|Introduction & Specifications|
|There's a transformation taking place in the PC market, and despite what the doomsayers might tell you, it has nothing to do with tablets, smartphones, tweener devices like the Galaxy Note, or increasingly media-centric game consoles. No, the transformation we're observing is one where people are trading in their towers and monitors for space-saving all-in-one (AIO) desktops. The AIO form factor isn't new by any means, but for a number of reasons, it's finally starting to gain momentum. And as they become more popular, companies like Dell have begun paying more attention to ways they can improve upon the design. To wit, Dell's new XPS One 27, reviewed here, introduces a spacious and vibrant 27-inch display with a Wide Quad HD (WQHD) 2560x1440 resolution and Samsung Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panel. It's absolutely gorgeous, more so than some professional monitors we've played with, and it's carrying an entire system in its belly.
Not just any system, mind you, but an Intel Ivy Bridge setup. This particular configuration shipped to us with a 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 3700S quad-core processor clocked at 3.10GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M graphics (Kepler), 8GB of high-frequency DDR3-1600 RAM, and a 2TB 7200RPM SATA hard drive flanked by a 32GB mSATA solid state drive (SSD) to enable Intel Smart Response Technology. There's also a slot-loading Blu-ray drive situated on the side, and if you're a true TV junkie, you can add a TV tuner when configuring your build.
The star of the show, however, is the 27-inch panel, qualifying the XPS One 27 as Dell's largest ever AIO system. It's a distinction that matters because there aren't very many 27-inch AIOs on the market, and because the display on this model is so darn good, graphics artists and professional photographers can join the AIO party without selling their soul to Apple. There are other reasons why you might want to consider this system, along with some caveats, and we'll cover all of them on the following pages. Before we dive in, let's give the spec sheet a once over.
Dell sent us a higher end configuration that lists for $1,999, though you can get in on the ground floor starting at $1,399 if you're willing to sacrifice a few features and options. What we like about this setup is that it's well rounded, as opposed to dumping the bulk of the funds into one particular sub-system, like a beefy GPU with a weak processor or vice versa.
|Software, Accessories, & First Boot|
We often mention that TV tuners are great for college dwellers and anyone renting a studio apartment or otherwise cramped for space, but it's particularly feasible in this case since the XPS One 27 wields such a large size display. It's not going to replace your 65-inch HDTV, but if you lack space for such luxuries, there's really no reason why you would have to make room for a dedicated TV set if you own a capable AIO desktop like this one.
Your specific bundle will depend on how you configure your XPS One 27, but at minimum, you can expect to receive a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, media center remote, various documentation, and drivers/utilities disc. Dell doesn't include a Windows disc or restore CD, though you can roll your own backup disc using the included software (see below).
The keyboard is pretty nice as far as Bluetooth planks go, with chiclet style keys that are slightly concave. It's mostly comfortable to type on and lightweight enough to lay on your lap. We also appreciate that it includes a numpad and dedicated arrow keys, albeit the latter is a little squished, which can be challenging to deal with if you use them to play games.
We're less thrilled with the clunky Bluetooth mouse, which is your standard-fare rodent devoid of any side buttons or special features to speak of. It is, however, ambidextrous, much to the delight of left-handed users and chagrin of right-handed users who are accustomed to being catered do.
Finally, Dell includes a power cord, and just the cord. The actual power supply is integrated into the chassis, so there's no power brick to contend with.
We're used to seeing squeaky clean desktops from boutique system builders and from rolling our own rigs, but it's extra special to find them on bulk OEM systems because it defies our expectations. To Dell's credit, the company's XPS line has mostly avoided loading up system builds with third-party crud, and the XPS One 27 is another example of that philosophy. The desktop on our review system wasn't littered with icons -- just a Recycle Bin -- nor was it bloated with performance robbing programs loading in the background.
The result is that our system cold booted into Windows in just 37 seconds and shutdown in 13 seconds, and that's after we loaded it up with a bunch of benchmarks and testing utilities. It's also after the mSATA SSD had a chance to properly cache the boot drive.
Dell didn't pre-load our system with any antivirus software, and as power users, we prefer this approach to the popular alternative, which is to plop a trial version of a paid security suite. At the same time, this could be disservice to less savvy computer users, which puts Dell and other bulk OEMs in a precarious situation. Ideally, we'd like to see Microsoft Security Essentials installed on OEM systems, which is a serviceable (and free) antivirus program that obviously integrates well with Windows.
