The first Windows RT tablets we reviewed all had an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor inside, but this one has a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core with 2 GB of RAM. The XPS 10 comes in a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB, but don't forget, Windows RT takes up about 15 of those gigs. It has a microSD card reader, which allows you to add more storage in the form a memory card; however, this solution only works for photos, videos, music, etc. and cannot store content from the Windows Store.
The XPS 10 has a 3.5 mm headphone jack; a micro-HDMI out; a 40-pin proprietary connector port for the charger, data transfers and the keyboard dock. The keyboard dock adds a mini-HDMI out, two USB 2.0 ports and a proprietary connector port. There's a 5-Megapixel camera sensor on the back (no LED flash) and a 2-Megapixel webcam on the front.
Dell is selling the 32 GB version for £459 with the dock and £339 without it. The 64 GB model goes for £524 with dock and £399 without.
Heavy. That's the first word that came to mind as we pulled the XPS 10 with its keyboard dock out of the box. At 1.3 kg, it's 250 grammes heavier than the Asus Vivo Tab RT, and you can tell the difference. The curved lines don't exactly scream 'originality', but the soft-touch surface on the back makes the tablet comfortable and easy to hold, and helps stabilise the dock.
The frame surrounding the screen is over 2 cm wide, which doesn't help much in terms of stylistic finesse. The tablet and dock are easy to attach, although we noticed a considerable amount of play in the hooking mechanism, which makes us wonder how stable it will be over time...
With frankly borderline weight compared to the rest of the late-2012/early-2013 convertible tablet/laptops on the market, the XPS 10 seems more like a thick, compact touchscreen ultrabook than an ultra-portable hybrid tablet. When you move the tablet around in your hands, you can hear the plastic creaking and the body feels hollow, far from dense.
The memory card compartment looks as though it's made for an SD/SDHC card, but in fact it's a microSD slot. If you look, you'll notice there's a lot of unused space on this edge of the tablet. How much do you want to bet it's for a future 3G SIM card slot that hasn't made it to market yet?
Aside from the slight creaking we mentioned earlier, the rest of the finish is well done, especially the keyboard dock, with its excellent keys and connectors (see inset).
We also noticed that the tablet section heats up at entirely random times, whether it's running or on standby.
The 10.1-inch IPS panel has 1366 x 768 resolution. Our biggest disappointment was the contrast: at 685:1, this is one of the lowest contrast ratios we've seen in nearly three years of reviewing IPS panels. At 339 cd/m², the screen brightness is much better, allowing for good legibility outdoors, as long as the exterior lighting is favourable.
As for the colour accuracy, it's a shame the yellows, blues and greens have such a will of their own, because the reds, greys and flesh tones are excellent. The 5150-kelvin colour temperature is stable throughout the spectrum and avoids any exaggerated blues or reds. This all makes for an average Delta E of 5.7, which is good for the current tablet market (Delta E measures the accuracy of the colours onscreen compared to their original, intended shades; 3 and below is ideal, making the XPS 10's overall fidelity good, but not perfect).
The display lag is over 25 ms, suggesting that there's a slight latency that's higher than the competition when scrolling through Windows RT's Modern UI interface.
The Dell XPS 10 gives you Windows RT in its purest form. That means you're stuck with its advantages and its disadvantages. The advantages are a pleasing interface that gives you quick access to your favourite activities, simple and enjoyable navigation and the Office 2013 suite. The disadvantages are the Windows Store, which doesn't have as many apps as its competitors and is the only place that offers RT-compatible apps; the fact that you can't install third-party programmes as you can on ordinary Windows 8; and a Windows 7-style desktop that's utterly useless in this context.
So you have to know what you're singing up for with Windows RT, but you also have to know that the XPS 10 has its share of optimisation issues as well. For while in the best of circumstances the interface runs smoothly, the XPS 10 can quickly turn into a lesson on how to reboot a tablet. We ran into some serious lagging, choppiness while scrolling through the Modern UI tiles, temporary blockages when trying to leave the lock screen, and even cases of the old 'jittery interface'. Basically, Dell and Microsoft need to have a pow wow to straighten out some of the kinks in the OS (such as slow app downloading).
The performance is even more regrettable when you consider that it has a Snapdragon S4, a CPU with astounding raw processing power that here is left under-utilised.
Web browsing is fast on the XPS 10; it's just as enjoyable an experience as ever on Windows RT. And Internet Explorer 10 has a lot to do with that. With 1366 x 768 pixels (155 dpi), the screen is adequately legible in landscape mode, but below average in portrait mode. The fast, precise zoom function quickly comes in handy for reading small text.
When it comes to video games, the XPS 10 relies solely on the Windows Store's pitiful selection of snore-a-thons. There are a few big names scattered here and there, such as Angry Birds and Sprinkle, but don't expect to feel like a kid in a candy store.
Then again, we downloaded TegraZone, a platform that usually only works for devices equipped with an Nvidia Tegra processor, and we downloaded a number of games that all launched fine on the XPS 10—something that's impossible to do on Android.
If you were thinking of using the camera, don't bother. Just knock it off your list. Because even when the conditions are right, there's nothing redeemable about this 5-Megapixel sensor. It struggles to take sharp, detailed pictures, and even then never succeeds. And in low lighting every photograph turns into a sort of pixel stew. The 2-Megapixel webcam, on the other hand, is perfectly fine for video chats and Skyping. When the lights are down low, the picture stays smooth with no major latency, although there's a good deal of noise in the image.
If there's one advantage to a keyboard dock, it's the ability to up the device's battery life. Alone, the XPS 10 lasts 8 hours and 20 minutes on average. It could certainly go past 9 hours, if only Dell would fix a few optimisation problems that sometimes detract from the overall experience.
Add a dock, and you have an additional 4 hours or so, which brings the total to over 12 hours, plenty of time to commute, work, commute again and then play at home. The tablet alone takes just under 4 hours to charge, and the tablet with keyboard attached takes about 5 ½ hours.
- Excellent physical keyboard
- Battery life
- Lots of connectivity
- Satisfactory webcam
- Overall finish
- Creaky body/design
- Lags & bugs when navigating
- Windows RT has its limits
- Proprietary port for charging and data transfers
- Weight with keyboard attached
- Speaker location
- Heat levels
- Main camera is mediocre
Dell took few risks with this sober design. The XPS 10 suffers from the shortcomings of its OS (Windows RT), as well as spots of technological shakiness and optimisation flaws. On the positive side, it has a great keyboard, lots of connectivity and good battery life.