|Introduction & Specifications|
|Unless you’re a gamer or a content-creation professional that requires a lot of computing horsepower, the latest crop of All In One PCs probably seem very attractive. AIOs tend to be quite the lookers, with sleek lines, large and crisp displays, touch capabilities--and of course, a small footprint.
We’re starting to see AIOs with better and better specifications too, and although they won’t be your choice of machine for pwning n00bs just yet, products like the Dell XPS 27 Touch offer very solid specifications in addition to a premium user experience and lots of ports for connecting peripherals, media cards, and more.
The Dell XPS 27 Touch is one of the first generational updates to an all-in-one that we’ve gotten our hands on, having reviewed the original Dell XPS One 27 last year. Thus, we get to see what sort of performance boost Dell’s big and beautiful AIO gets from Haswell and an updated NVIDIA GPU.
The Dell XPS 27 Touch rocks a 4th-generation Intel Core i7-4770S processor that’s paired to an NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M (2GB DDR5). Dell outfitted our test unit with 8GB of DDR3-1600MHz memory and a 2TB (7200 RPM, SATA 6Gbps) hard drive bolstered by a 32GB mSATA SSD.
The gorgeous, glossy, 27-inch display features a resolution of 2650x1440 and offers 10-point multitouch capability, which is ideal for navigating Windows 8. There’s a slot-loading Blu-Ray combo drive with DVD+/-RW support, and the integrated 2.07MP webcam has a dual digital microphone array.
For connectivity, the XPS 27 Touch has gigabit LAN as well as a Killer Wireless-N 1202 controller and Bluetooth 4.0. There’s plenty of other ports too, including six total USB 3.0 ports, HDMI in and out, Thunderbolt mini-DisplayPort, headphone and mic jacks, an ODD eject button, and a switch to turn the webcam on or off. The memory card slot on the side supports eight different card types.
Dell included a keyboard and mouse with the XPS 27 Touch, as well as a power brick, and the total price for the whole package is $2,099 as configured.
|Design & Layout|
|This Dell XPS 27 Touch looks a lot like last year’s XPS One 27--the base and back of the display are silver and the front of the displays may be identical, with edge-to-edge glass with a black border--but the tilt mechanism is different. The XPS One 27’s stand was silver with a single pivot point, whereas the new model is black and has two pivot points for a greater variety of adjustment options. The angles it offers are decent, although we’ve seen better from the likes of Lenovo’s IdeaCentre A720.
There’s still a cutout in the neck for routing cables such as the power cord and display cables, but we found it awkward and difficult to access those ports easily.
One major difference from last year’s model is that instead of a touchless display, this one offers 10-point multitouch. That’s a big deal, especially if you’re using this machine for a family with kids that want to use touch-friendly apps on Windows 8. However, it’s worth noting that with such a huge display, the occasions to use touch input seem limited; in order to give your eyes a break, the screen needs to be so far back that it’s not really convenient to reach it with your (let alone a little one’s) fingertips. Further, we found the multitouch input to be a slower and less responsive than we’d prefer--certainly not as responsive as a tablet.
As before, you can’t open the machine up and ogle its components, but it is easy to access most of the XPS 27 Touch’s ports. On the left side, there’s the card slot, two of the USB 3.0 ports, and the headphone and mic jacks; on the right you’ll find the power button and slot-loading ODD. Oddly, the ODD eject button is on the front of the XPS 27 Touch, and to the left of that are three more touch-sensitive button points that glow when your finger is near them. Two allow you to adjust the screen brightness up or down (as well as other functions, depending on what application you’re using), and the other switches the input if you have other devices connected.
Up top, there’s a switch to turn the webcam on or off, and the rear of the rig is home to the remaining four USB 3.0 ports, as well as the HDMI in and out ports, Thunderbolt mini-DisplayPort, LAN, and power port. There’s also a security lock back there.
There’s a speaker bar sort of hidden on the underside of the panel, and Dell should be commended for springing for speakers this good. Powered by Waves AudioMaxx Pro, these speakers offer impressive audio output for their size. It’s truly room-filling loud, but the fidelity is terrific even at the highest levels, with no discernible distortion. Although it’s not too shabby, the low end could always be a little better, but all things considered the XPS 27 Touch offers strong performance with highs, mids, and lows. For integrated audio, this is about as good as it gets.