Dell may not have pre-loaded the XPS One 27 with a bunch of useless third-party software, but it didn't totally neglect the software side, either. CyberLink's PowerDVD 9.5 is included so you can watch DVDs and, in this case, Blu-ray movies as well.
This is an older version of PowerDVD (version 12 is the latest), but it didn't matter to Robert Downey, Jr. when we fired up a Blu-ray of Iron Man, which looked superb on the 27-inch PLS display.
The XPS One 27 boasts a Full HD webcam that, during our tests, tracked smoothly and looked awfully sexy (or just awful if you don't dig 1990s style goatees). It also includes a dual digital microphone array for Skype stalwarts.
Working in tandem with the webcam, if you want it to, is FastAccess Facial Recognition software that you can use to login in lieu of using a password (or for added security if you opt to use both).
Since Dell doesn't include restore media by default -- or at least didn't with our setup -- you'll want to grab hold of a few optical discs and roll your own before you go mucking around the operating system. This will give you a safety net if something goes terribly wrong, whether from a virus or a poorly coded program that manages to bork Windows.
Dell's DataSafe backup utility pops up on its own after awhile, so unless you're really quick to mess things up, this shouldn't be an issue. And if you are accident prone and computer illiterate, call your nephew to save the day and toss him a Microsoft Points or iTunes card for his trouble.
|Overall Design & Layout|
|There's one thing we need to clear up right off the bat. As much as we like the display on the XPS One 27, it's not a 'Quad Full High Definition' panel like some of Dell's earlier literature indicates. It's a Quad Wide High Definition display, or just Quad High Definition if you want to save a few syllables. What's the difference, you ask? A QFHD display is one that sports a 3840x2160 resolution, or four times the number of pixels as a 1080p display, and a WQHD features a 2560x1440 resolution, which is four times the number of pixels as a 720p display. Savvy? Let's continue.
Dell's XPS One 27 all-in-one is 27 inches of glossy sex appeal that has to be seen in person to be appreciated, especially when you flip the power switch and see Samsung's PLS panel in action. It's remarkably thin and space conscious, even for an AIO system, measuring 19.32 inches by 26.14 inches by 1.25-2.81 inches, not including the stand (the stand measures a little under 9.5 inches from front to back). It looks more like a large monitor than a complete system, which is a credit to Dell's engineering team.
A glossy bezel surrounds the main display and measures about 1.25 inches all around. It looks great until the kids run their greasy fingers up and down the panel, but there's little reason for them or anyone else to grope the display. Why? Dell opted for a non-touch panel, banking on the assumption that users are more interested in a high-quality panel than one that wants to get all touchy-feely with the user. It's an odd omission for an AIO desktop, especially with Microsoft's Metrosexual Windows 8 just around the corner, but then again, this is a Windows 7 system that's better suited for mouse and keyboard input anyway. Still, some users will undoubtedly bemoan the lack of any touchscreen controls on a form factor that begs to be touched.
While you can't see it, an Intel Core i7 3770S processor sits somewhere behind the panel. This is one of Intel's new 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, a quad-core CPU clocked at 3.10GHz (up to 3.9GHz Turbo) with 8MB of L3 cache and a 65W TDP. There's also a Kepler-based NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, an optional upgrade/addition to the Intel HD 4000 graphics embedded in the CPU. It's a formidable one-two combo for multi-media chores and even some gaming, which we'll get into in the benchmarks sections.
Swing the system around 180 degrees reveals the aluminum backside, angled here to give you a better idea of depth, or lack thereof. This is a system that takes up no more space than a standard LCD monitor, yet offers so much more.
Unfortunately, Dell isn't as keen on the idea of its customers performing their own upgrades and service as Hewlett-Packard is with its recently reviewed TouchSmart 520 all-in-one PC, which features a removable backside for easy access to the RAM, hard drive, and various other electronics. Dell's system is better looking than HP's, has a superior monitor, and is rocking Ivy Bridge and Kepler, but we definitely miss being able to poke our head around inside
You can't see it in the picture above, but underneath the bottom of the display is a long speaker grill that hides the Infinity-brand speakers. At the risk of sounding smitten, we have to point out that the speakers sound as good as the display looks. Dell didn't jam a pair of low quality cans inside the XPS One 27, and instead chose to highlight loud and clear audio with integrated 7.1 surround sound and Waves MaxxAudio 4 audio processing technology. These speakers are capable of pumping out loud volume with respectable bass -- you can feel the thumps if you put your fingers up to the speaker bar -- which gets loud and forceful enough to scare a mid size dog (Schipperke), something we discovered when blasting Theory of a Deadman's "Got It Made" off the band's "Scars and Souvenirs" album. And feel free to crank up the volume full bore, these speakers don't buckle with distortion when stressed.
