(Pocket-lint) - If the current supersize trend is anything to go by then we're in for plenty more giant tablet-meet-desktop-PC concepts this year. Dell's thrown its hat in the ring with the announcement of the XPS 18 - an 18.4-inch Windows 8 tablet meets desktop combination - which Pocket-lint was on hand to have a play with ahead of its official unveiling.
As the name suggests, 18-inches of screen sounds more tabletop than tablet in size, yet the XPS 18 isn't exactly tablet nor desktop. It's halfway between the two: think zeedonk - when a zebra says howdy to another equine outside of the striped family - and you get the picture. Well, sort of. But do the two concepts make for one coherent and better-than-its-counterparts whole?
To put it in perspective, the XPS 18 isn't as mad as it might sound. At least not entirely. It's not the 27-inches of the Lenovo IdeaCenter Horizon, nor is it quite as large or bulky as the Sony Vaio Tap 20 - both of which are also consumer or in-the-pipeline products.
READ: Sony Vaio Tap 20 review
Now we weren't massive fans of the Vaio, but the XPS 18 succeeds in some points that are superior in our eyes: it's got a 1920x1080 resolution screen coated in Gorilla Glass which makes it both higher resolution and tougher than the Vaio; the 2.2kg tablet-only weight is less than half of the slightly larger screened Vaio; and the promise of a 5-hour battery life is also fairly reasonable for this lap-ready Dell desktop.
Included in the base £849 price tag is a heavy metal - as in weighty material rather than Whitesnake the band - stand with a magnetic clip that connects to the tablet. In this seated position it takes on a desktop form that, if you dismiss the tablet concept from the mind for a moment, could be an ideal touchscreen PC for plenty of prospective customers. However the pre-production sample we saw had a weak magnet which meant the device didn't sit particularly well in the stand in the sturdiest manner - something that Dell promises final production models will address before release.
If the raised stand isn't for you then the rear of the XPS device has two fold-out flaps that can be used to stand up the tablet - as shown in the lead picture, complete with mouse and keyboard, at the top of this page. Again, these flaps don't have the rigidity that they ought to, so dragging the device about on a tablet can, at least at this stage of development, cause it to tumble - that's something else Dell promises will be sorted for the final release.
Of course you needn't have the tablet on a stand at all - it will sit in the hands or on the lap. We sat using the device to do some web browsing and found it to have a decent angle of view from above and a responsive touchscreen. Navigation through Windows 8 was easy, just like any other multi-gesture touchscreen device. The only complaint is that the XPS's aluminium casing feels warm to the touch and that could be unconfortable on the legs over long periods of use.
Size-wise it's reasonably small, all things considered - although it's not as trim as something like Panasonic's forthcoming 20-inch 4K tablet. The XPS 18 is 4.3mm at its thinnest point but widens out to 14mm at its fattest end to accomodate USB ports, battery and the like.
Speaking of ports, there are a few on offer: to the side there's a charging port, two USB 3.0 sockets, a 3.5mm headphone output and, on the opposide side to the rear, an SD card slot.
It's a shame that the USB ports aren't spread further apart and that the charging port doesn't have a secondary input to the rear of the device. We think putting more connectivity in the stand itself could have been a cool way to get more peripherals wired up to the XPS 18 - but as it stands we're told that the final design will only host power for a neater, tidier finish than having the power cord plugged into the tablet's side.
Under the XPS 18's hood the base model comes equipped with a dual-core Intel processor (we didn't receive full details of speed at this stage), a 320GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. This is upgradable, with options of various hybrid and SSD drive sizes, speedier processors, RAM capacity and Windows 8 versions on offer. Dell expects the top-spec, fully kitted-out XPS 18 model to retail for £1,099.
There's also a wireless mouse and keyboard included in the price, whichever model you may be thinking of buying, so no extra cash need be splashed out.
Dell seems to have got more of its giganta-tablet-desktop right than existing competitors, in our view. Even if that isn't necessarily going to be right for a huge audience, it might get the nod of approval from a niche family audience. Others might see it as a standalone touchscreen desktop replacement, but there are already plenty of all-in-one devices out there so we're not entirely convinced of such an angle.
The Dell XPS 18 will be on sale from 16 April 2013.