About a year ago, I bought a Dell XPS 12 "convertible" with Windows 8, and I've been meaning to write up the experience for a long time. My Microsoft acquaintance, Matt Harrington, asked me back in June how I was getting on with it and, in particular, how I was liking it for Clojure development.
As I said at the time, my initial impressions were very positive, especially for someone who has been an Apple customer for two decades. How has it held up over the twelve months since purchase?
Overall, I'm still very impressed with this machine / O/S combination. Shocking! The flip-screen still makes people stop in their tracks, and it gets a lot of attention at conferences, which amuses me no end, given how prevalent Macs are in the tech community these days!
It hasn't all been good news tho'... The reliability of the wifi has been appalling, to be honest, right up until the recent Windows 8.1 update. I'm so used to Apple's rock solid wifi behavior on every machine / device I've owned that this was a real pain point - and it was one of the major issues I had with my Ubuntu netbook too in the time I had that. The Windows 8.1 update seems to have resolved the problems: I've had no problems at all with wifi since that update. Thank you Microsoft!
The touch screen stops responding to touch. This was pretty common before the 8.1 update but all sorts of things made it come back to life and, at worst, I'd just put it to sleep and wake it up, so it wasn't as annoying as the wifi issue. That said, I've only had it happen a couple of times since the 8.1 update so maybe that's been partially addressed too (although I'd point the finger at Dell here, rather than Microsoft).
I use this machine almost every day. I use it for casual content consumption most evenings while watching the TV and when I'm on public transit, or flying. I read books, I play games. When I'm online, I do email and surf the 'net. The keyboard is comfortable, with decent travel. The touch pad is large and responsive, but I still can't get used to it not working well with a combination of left and right thumbs which works flawlessly on Apple touch pads. I've used it for presenting at conferences and user groups and, compared to Apple laptops, it's definitely not as "plug'n'play" and the experience is still a bit quirky and unreliable, with poor screen alignment and weird resolution selection. As an e-reader, it's a bit big and heavy but the high resolution screen and the built-in PDF reader make for a very nice ebook reading experience in portrait mode. I wish the battery life were better tho' - four hours tops is not enough to cross the country on a plane!
As a development machine, I struggle with the lack of full *nix command line support: GOW (Gnu On Windows) is a reasonable substitute, and using Emacs as my primary editor really helps (since it has "shell" and "eshell" packages). I also have "Git Bash" and I use Console2 as a basic command line replacement, and those both help too. A year ago, I mentioned I had a problem with Ant doing variable substitution differently on Windows. I never got to the bottom of that but I rewrote that part of the Ant script in Clojure which side-stepped the problem. I have a ton of different language systems installed now: Clojure (obviously), Scala, Groovy, Racket, Node.js, Haskell, Python, Ruby, Erlang and, yes, CFML via Railo on Tomcat. And of course Java (but who uses that?). Once I'm inside Emacs, it pretty much doesn't matter what O/S I'm running so the answer to Matt's question is "Emacs".
The Windows 8.1 update was a major improvement all round. I can do without the stupid "start" button (why did Windows users get so upset about this going away?), but the ability to run multiple "metro" apps side-by-side is awesome. The new "metro" mail app is great (although I'd really appreciate an obvious way to do the equivalent of Gmail's "archive"). The overall feel of the operating system is much improved.
On the hardware side, Dell have done a great job with this machine: it's light yet solid, reasonably ergonomic, and the screen is great. It also stays fairly cool on my lap which is more than I can say for any of the Apple laptops I've owned. My only criticism of the hardware would be the very "sticky outy" power cable which, compared to Apple's magnetic adapter, is very old school and has already gotten bent a little.
A year in, for $1,600, I'm still happy.