Most of the inputs/outputs have been placed on the system's rear end, and there's a cutout in the stand's base if you want to route your wires. Four of the six USB 3.0 ports are on the backside, which Dell confusingly neglected to color code -- USB 3.0 ports are typically colored blue, but on this system, they're all black. Working our way to the left, you'll also find the Ethernet jack, power port, HDMI input, HDMI output, infrared emitter port, S/PDIF port, TV-in port, and security cable slot.
Over on the left side of the system are the other two USB 3.0 ports, both of which are Sleep and Charge capable. Directly above are headphone and microphone ports, and sitting below is the integrated 8-in-1 media card reader. Again, these aren't color coded correctly, and some of Dell's earlier literature lists the XPS One 27 as having four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, but rest assured, all six are in fact USB 3.0.
Adding to the system's sex appeal are a series of touch-sensitive controls in the lower right corner that glow white when your finger gets anywhere near them. We prefer the rock steady responsiveness of physical buttons, but we like that Dell appears to have jacked up the sensitivity here.
The controls are fairly rudimentary, allowing you to adjust the volume up and down (left control), play with the brightness (middle button), and switch inputs from 'Computer' to 'HDMI' (right button). If there's a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray in the slot-load optical drive (right side of the system), an eject button will also glow. A display of this caliber begs for better On Screen Display (OSD) controls, though to be fair, its out-of-the-box performance is superb.
In the picture above, you can also see the power button, and above that is an an HDD activity light.
|PCMark & 3DMark Tests|
To kick things off we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here. Also, most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.
Right off the bat, Dell swiped the all-in-one performance crown off the top of HP's TouchSmart 520 and plopped it on the XPS One 27. It wasn't a dominating display of a changing in the guard in PCMark Vantage, but a solid 300-point difference, which underscores the swagger Intel's Ivy Bridge and NVIDIA's Kepler bring to the mobile and in this case, desktop dance floor. Had we kept running this benchmark, the 32GB mSATA SSD would likely have put even further distance between the two systems as it caches frequently used files.
Much more telling was Futuremark's PCMark 7 benchmark, in which Dell's system topped HP's by nearly 2,000 points (4,625 versus 2,547). The primary reason for this is that Dell used a faster spinning hard drive (7200RPM), along with the 32GB mSATA SSD mentioned above. Whereas Dell's system posted a system storage score of 4,521, HP's managed just 1,743. The use of faster storage will pay dividends almost across the board when it comes to performance, whether it's transferring files, navigating Windows, or loading up applications.
The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024
Now would be a good time to look away if you're squeamish. What Dell's XPS One 2710 did to the competition in 3DMark Vantage is nothing short of a blood bath and goes to show how well NVIDIA's Kepler architecture translates over to the mobile platforms that many of these all-in-one systems are based on. The GeForce GT 640M is a mid-range graphics chip with 384 CUDA cores and a 128-bit memory bus. By comparison, the Radeon HD 6450A HP uses in its TouchSmart 520 is an entry-level GPU with 160 shaders and a 64-bit memory bus. Throw in an Intel Ivy Bridge 3rd generation Core processor and a faster storage subsystem and you can see why Dell dominated this category so convincingly.
We wouldn't classify Dell's XPS One 27 as a high-end gaming machine, but clearly this spunky AIO is packing some pixel pushing juice. The score here is nearly four times higher than the TouchSmart 520, which only mustered 541.
The last of our Futuremark benchmarks, Dell goes out with a bang by putting up a very respectable 630 score in 3DMark 11's Extreme preset. NVIDIA's Kepler's a cold blooded killer, folks.
|SiSoft Sandra & Cinebench|
|We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks).
At every turn, Dell's XPS One 27 posts better number than previous systems in its same class, besting every all-in-one rig we've reviewed to date. Both of these scores are well ahead of HP's TouchSmart 520, which itself posted scores about double that of the Asus ET2410. This is no surprise given what we already know about Intel's Ivy Bridge platform.
The Asus system referenced above used a 7200RPM hard drive, the same spindle speed as the one found in Dell's XPS One 27, yet the XPS posted a much higher drive score, averaging data transfers at 145.83MB/s versus 110MB/s (HP's system trailed all three at 94.28MB/s).
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation chores and tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads (CPU) to process more than 300,000 total polygons, while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.
