You flick the right side to make a menu appear, choose, “settings,” then hit the power button graphic, and choose sleep from the menu.  Isn’t that too much work FOR A BASIC FUNCTION?  I could transform it and close it clamshell style.  But that is too much work, too.

So what is my rating for this machine?

I give it a 5/10.  It is better than my old desktop (3/10.)  It isn’t a 9/10 like my MacBook Pro  (I mark down the MB Pro because the rubber pads on bottom come off too easily.)  What computer is a 10/10?  My desktop iMac.  (2006 model)  Maybe I’m going too easy on that one, the SpartanMrs. and I spent a long night replacing the hard drive in that one.

Maybe after awhile this tablet computer will become like “an old friend,”  But I have yet to really bond with it.

“Silly Rabbi,” said George, “Tricks are for Kids!”             (Nerdy quote from Captain Underpants #5)

I like putting these Nerdy quotes.  Comment people!

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