Hands on: Dell twists the XPS 13 into a 2-in-1

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 is priced at $999 and will ship this month

Dell has just improved its already brilliant XPS 13 -- it will now be available as a 2-in-1, which means the device has the versatility to be a laptop or a tablet.

I had the chance to play around with the device prior to CES. It has a clever design and wowed me with its sleek design and edge-to-edge screen, but it won't come cheap.

The starting price of the XPS 13 2-in-1 is US$999, and it'll start shipping this month. That's about $200 more than the starting price of the XPS laptop. You are paying more for the versatility of the XPS 13 2-in-1.

On the outside, the XPS 13 2-in-1 looks like the XPS 13 laptop, but Dell has changed the hinge connecting the keyboard base and screen. The screen can be rotated 360 degrees to turn the device into a tablet.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 weighs 1.24 kilograms and is surprisingly thin and light thanks to its intelligent design. With its 13.3-inch edge-to-edge screen, the device fits in a typical frame of an 11.6-inch laptop. There's more screen to work with and less border surrounding the display.

Though intended to be a laptop first, it excels as a tablet, thanks to the brilliant screen and the light weight of the tablet.

The unit I tested had a 3200 x 1800-pixel screen, which is the maximum resolution. The colors were bright and vivid, and videos played smoothly. A 4K option won't be available, unfortunately.

Dell claims the battery life of the XPS 13 2-in-1 ranges from nine to 15 hours, depending on how you use it. The battery life goes up if you're doing basic productivity work and declines to around nine hours if you are watching Netflix movies.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a step down in performance compared to the XPS 13 laptop, but the decline is not visible when running basic applications or graphics.

The device has a 7th Generation Intel Core i5-7Y54 or Core i7-7Y75 processor, which aren't as speedy as the mainstream Kaby Lake-based Core i3, i5, and i7 processors offered in the XPS 13 laptop. An Intel integrated GPU can support 4K graphics play-back on external displays.

Dell went with the Y-series Kaby Lake chips so the XPS 13 2-in-1 can provide long battery life, compared to tablets today.

Otherwise, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is loaded with the latest features, comparable to its laptop cousin. It has 802.11ac wireless, Thunderbolt 3, a micro-SD card slot, and two USB Type-C 3.1 ports. The USB Type-C port works with HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has inherited some weaknesses from the laptop. For all its wonderful features, the device hasn't solved a webcam problem. It has an infrared camera and webcam under the screen -- jokingly called "nosecam" because of its angle relative to the user's nose. It's a design compromise because of the edgeless screen, and there's no space, when it's used as a laptop, to put a webcam on top of the screen. In tablet mode, the device can be reoriented to put the webcam on top of the screen, however.

Some users are comfortable with the webcam's location, others are not.

So if you want versatility, go with the XPS 13 2-in-1, but if you're looking to multitask, go for the XPS 13 laptop. Nevertheless, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is a fine hybrid device with a great screen.

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