Dell XPS One 2710
In case you're not starting to get it, Cinebench helps drive the point home that Dell's latest AIO, as configured, is a mini-power house in a mainstream form factor. The above are great scores for what's typically a brutal benchmark designed to measure performance based on a system's ability to handle workstation rendering tasks.
Strutting around in synthetic benchmarks is one thing, but how would Dell's XPS One 27 do in real-world gaming? Quite well, actually. We fired up Lost Planet 2 and ran a pair of tests to see what kind of concessions need to be made in more demanding titles. In 'TEST 1', we set everything to High, turned Motion Blur on, and ran 4xAA. In 'TEST 2', we dropped the settings to Low, turned Motion Blur off, and disabled AA.
Lower quality settings were the key in this particular title. By dialing down the eye candy, we were able to pull smooth framerates on the display's native 2560x1440 resolution, which is pretty remarkable for an AIO.
We didn't have to make any such concessions in Left 4 Dead 2, in which the XPS One 27 managed playable framerates at its native resolution with all the eye candy cranked up, along with 4xAA and 16xAF. Quite impressive.
Left 4 Dead 2 isn't particularly taxing, and we wanted to see how Dell's system would fare when we threw something a little more gritty at it. Aliens vs Predator allowed us to do that, and to our surprise, the XPS One 27 proved capable at most resolutions save for 2560x1440, and even then some folks might find an average of 23.6fps mostly playable.
|Power Consumption & Noise|
We used SeaSonic's Power Angel Power Meter to measure the amount of power our test system pulled from the wall. You'll find three figures below: power supply's maximum rated wattage, peak power consumption under a full CPU/GPU load, and how much the system pulled from the wall when idle, following a fresh system boot.
We only have two metrics listed above because Dell didn't disclose the power supply rating, which is an internal unit as opposed to an external power brick. At idle, the XPS One 27 pulled 71W from the wall. When we upped the ante with a potentially lethal combination of Prime95 and FurMark, peak power usage bobbed back and forth between 199W and 200W before creeping up to 209W.
NoiseOnly when we fully stressed Dell's system did noise become an issue. With both the CPU and GPU at full tilt, the internal fan(s) slowly but surely ramp up to where they might be a distraction if you require a quiet work environment. Even then, it was never worse than a strong whir.
At idle and during routine tasks, the XPS One 27 is nearly whisper quiet.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
Performance Summary: If you have a preconceived notion that all-in-one systems lack any kind of adrenaline, it's time you revisited the form factor. As configured, Dell's XPS One 27 hit the ground running and never let up. The combination of an Ivy Bridge processor and NVIDIA Kepler graphics resulted in some impressive benchmark runs, including the ability to game at the 27-inch display's 2560x1440 resolution, though more demanding titles will require that you dial down the visual quality settings.As well as Dell's XPS One 27 did, if you're jonesing for a touchscreen experience, this isn't the all-in-one for you. It doesn't boast a touch-capable screen, and that's because Dell opted to go with a high-quality Samsung PLS panel that's absolutely stunning. At 27 inches, it's Dell's largest AIO to date with a scintillating 2560x1440 native resolution. But it's not just about sheer size; the display is crisp and vibrant, offering superb viewing angles. It really is that nice and since the PC is the display in this system and you're not able to decouple one from the other, Dell's component selection here was all that more critical. They nailed it.
In addition to pulling playable framerates in new and old games, the XPS One 27 represented itself well in Futuremark's battery of benchmarks. In PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7, Dell's system topped every other AIO we've ever tested, scoring 9,384 and 4,625, respectively. In fact, it was clean sweep across the board when comparing Dell's system to other rigs in its class, which is a testament to the march of technology and Dell's component selection and build quality.
Sitting behind the gorgeous panel is a well rounded collection of hardware, including an Intel Core i7 3770S processor and NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M graphics. It's a combination that might be wasted on some mainstream users, which is probably why these parts don't come standard. As configured, the setup Dell sent us runs $1,999, though cost of entry starts at $1,399 for a Core i5 3450S and Intel HD 4000 graphics foundation. At that price, you'll also have to forgo the 32GB mSATA solid state drive, which acts as a giant cache buffer for the 1TB or 2TB (in this case, 2TB) 7200RPM hard drive, and give up the Blu-ray drive as well. It all depends on your specific needs and budget.
Dropping two large on a system in today's economy is not a decision to be made lightly, but if you can swing that kind of investment, Dell's XPS One 27 is a sophisticated all-in-one with a killer instinct.