Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is a really versatile work machine, but it lacks business-class durability and security credentials. That's where Dell's Latitude 12 7000 2-in-1 comes in. The system, which starts at $1,050, is a 12.5-inch tablet that comes with a snap-on keyboard and active-pen support. But although the detachable Latitude 12 7000 is more flexible than a standard laptop, its middling performance and short battery life make it a niche option for business users.
The Latitude 12 7000 is a lot like the Surface Pro 4. But whereas that device has a kickstand built into the back of the tablet itself, the Latitude 12's kickstand is built into the keyboard.
Commuters will love the device's superportable design. Dell says the Latitude 12 7000 is the thinnest 12.5-inch tablet ever released, and it's extremely lightweight, at just about 2 lbs. with the keyboard attached. That's almost a full pound lighter than the 2.9-lb. Dell XPS 13. Without its keyboard, the Latitude 12 weighs a mere 1.61 lbs.
Durability and security
Commuters will appreciate the Latitude 12's business-class toughness. Dell says the system meets MIL-SPEC 810G standards, which means that it should withstand dings, short drops, elevation, shocks and vibrations. The tablet's magnesium-alloy body certainly feels extremely sturdy to me.
The Latitude 12 also comes with TPM (Trusted Platform Module) encryption, which is essential for keeping your work data locked down in an enterprise environment. A fingerprint scanner would have been a nice addition for everyday security, but the Latitude 12 lacks that feature.
Dell offers two different keyboard options for the Latitude 12 7000. The standard option is a rigid Slim Keyboard that we don't recommend because it offers just a single, fixed angle for viewing the display.
The better option is the magnetic Folio Keyboard (pictured above), which costs an extra $35 at checkout but offers a fully adjustable Surface-like kickstand, letting you view the display at any angle you want. But like the Surface, it's not ideal for typing in your lap; balancing a kickstand on your knees just isn't that comfortable.
The keys themselves are on the shallow side, with just 1.1 millimeters of travel on each stroke. That's noticeably less than the 1.5 mm we look for in a laptop keyboard, but at least the keys are snappy enough to make typing on the Latitude 12 7000 feel reasonably satisfying.
The Folio Keyboard is also backlit, which is nice for typing in low-light conditions.
The Latitude 12 7000 boasts a sharp, 12.5-inch 1080p display. It's roomy enough for everyday work tasks, but it definitely feels a bit cramped compared to the 13-inch displays on standard laptops like Dell's XPS 13 or Apple's MacBook Air. I definitely felt a bit claustrophobic during split-screen multitasking.
The Latitude 12's display is nice and bright, though, topping out at 377 nits of brightness. That's enough to outshine the HP Spectre x2 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, though the Surface Pro 4 was slightly brighter, at 382 nits.
Dell's Active Stylus (sold separately for $50) lets you write on the display with full pressure sensitivity, turning the Latitude 12 7000 into an excellent note-taking device. Pen support is quite good; the stylus can detect up to 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which makes for a smooth and natural writing experience. Palm rejection is also reliable, and I was pleased to see that the keyboard cover offers a handy fabric loop for holding the pen when it's not in use.
The Latitude 12 7000 comes with Microsoft's excellent OneNote software preloaded, so you can start taking notes right away.
My only real complaint is that the Latitude 12 lacks a built-in kickstand on the tablet itself. I prefer the Surface Pro 4 for note-taking, as its kickstand is great for propping up the device while I write and draw without the keyboard attached.
While the Latitude 12 7000's slim profile is impressive, it didn't leave Dell any room to put in a decent battery. The Latitude 12 7000 lasted a measly 5 hours and 19 minutes on our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. Under a normal workload, it would probably die even sooner. That puts it squarely behind detachable 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro 4 (6:10) and the HP Spectre x2 (6:31). In comparison, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga — which has a nondetachable, folding design — lasted for a much more reasonable 8 hours and 38 minutes.
The Latitude 12 7000 that I reviewed came equipped with the top-end hardware configuration, including a 1.2-GHz Intel Core m7-6Y75 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. That setup provided plenty of performance for everyday work tasks; I didn't notice any lag while editing a large spreadsheet with more than a dozen tabs open in my Chrome Web browser. But for heavy multitasking, there are speedier options.
The system scored 4,829 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That's quite a bit slower than the Core m7-powered HP Spectre x2 (5,814), and way behind Core i5-powered devices like the Surface Pro 4 (6,811) and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (6,465).
Dell sells the Latitude 12 7000 in a handful of hardware configurations. The entry-level model is equipped with a low-power Intel Core-m3-6Y30 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage, for $1,049. Remember to add an extra $35 for the Premier Magnetic Folio keyboard, and $50 on top of that if you want the stylus.
Workers might be better off upgrading to a speedier Core m5 or Core m7 processor with 8GB of RAM. You can also opt for up to 512GB of SSD storage, which is important if you need to store a lot of large files and documents on the machine.
For this review, we looked at the top-end model, which came with a Core m7-6Y75 CPU with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, for $1,871.
The Latitude 12 7000 2-in-1 has its good points, but it's hard to recommend this machine, because there are better options for most workers. Dell's hybrid does boast a durable, slim design and solid security, as well as a gorgeous 12.5-inch display. But it's held back by uninspiring performance and short battery life.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is a better overall choice for most users. It offers faster performance, longer battery life and a sharper display, all at a similar price. Plus, the Surface is more useful as a stand-alone tablet, thanks to its built-in kickstand.
Lenovo's excellent, nondetachable ThinkPad X1 Yoga is another enticing option, offering a larger, 14-inch display and a 360-degree hinge, so you can use it like a larger tablet. And as with all ThinkPads, you get business-class security and durability. Plus, it's cheaper than either the Latitude or the Surface.
Still, the Latitude 12 7000 isn't a bad choice for those who want a Surface-style hybrid for work. Just make sure you don't plan to work away from a power outlet for long.