I almost spilled my coffee on it at first. And my chicken salad. This is what happens when you test a laptop while eating at an Italian eatery in a dimly lit casino.

Fortunately, the  Dell XPS 12 survived a 30-minute hands-on test at CES 2016, where I'm scouring the show floor trying to find gadgets that will change the world ... or at least impact your business. It's a slim, smart, and suave consumer laptop that's a good fit for serious work.

The "smarts" come into play when you first use it. There's a magnetic connector for the 12-inch screen so you can (pop) pull it off and use it as a Windows 10 tablet--since it weighs only 1.75 pounds--or (click) replace it back on the connector for laptop mode. Did someone say something about a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet? Dell must have not received that memo.

I like the XPS 12 much better because of the compact size, and the fact that it works as both a "real" laptop for typing business documents and a "real" tablet that's light enough for meetings, sketching out notes using the stylus, and watching Breaking Bad on the plane.

I wrote out a few test notes and, unlike a few Windows 10 tablets I've tested before, didn't notice any stray markings or weird glitches so common with older tablets. I felt like I could use the tablet to take notes during CES without going back to my paper-and-pen journal.

As a laptop, the XPS 12 performed well given that it uses an Intel M processor--we're not talking a gaming machine here or a high-end business notebook meant for running statistical calculations or even Adobe Photoshop. It has 8GB of RAM, so apps ran smoothly. And the 4K display played YouTube movies in 4K resolution with exceptional clarity and color. (4K resolution in four times as clear as the HDTV in your living room, and apps like M-Go and Vudu support it for movies.)

Last year at this time, I mentioned how Dell needed a boost in the mobility space to catch up with Apple, and I was impressed with the Dell Venue 8 7000. Essentially, the XPS 12 has a similar tablet built-in to a laptop, so it's a good value at $1,000. An included soft cover for the laptop makes it seem like Dell understands people will use this product on a plane or in a hotel room and need a little extra protection against the elements. Overall, it's slim and portable enough to use all day at work for typing and surfing and then at home for watching movies or playing games.

My one complaint is that I still feel Windows 10 doesn't work quite right for touch apps in tablet mode. I strongly prefer the iPad or an Android model, because you can quickly find apps. Both are more intuitive when you just want to tread a book or fire up a browser. This is not a diss of Dell, but Microsoft has some more work to do, because Windows 10 still feels like it is a desktop operating system that supports touch. This becomes more obvious as you use the device and have to touch or swipe on buttons that seem like they were designed for a mouse.

Another important point: If you decide to use only the XPS 12 as your primary machine all day, you will find there are still not too many touch apps. You get the basics--Evernote, Skype, and all of the Microsoft touch apps for productivity. You won't find any cutting-edge apps that debut first on Windows 10; they all seem to come out on iOS or Android first.

That said, the XPS 12 is a smart double-duty laptop that's business-ready.

Published on: Jan 8, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.