Dell has marked its recent buyout at the hands of founder Michael Dell by announcing new Windows 8.1-based XPS laptops and Venue tablets aimed squarely at enterprise users. Computing took them for a spin to see how they measured up to the competition.
The top-of-the-range quad core Intel Haswell i7 and NVidia graphics-driven XPS 15 comes with 1TB of solid state storage, voice activation and even NFC.
Dell claims its UltraSharp 15.6in "quad HD" touch display – with its gargantuan 3,200x1,800 resolution – is a "first in the world". In fact, it is not unlike similar offerings from Lenovo and HP, but it is certainly crisp and impressive to look at. Dell won't tell us how much the machine costs, but judging by its other i7 offerings, this beast could easily break the £2,000 mark.
The XPS 13, with its 11in screen, is likely to be cheaper and will be available with i3, i5 and i7 processors, with Haswell. Interestingly, Dell quoted a 10-hour battery life for this notebook, which gives some idea of just how impressive a well-specced Haswell machine can get.
The XPS 11 is Dell's latest attempt at cracking the tablet-laptop convertible puzzle that Microsoft almost managed – with battery life and usability concessions – with Surface, and that Lenovo made silly with its multiply-folding Yoga series.
While it still leaves the switched-off keyboard buttons at the back when folded into tablet mode, Dell makes the choice (however potentially mistaken) of opting for a flat keyboard in the style of the Surface's default "touch keyboard". While not quite as flat and cardboard-like as the default Microsoft option, Computing was not a big fan of the board, despite Dell's promised 0.5mm travel on the keys. The 2,560x1,440 IPS (in-plane switching) display, however, is a joy to behold.
Resurrecting its Venue brand from several years back, the Venue Pro 8 faces fairly feeble competition in the Windows tablet market. Despite Steve Ballmer bigging it up at Build in June, the Acer Iconia W3 is pretty dreadful, while early word on Toshiba's Encore device is also negative, citing sludgy performance speeds as a result of the machine's Atom processor.
Powered by Intel's quad core Atom-based SoC (system on a chip) Bay Trail, the Venue Pro 8 is no slouch. Mind you, this was not particularly the Iconia's problem either – it was the contrast-shifting screen and poorly-defined presentation of Windows 8's tiny icons that really let that device down.