Dell XPS 12 Might Be a Surface Pro Alternative

Subject: Systems | September 14, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: xps 12, thunderbolt 3, Surface Pro, dell

So Microsoft got a form factor right when they designed the Surface and Surface Pro tablets. The concept is basically a tablet with a kickstand that can be attached magnetically to a keyboard at the bottom. We are seeing a few OEMs do their own versions, although some question whether it is imitation or a license from Microsoft.

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Image Credit: Giga

One such device is the Dell XPS 12, and it has some fairly interesting components according to a leak from Giga. This tablet has a 4K screen with 400 nits of brightness, which is useful for outdoor viewing. It is supposedly compatible with the Dell Active Stylus. This pen apparently has good reviews, but it takes AAAA batteries (not a typo). They might be difficult to find when you need them once every two to three months. The keyboard is backlit, but I'm not sure if it can be used as a cover.

The most interesting addition is Thunderbolt 3, though. The standard uses the USB Type-C connector and supports 40 Gbps along with several other features. We don't know what processor it will use, but Skylake seems likely even though it's not required for Thunderbolt 3. It would seem silly to have new technology paired with older processors though, unless they had a surplus of something.

The Dell XPS 12 is rumored to launch in October, but nothing official and no pricing yet.

Source: Giga

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September 14, 2015 | 07:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"We are seeing a few OEMs do their own versions, although some question whether it is imitation or a license from Microsoft."

There have been plenty of dock-a-tablet-to-a-keyboard convertibles in the past, including ones from Dell (e.g. previous generation XPS tablets). The idea that one manufacturer is copying from another here is a bit silly.

September 14, 2015 | 10:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It won't compete unless it's cheaper. The only differentiating factor for this is the 4K display and thunderbolt and only very specific people will want those. I can see because of that, this being very expensive and not really a direct competitor to the surface. If the sensor is good though, it'd probably be a solid graphics/publishing machine. 4K can really make that stuff a lot easier.

September 14, 2015 | 11:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Damn a Tablet getting TB3, how many laptops even have that or any TB connectivity!This tablet able to dock via that TB3 with a powerful base station with its own processor via TB3. The new TB3 even has networking abilities at 10Gbs via a TB3 new option. You get a laptop that has TB3 and this tablet could be 10Gbs LANed up to the laptop and computing workloads shared between the laptop and this tablet. It's not a hard thing to do over a network connection, extra computing power and the Tablet used as an extra screen/extra CPU/SOC for a laptop/tablet networked computing environment on the go.

September 14, 2015 | 04:48 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Hmm. That would be interesting if it's possible. I do know that 10 Gbps NICs require a fair amount of on-board logic, so I'm not sure if that will translate to a dongle (or do so cheaply). Not sure the specifics, though.

September 14, 2015 | 05:32 PM - Posted by BillDStrong

Like Firewire before it, Thunderbolt includes the ability to network via Thunderbolt. Hook up two computers with Thunderbolt via a common Thunderbolt cable, and they will create a network between them. No adapter necessary.

September 14, 2015 | 06:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

10 GB Ethernet stack/support in TB3 only, that other networking option, but 10GB Ethernet option is new!(1)


September 14, 2015 | 06:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

P.S. TB3 has a passive cable option, but you loose half the TB3 bandwidth with passive cables.

September 14, 2015 | 07:33 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Ah. That's not actual 10 Gbps Ethernet. It's a Thunderbolt connection that appears like a network connection to the OS for compatibility. It's not something that you can interface to actual 10 Gigabit Ethernet hardware with.

September 15, 2015 | 01:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Another concept Intel has been floating around that will finally be getting some traction with Thunderbolt 3 is Thunderbolt networking. By emulating a 10GigE Ethernet connection, 2 computers can be networked via Thunderbolt cable, and with 10GigE still virtually unseen outside of servers and high-end workstations, this is a somewhat more practical solution for faster-than GigE networking. Thunderbolt networking has been around since 2013 in OS X, and in 2014 Intel demonstrated the technology working on PCs, however since it was a feature added to Thunderbolt 2 after its launch, the number of PCs with the necessary drivers for Thunderbolt networking has been quite low. With Thunderbolt 3 this is now a standard feature at launch, so system support for it should be greater."(1)

It's mostly the support for the Ethernet driver stack that is built into all PCs/Laptops, and a it's the 10Gb Ethernet software/driver stack will communicate with a PC Ethernet driver stack over TB, for computers that lack the thunderbolt networking drivers, as most OEMs do not offer the TB networking driver support. So if you have a laptop it will most likely have Ethernet drivers by default. Thunderbolt 3, and TB(any TB version) being the tunneling protocol for PCI, and that now supports tunneling the Ethernet, as well as USB, DP protocols tunneled over TB 3's protocol will allow for Ethernet networking over TB 3. And remember that the Ethernet drivers in all PCs have the full Ethernet capabilities built in their software stack for 10Gb Ethernet hardware, its just that they only have the 10/100, and the 1Gb hardware to work with standard on most PC/Laptops. The 10gb Ethernet over thunderbolt will allow PC/laptops that do not have any OEMs drivers for TB native networking to at least be able to network with 10Gb speeds, but if I had a TB laptop and I found out my OEM did not provide Native TB networking driver support, the OEM would be getting their laptop returned for a refund.

P.S. To PcPer it would be helpful to do a technical PC/Laptop buyers guide that shows users how to check their new devices laptops/PCs for the proper driver support for all the hardware that is on the device, you would be surprised how many PC/laptop OEMs fail at supporting the complete feature level of support for the various hardware included on new PCs/Laptops. That includes TB full feature set support, as well as the usual GPU driver levels of support that a lot of OEMs neglect

(1)see anandtech link other post above.

September 15, 2015 | 02:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

P.S. Scott I'll bet if you had one of those thunderbolt PCIe external boxes that you could get a 10Gb Ethernet card and communicate over 10Gb Ethernet. That rather unwieldy and expensive solution aside, I'll bet that there will be some TB to 10gb Ethernet adapters on the market for those that do server maintenance on the road to hook their laptop/portable workstation laptop to a server system's 10Gb E for running networking testing/debugging software from a laptop/portable workstation.

September 14, 2015 | 03:11 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

Everyone probably has a bunch of AAAA batteries at home and they just don;t know it. A 9V battery has six AAAA batteries inside. You just have to pry it open to get them.

September 14, 2015 | 04:44 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Yeah, I found that out when the store I used to work at sold Bluetooth headsets that required AAAA. Never did it myself so I wasn't sure if it was only specific brands or a hoax or whatever.

September 16, 2015 | 09:28 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

That oughta do you.

September 14, 2015 | 08:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Surface Pen uses AAAA batteries too, so this isn't unfamiliar if we claim to know what the Surface 3 has to offer.

September 16, 2015 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Edmond (not verified)

12" screen... noone seems to notice that after all the bullshit, this is just a small toy for kiddies!

You need something bigger for adults with an agenda.

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