Dell included its Tangerine wireless keyboard and mouse with this system. The mouse is a basic, straightforward affair with a button on each of the two sides and a clickwheel, in addition to the two left and right mouse buttons. There’s a power button on the bottom of the mouse that you need to switch on when you’ve been away from the computer for a while. Not to nitpick, but it feels somewhat cheap in the hand, and you can hear the plastic pieces rattle when you pick it up to adjust your cursor placement.
The keyboard is smallish, with chiclet-style keys, although it does have a full numpad. There are several Fn buttons on the F keys, and they offer a measure of convenience for those not keen on using the touchscreen or mouse, including volume, mute, and playback controls; system search; share, select display; open the Settings charm; and an eject key for the optical drive.
Now, let’s see what sort of performance a new generation of CPU and GPU technology can get us...
|PCMark & 3DMark Tests|
|First, we fired up some benchmarks by Futuremark. The company, which is based just outside of Helsinki, Finland, started publishing benchmarks in 1998. Since then, Futuremark has developed tests for evaluating standard PCs and mobile devices and continues to update its flagship 3DMark gaming benchmark suite, and PCMark as well.
Futuremark’s PCMark 7 benchmark includes a suite of tests designed to measure the way your computer would perform during typical tasks. It includes an Entertainment Suite, which offers gaming scenarios and tests its media playback capabilities. The benchmark also has a Creativity Suite, in which the system processes images and video. Other tools include the Computation Suite and the Storage Suite. The latter is capable of measure SSDs and hard drives, either individually, or as a whole.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. The Dell XPS 27 Touch smoked the competition in PCMark 7, easily outscoring the XPS One 27, XPS 18, and HP Z71 and leaving the other systems in the dust. Of course, that mSATA SSD inside paired with a 7,200 RPM hard drive helps, as does the faster CPU and discrete graphics. This score is actually better than some recent full-size gaming rigs we’ve tested.
Next up we have some numbers from 3DMark Vantage. With this version of the benchmark, Futuremark incorporated two graphics tests, two CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the DX10-class graphics and modern PC hardware. We tested the systems here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024.
When we compared scores reviewing the XPS One 27 last year, the disparity was obvious; now, we can see how much of a jump the new Haswell chip and updated NVIDIA graphics offers. That’s an astounding performance gap between the XPS 27 Touch and the rest of the field.
As a gaming benchmark, 3DMark 11 puts extra emphasis on your system’s handling of DirectX 11. But it measures more than the graphics card’s performance (the processor can make a big difference to a score, for example) and is a good way to get a feel for a system both as a gaming PC and as a general-use computer. Futuremark recently updated 3DMark 11 to support Windows 8, so if you plan to run this test on your own Windows 8 system, be sure to get the latest version.
Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several separate benchmarks. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks: video chatting, web browsing, photo editing, an similar day-to-day activities. The test is designed to be run on just about any Windows 7 or 8 computer. The Creative test offers some of the same types of tasks, but puts more stress on the system and is meant for mid-range and higher-end PCs. The Work test simulates the workflow of a typical office user. And the Storage test - you guessed it - benchmark's your computer's data storage performance.
The gulf between the XPS 27 Touch and the other systems in our bank isn’t quite as pronounced in 3DMark 11, but it’s still the leader by a fair margin.
Because the benchmark is so new (the free version isn’t even available yet) we don’t have comparison data for PCMark 8 just yet. All the data from the benchmark's separate tests, which provide plenty of detailed feedback, is available in the images above.
|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).
Although it’s noteworthy that the HP Z1 and XPS One 27 scored within shouting distance of the XPS 27 Touch in Arithmetic (GOPS), the Multimedia scores weren’t even close.
As usual, the Memory score isn’t much to write home about--there’s always a good bit of parity there--but the Physical Disks test is more interesting. Like the XPS One 27, the XPS 27 Touch has a small mSATA cache drive and a 7200 RPM hard drive, yet the latter turned in a slightly better score. The HP Z1, oddly, posted a strong Physical Disks store despite having just a 1TB (7200 RPM) drive.
