Dell is no stranger to the enterprise, and IT departments have long embraced the brand. But now, Dell is stepping up its offerings by jumping into the hybrid market with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. Hybrid devices like the XPS 13 2-in-1 offer a tablet and notebook experience all-in-one, but in reality they're always more of a tablet -- like the iPad Pro -- or notebook, like the Surface Pro 4.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is not going to replace your iPad, but it gives mobile workers the option to quickly switch into tablet mode on the go. As an enterprise hybrid, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has a lot to offer, but as with any device trying to be two things at once, there is a con for every pro.
Pro: The standout feature on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is the InfinityEdge display, which shakes up the tired design of the traditional clamshell notebook. It's not only stylish, but it's also practical. Dell manages to pack a 13.3-inch display in the form factor of your average 11.6-inch notebook.
I've worked a variety of display sizes, but when I'm in work-mode, I find any display under 12.6-inches a bit cramped. And, while I enjoy working on the 12.6-inch Surface Pro 4, the slightly larger display on the XPS 13 2-in-1 is just a little better. The slightly larger display has made a difference in my multitasking and overall productivity.
Con: There are some downsides to the slimmed bezel, however. For instance, there isn't a good place to apply pressure when you're opening and shutting the display. It's not a huge issue, but I had to be mindful when opening the device not to push on the actual display with my thumb. The lack of bezel also created a few issues when shifting into tablet mode -- with nothing to grab on to. I accidentally closed programs, or selected items I didn't mean to when my thumb hit the display. I never found a comfortable way to rotate the display into tablet-mode or to open the lid quickly.
[ Related story: My month with the Surface Book i7 with Performance Base ]
Pros: I'm slightly obsessed with ports. I don't prioritize ports on my entertainment devices, like a tablet or smartphone, but I find it frustrating to have my work day interrupted by any type of connectivity issues. And since the device I'm using frequently changes, depending on what review unit I'm working with that day, I run into the issue constantly.
There are more ports on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 than I expected for such a slim device, and I was relieved to see that Dell included a separate charging USB-C port. I'm only counting this as a pro because it's one more port than I've seen on other hybrids -- like the iPad Pro and Samsung Tab Pro S. And you can opt to purchase the additional Thunderbolt docking station for $299 if you want to connect to multiple displays and peripherals. However, that might be a "con," depending on your budget.
Cons: I can't hold onto USB Type-A ports forever, and eventually all my peripherals and accessories will transition to the new standard, but I think an enterprise device needs more than one meager port. Especially since USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports are slim, versatile and incredibly powerful.
When USB-A ruled, devices often had two, or even three open ports. And while more accessories and peripherals have Bluetooth connectivity, I still prefer USB. I'd rather plug in my Logitech wireless receiver into a USB port, than sift around the settings to connect through Bluetooth. In terms of a workstation, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 doesn't offer enough for you to get up and running without a few adapters.
[ Related story: Is the speedy Surface Book i7 too expensive for IT? ]
Pros: The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has enough configurations to suit most workers. IT departments shouldn't have an issue deploying the right level of performance to each department. The entry-level model features an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for $950. At its highest configuration, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 features an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for $1450. There are plenty of options for every type of worker -- except for anyone who uses 3D software or intensive programs, but those workers won't look at this class of notebook to begin with.
Cons: Where the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 doesn't perform well, is tablet mode. Hybrid devices sell themselves as a tablet and notebook in one, but that's rarely the case. In this case, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is mostly a notebook, with the ability to act like a tablet. But as a "tablet," it's heavy, clunky and difficult to handle given the lack of bezel. I couldn't find a way to safely cradle the device without accidentally tapping the display along the edges. There are certainly use cases for this type of hybrid, but this is more of a notebook than anything else.
Pros: The XPS 13 2-in-1 is sleek, professional and sturdy and you won't be disappointed with the design. The display doesn't wobble, the trackpad is smooth and responsive and the back-lit keyboard is comfortable to type on. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is thoughtfully designed, and while it might not stand out in a crowd, you won't be frustrated by an overly sensitive trackpad or mushy keyboard. If you really want your workers to be productive, you have to give them tools that they are comfortable using.
Cons: One design element, or flaw, depending on how you see it, is the webcam. Because the bezel is so thin, the webcam is located at the bottom of the display, underneath the Dell logo. The placement is awkward and makes for an unnatural experience -- you have to look down to make "eye contact" with the camera, which makes it difficult to also keep an eye on the display. At the same time, if you decide to start typing, your fingers will block the camera. There's always "tent mode," which will reposition the webcam to the more traditional spot on your display, but then you won't have access to your trackpad or keyboard.
It's not a big deal if you rarely use a webcam, but if your job requires regular video chat, the XPS 13 2-in-1 presents a few issues. Not everyone wants to flip their laptop around every time they have a conference call, and if you're a presenter in a meeting, you want to maintain access to your mouse and keyboard.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 isn't the perfect hybrid, but that doesn't exist yet. At its best, it's a solid notebook that hits the mark on design, performance and price point. At its worst, it's a clunky tablet with limited connectivity options.
In this case, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for enterprise use, especially when coupled with Dell's longstanding reputation for customer service and support.