Dell XPS 27: An all-in-one made for Windows 8

Dell XPS 27: An all-in-one made for Windows 8

Summary: The PC industry is obsessed with tablets and convertibles, but it is all-in-ones like the Dell XPS 27 that show what Windows 8 can be.

TOPICS: PCs, Windows 8
Dell XPS 27

Since the release of Windows 8, the PC industry has been obsessed with tablets, touchscreen laptops, and two-in-one devices that split the difference. But it turns out there is one other type of PC that really shines with Windows 8: the all-in-one desktop. For the past few weeks I’ve been testing an all-in-one, the Dell XPS 27, that shows what a Windows 8 PC can be.

The most distinctive feature of the XPS 27 is its 27-inch touchscreen, which has a WQHD resolution (2560 by 1440 pixels). That means it can display about 78 percent more pixel information than a Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels) display. Like Dell’s premium UltraSharp monitors, the XPS 27 also uses the Adobe RBG color space, which has a larger color gamut than sRGB. There are a handful of other 27-inch all-in-ones that can be configured with a WQHD display including the Apple iMac, Asus ET2702 Series and Lenovo IdeaCentre A Series (the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC I recently tested is only available with a 1920x1080 display).

The advantage of a large, high-resolution display for classic desktop applications is fairly obvious. Because it can display lots of information, you can easily work on large spreadsheets, edit two documents side-by-side, or quickly sift through your inbox dragging and dropping messages into a long list of folders. But this sort of display also works really well with Windows 8 apps. The Start screen displays lots of tiles reducing horizontal scrolling. The Bing apps and news apps such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and ESPN look great and display a ton of information in one swipe. And you can “snap” apps such as Twitter to the left or right side of the display and still have lots of room left over to work in Office. (This last feature works even better in the upcoming Windows 8.1.)

The XPS 27 is not as thin and light as the iMac. But all-in-ones aren’t laptops and, aside from aesthetics, the benefits of making them ever thinner and lighter aren’t that apparent since they typically don’t get moved around all that much. There is, however, a real benefit to a larger all-in-one: it leaves plenty of room on the inside for high-performance components and on the outside for drives and ports. The XPS 27 delivers on both counts.

The system I tested included a fourth-generation (Haswell) 3.1GHz Core i7-4770S quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics (with 2GB of its own memory), and a 2TB hard drive combined with a small solid-state cache for better performance. Not surprisingly, this configuration delivered very good performance. For example, it completed a MATLAB portfolio simulation test in a little more than 41 minutes--one of the fastest times I’ve seen aside from standard desktops running the i7-4770K, which has a higher base frequency. The configuration, which is priced at $2,099, is overkill for most users but the XPS 27 starts at $1,599 with a Core i5-4430S, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive.

On the outside the XPS 27 is as well-equipped as most standard tower desktops with six USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, 802.11bgn and wired Ethernet, HDMI-out and HDMI-in (useful for connecting a set-top box, game console or Blu-ray player), a media card reader, and a 2-megapixel webcam with a sliding cover.It also came with a slot-loading DVD drive, but a Blu-ray writer is available on the $2,599 configuration, which also includes 16GB of system memory. All models include a comfortable, nicely-designed wireless keyboard and mouse.

You can easily find 27-inch all-in-ones for less, but the XPS 27 stacks up well to other all-in-ones with a 2560x1440 display. For the same price, you can get a 27-inch iMac with a decent configuration and an external USB DVD drive, but it uses the previous generation of processor and graphics, and of course, doesn’t have a touchscreen. The Lenovo IdeaCentre A730 with the high-resolution display starts at $1,650, but the $2,099 model (the same price as the XPS 27 I tested) includes a 2.4GHz mobile Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, GeForce GT 745M graphics, a 1TB drive and SSD cache, and a Blu-ray drive. The Asus ET2702 with the high-res screen doesn’t seem to be widely available yet.

The XPS 27, with its high-resolution touchscreen, is tailor-made for Windows 8. As a PC, it delivers strong performance and a lot of features. And with its beautiful display, slot-loading drive and HDMI-in, it also doubles as a great entertainment center for small rooms.