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.
The XPS 27 Touch’s Core i7-4770S is a step ahead of the third-generation Core i7 Ivy Bridge chip, which is in turn a step ahead of the second-generation Core i7 Sandy Bridge chip. The moral of the story here is that a Core i7 processor of any recent generation will offer strong performance.
The systems running Intel HD graphics and the older Radeon HD GPU can barely keep pace with any of the discrete NVIDIA GeForce cards; the 640M blows them all away, and the XPS 27 Touch’s 750M couldn’t be touched by any of the systems. It's interesting that the Quadro GPU fell in between the GeForce 750M and 640M.
|Next, we ran the Dell XPS 27 Touch through a few gaming tests to see how it would fare.
Predictably, the XPS 27 Touch beat out the competition in Lost Planet 2, but it’s worth noting that at the high setting, this was one of the few all-in-ones we've tested that pushes out playable framerates.
Predictably, the XPS 27 Touch beat out the competition in Lost Planet 2, and it hit playable framerates at every resolution tested.
The Aliens vs Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. We kept things low-key in this benchmark run, dialing down the settings to Low and comparing 4xAA to 0xAA.
The most notable thing about this test is that, with the exception of the 1920x1080 (with 4xAA), the system produced playable framerates. This bodes well for the future of the AIO form factor as it pertains to power users and gamers that require a little more oomph for tasks such as gaming and content creation.
|Power Consumption & Noise|
|We used a power meter to measure the amount of power our test system pulled from the wall outlet. 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.
The power supply rating on the Dell XPS 27 Touch is 260W, and it it needs almost all of that headroom while suffering through a full load of Prime 95 and Furmark torturing the CPU and GPU. At idle, the system pulls a respectable 87W.
This system is remarkably quiet; it’s easy to forget that there are serious components in there like discrete graphics. The only time we heard anything above a whisper from this rig is when it was churning through certain tests such as the SANDRA Processor Multimedia test and Aliens vs. Predator Under stress the system uttered a low whirring sound. It was a little odd because we didn’t hear the same noise during the Prime 95/Furmark test. The extra sound isn’t much, but to sensitive gamer ears it could be noticeable.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: Hands down, the Dell XPS 27 Touch Touch is the most powerful all-in-one we’ve tested to date. It annihilated every other machine in our reference database in every test, including Dell's own last-generation model, the original XPS One 27. Some scores approached those of solid gaming rigs we’ve had in the lab previously, thanks to the system's fast processor and discrete NVIDIA graphics.
The AIOs we’ve looked at have, up to now, been almost ‘tweener options in terms of performance, offering lots of eye candy and treats like beautiful displays and touch capabilities, but not much in the way of CPU and GPU horsepower. The latest Dell XPS One 27 definitely upped our expectations of what an all-in-one was capable of. Dell's new all-in-one showed us that the form factor can produce computers that can actually let you play some demanding game titles with reasonably high image quality settings, as well as work in demanding content creation apps with horsepower to spare.
After looking at the benchmark scores, there’s nothing much left to say; the XPS 27 Touch sports a new generation of CPU and GPU with the Intel Core i7-4770S and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, and the performance boost is evident.
That level of performance is even more impressive when you consider how quiet the machine is under (some) loads--there aren’t a bunch of system fans or a liquid cooler keeping those components cool. Further, even though it offers far more performance, the thing looks exactly like every other AIO we’ve seen, with a large and beautiful display, silver color design, pivoting neck, and a solid base. (In this case, the components are in the display and not built into the base.)
For such performance, as well as the attractive form factor and all that it offers, the XPS 27 Touch's as-configured price tag of $2,099 (or less) is appealing, to boot. If you’re looking for a low-power AIO you can find cheaper options, but the Dell XPS 27 Touch is as close to a true “all-in-one” as you’ll get at this point in time This new Dell AIO offers users--even gamers, up to a point--all of the amenities you’d want in a PC, from robust components to a nice array of ports and multimedia capabilities. This XPS 27 Touch is as close to a no-compromise offering as we've ever seen in this class of products.