This gorgeous all-in-one sacrifices usability in favor of aesthetics.
Earlier this year, we took a look at Dell's non-touchscreen version of the XPS One 27. Now Dell's pretty all-in-one is back, with slightly updated specs, Windows 8 Professional, and, of course, a touchscreen. This version of the One is as gorgeous as ever, with the exact same design as its predecessor, and its Quad HD screen looks even better with multi-touch. But now that Windows 8 is out, just about every single computer out there has a touchscreen--so how does the One hold up?
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Our review model, which costs $2600 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i7-3770S processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive (alongside a 32GB SSD boot drive). This all-in-one also has a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card, built-in Bluetooth 4.0, and a slot-loading DVD-RW/Blu-ray combo drive. The XPS One runs Windows 8 Professional.
In PCWorld's WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the XPS One scores a very good 91 out of 100. This means that the One is just nine percent slower than our testing model, which sports a third-generation Intel Core i5-3570K desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete Nvidia desktop-class graphics card. By comparison, the One has a low voltage, S model processor and an Nvidia GT 640M mobile GPU, which is why it's a bit slower than our testing model (despite the fact that our testing model has an i5, and not an i7, processor).
The XPS One performs well in individual tests, though it's not quite up to speed with our testing model. It's quick to start up (20.6 seconds), and reasonably snappy with video and audio encoding (148 seconds and 201.5 seconds, respectively). By comparison, our testing model starts up in 33.5 seconds, and encodes video and audio in 132 seconds and 202.2 seconds, respectively. The One doesn't perform quite as well in the PCMark 7 productivity test, with a score of 2943 (compared to the testing model's 4633).
Thanks to its discrete graphics card, the XPS One holds its own in graphics tests. In our Dirt Showdown graphics test, the One managed 111.8 frames per second (maximum quality settings, 1366 by 768 pixel resolution). The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart and the Toshiba Satellite LX835-D3380 both managed just around 73 fps, and both of those all-in-ones have Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics cards.
Design and usability
The Dell XPS One is gorgeous, but it sacrifices usability in favor of aesthetics.
It's got a pretty screen, a pretty stand, and a pretty back, but all of this prettiness comes at a cost. The screen, for example, is surrounded by a thick black bezel, which is covered in edge-to-edge glass. Along the bottom of the bezel there's a mirrored Dell logo (in the center), as well as four touch-sensitive buttons. These buttons are for changing the brightness and input, as well as ejecting discs from the One's slot-loading DVD-RW/Blu-ray combo drive. While these buttons--which glow to indicate recognition when you hover over them with your finger--add to the One's overall buttonless aesthetic, they're unlabeled, which is annoying and confusing until you get used to them.
Another example of form over function is the One's stand. It looks like a typical monitor stand, which is nice--I hate when all-in-one stands extend from the base of the screen. This stand instead attaches to the back of the screen, and has a large, rectangular base and a thick, flexible arm. The arm is designed to let you position the screen at different angles--for example, you can adjust the stand so that the screen is tilted back in a sort of tablet-form. Er...what I mean to say is that you could adjust the stand like this, if the stand weren't so difficult to adjust. The screen is heavy, and let's just say that it takes a lot of strength to move the One into different positions.
Finally, the One's ports are awkwardly placed. There are a couple of convenience ports on the left side of the screen (two USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, and a card reader), and optical drive and power button are on the right side. But the rest of the ports are located underneath where the stand attaches to the screen.
That's right--underneath the stand. The AC port is located directly under the stand's inflexible arm, and the rest of the ports are located to either side of this port. This includes four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI in, HDMI out, S/PDIF out, and a lock slot. Although this looks good--the back of the machine looks smooth and uncluttered, it's a terrible place to put ports. It's difficult to plug just about everything in, unless you tilt the screen up and contort yourself in strange ways.
The XPS One comes with sleek but generic peripherals, both of which are wireless. The keyboard has flat, island-style keys and orange accents, and gives good feedback, while the two-button, scroll-wheel mouse is lightweight and smooth. The peripherals don't feel flimsy or cheap, but they're merely basic in function.
Screen and speakers
The XPS One's glossy, 27-inch screen has a native resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels, also known as "Quad HD." Images and text look crisp, clear, and very sharp, and pixels are hardly visible (especially not if you're standing a couple feet away). The screen looks excellent at first glance, but it's not perfect. Colors look a little off--whites look yellowish and skintones look sunburnt. There's also some artifacting in darker HD video scenes, as well as some shimmering on what should be static patterns.
As a touchscreen, the One's screen is accurate and responsive. It has 10-point multi-touch and multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom are smooth and not stilted or jerky at all. The One's speakers sound good as well, with excellent surround sound replication and full, warm bass. They get fairly loud, and there's very little distortion at higher volume levels.
The bottom line
The Dell XPS One is a very pretty, powerful machine, and it will certainly add style and class to any room you put it in. Unfortunately, it's like they say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This AIO has multiple issues if you plan on using it, rather than just looking at it, including a difficult-to-position stand, an off-color screen, and poor port placement. Of course, for some people these will be minor issues. If you're just looking for a sexy AIO to liven up your living room, the XPS One is a very nice choice. But if you're a graphic designer looking for a new multimedia powerhouse, you may want to pass.
This story, "Review: Dell XPS One, form over function" was originally published by PCWorld.
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