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.