I recently started using a Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook as my primary work laptop. We purchased a few of these to see how viable they would be in a business environment from a user and IT management perspective. From a user perspective, I love it and so does everyone that sees it. No surprise there. It’s a beautifully crafted machine with great performance in a small footprint. It’s perfect for people who take their laptop wherever they go. I won’t go into all the benefits of ultrabooks as there are plenty of articles out there already. I will say that I did come from a Macbook Air and I much prefer using the XPS 13 for work tasks.
From an IT management perspective, there are some catches when using an Ultrabook, however. The main issue is that there is no onboard NIC. This makes imaging with a standard image via PXE boot not possible. We worked around it by booting from a USB thumb drive and downloading the image with a USB network adapter. Also, not having a NIC means that you either have to use a USB NIC or you need WiFi access. There’s also no docking station option either. Dell offers a Targus USB 3 port replicator that has a NIC, video output and extra USB ports. I tried this and it works reasonably well, but there’s lots of software to install and its not very clean looking on a desk. Other than that, it works just fine. Finally, only the most expensive model ($1,499) has a TPM chip. So if your organization requires a TPM chip for encryption, you can’t get the $999 or $1,299 models.
Overall, I’m a fan of the XPS 13 (and Ultrabooks in general) and I think they are a great fit for business use as long as you are OK with the drawbacks. People knock the screen size or the processing power of Ultrabooks, but when it comes to a solid performer in a small size, nothing beats them. Until Intel releases Ivy Bridge based Ultrabooks in the upcoming months that is.