Dell XPS 12: Performance

December 5, 2012 by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (127,091)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 7
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 3
    • Usability
    • 9
    • Design
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Features
    • 9
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.57
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Performance and Benchmarks

Our Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook review unit has the following specifications:

  • 12.5-inch glass touch-enabled display with wide viewing angles (IPS panel with 1920×1080 resolution)
  • Windows 8 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-3317U dual-core processor (1.7GHz, up to 2.6GHz Turbo Boost, 3MB cache, 17W TDP)
  • Integrated Intel HD graphics
  • 4GB DDR3-1600 RAM (8GB max.)
  • 128GB mSATA Solid State Drive (Samsung SSD PM830)
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235
  • Integrated Bluetooth 3.0
  • Integrated HD webcam
  • No internal optical drive
  • 1-year limited warranty (Dell Pro Support)
  • 6-cell 47WHr
  • Weight: 3.35 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 12.48 x 8.46 x 0.59~0.79 inches
  • Price as configured: $1,199.99

Although this is the XPS 12’s base configuration it provides more than enough power for most usages. The notebook is offered with a slightly faster Core i7 processor, up to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD; the top-end model with all of the aforementioned upgrades runs $1,699.99 as of writing — ouch!

One area where the XPS 12 fails to deliver is 3D gaming — a drawback to the integrated Intel HD graphics — but the integrated graphics are more than adequate for Windows 8’s app tile animations and basic browser-based games.

The XPS 12’s overall performance is very good in Windows 8; I noticed no signs of slowness or hesitation when in notebook or tablet mode. The low voltage i5 processor is fast enough for nearly everything including some light Photoshop and helps keep the heat down and battery life up. 4GB of RAM is more than adequate for normal usage; 8GB is nice but probably a waste for most users. The 128GB SSD is a fast Samsung 830 series mSATA model. Remember Dell offers the XPS 12 with a 256GB version as well.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark and measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark 11 measures overall system performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

Heat and Noise

The XPS 12 has a single fan located at the back left corner of the chassis. Exhausted air is deflected off the display hinge where it then escapes. Normally I’m not a fan of this layout but it makes sense given the XPS 12 doubles as a tablet and will be held from nearly everywhere; the fan’s output needs to be shielded from covering hands so it isn’t blocked.

For normal usage (Internet surfing and so on) the XPS 12 remains room temperature with no sign of heat generation. Under full load it can get a bit warmer on the left side but just barely so. The XPS 12 runs a bit warmer in tablet mode but again never approaches the “hey, this thing is getting warm” threshold. The fan is audible under load and makes a slight whine but shouldn’t be audible in a less than quiet atmosphere. Overall the cooling solution works well.

Battery Life

For the battery life test in Windows 8 we use Powermark; it’s a combination of web browsing, word processing, gaming and video playback workloads. This new test is far more strenuous than our previous test and better simulates real world usage. As a result the battery life scores are considerably lower.

Powermark battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):

The Dell XPS 12 ran for 3 hours and 29 minutes on its built-in 6-cell battery (47WHr). This would be somewhere between five and six hours on our old benchmark that simulated continuous web browsing. Overall this is a decent but not outstanding time for an ultraportable notebook.

Software and Windows 8

I had my share of issues with the included software, namely Windows 8. I’m unable to determine whether the issues are directly related to Windows 8, the XPS 12 or both. Issues I experienced:

  • The touch functionality would occasionally stop working everywhere in the system, resolved by restarting the system.
  • The system didn’t always shut off correctly, requiring a hard shutdown (holding the power button for five seconds).
  • Whenever an app was purchased in the Windows 8 app store, the touch functionality would stop working in the app store.
  • Occasionally I could not restore full screen brightness after coming out of standby.


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