Eric Wong contributed research assistance for this post.

Topics: PCs, Windows 8

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  • but...

    it is a Dell. no deal
    D.J. 43
    • D.J. 43.....I agree 100% its NO Deal ..........because its a Dell

      And its $1,500.00 for the wimpy one and only $2,100.00 for the other. Way over priced for most and the killer for me is it has W-8 on it. I hope they inclose a free copy of 8.1 at least that will help down the road.
      Over and Out
      • Yay!

        You will be glad to know this comes with a free copy of Windows 8.1, same as every other windows 8 device on the planet.
      • cheaper than a cheap imac

        I find the price to be reasonable. It's cheaper than my macbook.
        Julie Dinkins-Borkowski
        • Cheaper than a macbook?

          No offense, but...
 a person who was apparently to pay the price of a Macbook, that skews YOUR sense of value, not ours. On a "bang for the buck" scale, a Macbook ranks right up there with a hand-built Rolls Royce in terms of actual value for the dollar...
          The difference is, Rolls Royces aren't built in China and they don't charge you up front for two units so they can at some point make you feel "special" when an Apple "genius" tosses your old one in the trash and gives you a brand new one "free of charge". Yippee!
          For the rest of us who don't pay more to live in delusionland, there's WAY better bang for the buck out there...
          ...the one catch here is that it's an "all in one", which isn't really a format that many offer, and not one that you can really DIY. Which sort of better fits Apple's model of catering to customers who don't WANT to care, and just want "simple - at ANY cost" - which immediately makes you question their choice of a device that runs Windows - since those headaches/freezes/crashes/etc are exactly what led the iPad to have had a reason for existing and becoming successful (note Microsoft's prior 10 years of "Windows on a tablet" failure.

          I will give it this - a touchscreen monitor WOULD be great if you could scroll it like a tablet. But I wouldn't pay $2K for it, even in 27" size.
          • Free of charge?

            Where is this store? I have 2 iPads just over a year and a half old and neither of them work. The guy at the genius bar said it would cost me $250 per device to get it fixed.
            P.S. I don't think the iPad is free of 'headaches/freezes/crashes/etc'. Both of my iPads did some of those things on a daily basis. Actually the biggest thing I hated is that my notes would disappear when I most needed them and reappear days later. I've never seen that happen on any other device.
      • Why?

        Please enlighten us with your personal experience with Dell and why you say 'NO Deal'.
    • Don't you mean.....

      Soon to be an Icahn
      Alan Smithie
    • Can you ellaborate?

      Why is Dell a no deal for you?
  • What does more screen area have to do specifically with Win8?

    A big monitor works just as well with WinXP. As to "you can easily work on large spreadsheets, edit two documents side-by-side," not with a touchscreen. The ribbon is bad enough, but on a touchscreen, it's antiproductivity made (ahem) palpable.
    • Ribbon

      The Ribbon is pretty awesome, thank you very much.
  • The big problem with this machine...

    Nice machine but an additional $500 for 16GB of RAM puts it out of reach for me.
  • Actually it's a great machine.

    I work in the IT industry so I own and have access to smart phones, tablets, laptops, and I own gaming PCs.

    But what I wanted was a general purpose, family friendly (wife and grandkids) PC.
    While I understand it's currently fashionable to bash Windows 8, it actually is a very good OS and combined with the XPS 27 Touch (XPS 2720) this makes for a great system.

    While the system was certainly ok as it came out of the box, I still upgraded the 32GB mSATA SSD (used for caching) to a Plextor 256GB mSATA. Now instead of just caching I have a 256GB SSD used to install the entire OS leaving the 2TB drive for data.

    It's funny, because the only people that seem to bash Windows 8 are people in the industry that have a stake in the ground for Apple or Linux (normal Microsoft bashers) or people tied to the legacy Windows desktop for some reason.

    When folks that are not already wedded to one OS or another (for whatever reason) are introduced to Windows 8, there is very little or no complaining. Sure it's different, but really no big problem. I show them that there is no need for a start button, and that everything is already right on the screen, the response is Ah ok that's great.

