Design & Layout
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...