Move over Surface Pro 4: Dell challenges with new XPS 12

Dell's latest take on a 2-in-1 laptop / tablet is very much like Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 but with one key difference: The included keyboard is a solid base, not a thin cover.

If Microsoft's Surface strategy is getting hardware partners to revamp their products, it's apparently working. Dell updated its XPS laptop product line on Thursday with three refreshes and perhaps the most interesting one will challenge Microsoft's new Surface Pro 4.

Meet the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1.

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Like the base model $899 Surface Pro 4, Dell's XPS 12 uses an Intel Skylake Core M processor; the Core m5-6Y54 Dell chose is clocked at 1.1 GHz and ramps up to 2.7 GHz as needed. Microsoft is also offering Core i5 / i7 options in the Surface Pro 4. A pair of USB Type-C ports are used for charging, data transfer and external monitors. The tablet portion measures 8 millimeters thick and weights 1.75 pounds, according to Dell's official XPS 12 product page.

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The base model starts at $999 and includes the keyboard base along with 8 GB of memory and 128 GB of storage. Also like Microsoft's product, the XPS 12 has an 8 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front image sensor. Dell will offer an optional pen.

The XPS 12 display is 12.5-inches diagonally, just a tick larger than the Surface Pro's 12.3-inch screen.

Dell's base model, however, offers 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is below that of Microsoft's 2736×1824 choice. You can bump up to a 4K resolution with the XPS 12, however, bringing the price up to $1,299. That configuration also doubles your storage space but retains the Core m5 chip.

About that keyboard: It looks exactly like what I said when Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book earlier this week.

I tweeted that I wished for an actually keyboard base -- similar to the Surface Book -- for the Surface Pro 4. An "in between" typing solution as it were. Microsoft's Type Covers are nice but not fantastic when used on a lap, plus the trackpad is marginal.

Dell may have delivered what I hoped for. Instead of a thin keyboard cover, the new XPS 12 has a keyboard base -- with backlit keys -- that magnetically clips to the tablet screen. It's more substantial than a Surface Pro Type Cover although there is a design sacrifice: The display angle isn't adjustable since there isn't a kickstand.

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Dell says the XPS 12 becomes available on November 5 in the U.S.

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