    For my wife, my mother, and my grandkids it was not much of a transition at all. They weren't big computer users in the first place. For my daughter (2nd grade teacher) and my granddaughter (2nd year college student) these two are a bit more computer savvy and had a few more questions, then it was business as usual. And they all thought the active tiles were a hit.

    Meanwhile back to the XPS 27 Touch:
    The only thing I wish Dell had done is to have included the TV-tuner that was included in the previous version, the XPS One 27. Yeah the names are that close.

    All-in-all or rather all-in-one, this is actually a very fun machine. The display is amazing, not only in what you see, but also the way you can position it, makes it a very easy and convenient PC to use.

    For those of you that will allow yourself to get past the legacy way of computing, I believe you will find Windows 8 not that bad. And you will also find this PC a very fun machine to use.

    For those of you that insist on staying where you are (computing wise), I wish you well, although my guess is that you haven't really tried Window 8 or maybe just a few minutes and gave up.
    • So when you say "You work in the IT industry"...

      ... Do you mean in Dell's advertizing department?
      • No I don't work for Dell

        Actually I'm a Cisco Trainer, a contractor. In a previous life I was an electronic technician and worked out at the Nevada test site.

        I mention this only to show my interest in electronics and tinkering, hence the need to upgrade a machine that was obviously designed not to need it.
      • What is wrong with people....

        ...they assume that anyone who likes a particular product works for that company. Can we be more ignorant?
      • You sound like you work for HP...

        He doesn't have to work for Dell to like a particular model. I like my MacBook Pro but that doesn't mean I have to like everything about Apple or that I work there...
    • I agree with all-in-one

      I just bought a Sony Vaio Pro 13 as my first Windows 8 experience. The Vaio is great and weighs next to nothing. Although the screen is small, it's super crisp and the size is a trade off I chose for mobility.

      While shopping, I checked out the all in ones and pretty much agree that they're a great concept for in home, heck even for work if you don't need a dual monitor.

      I read tech sites and get pretty tired of W8 bashing. If you're a hard core IT tech head, then it may not be ideal, especially for multi-tasking (switching between programs) but for everything else it's fine.

      I work in finance and I can actually say I never use the start button. I only live in Desktop apps and explorer so the start screen is fine and actually better for launching core apps.
      Get to the Chopper!
      • Dual monitors - who needs them?

        My company has been putting dual monitors on professionals' desks for over a decade. Now I have switched from dual 24" 1920x1080 to a single 29" 21:9 (2560x1080).

        Dual monitors is a way to get an affordable aspect ratio which supports the need for side-by-side windows/documents. Now, a single 29" 21:9 is an affordable option - and, for me, a better compromise compared to dual 24" HDMI.

        When the industry releases all-in-ones like this Dell but with 21:9 screens - that should be the go-to configuration for serious business workers.

        Should these machines be touch? Of course! One does not use touch when sitting down and working alone. But stand up with three colleagues to show them the product of your work and a touch monitor is a huge collaboration productivity feature - well worth the extra $100 (soon to be only $50).

        So, for me, 15 years of using dual (and triple) monitors has come to an end and I have finally got rid of those dual bezels in the middle of my visual display work space. 29" 2560x1080 21:9 is a decent compromise for now. But what I am really looking forward to is 34" 3200x1440 20:9 which, of course, will be slightly concave and packaged in an all-in-one box.
    • It is just me...

      In windows 8, I go to the desktop to create a Word document I need to send as an attachment. When I finished I want to write the email, then I found myself in a dilemma: should I go to my Mail Metro-style app or just open the browser and do it the "legacy" way? Wait, I want to use the modern metro-style apps, ...but it is kind of awkward going from windows to full screen apps back and forward... Well, who cares, I'll open the browser and I'll use the "legacy" mode. Wait, I feel too legacy now doing it that way.

      Anyway, I do really think the new Windows 8 (I should call it Tiles 8) is a burden for the User. The User experience is confusing and not uniform.
      I don't really understand how people are just "accepting" it.