The Dell XPS One 27 Touch (£1,699 list price) is a high-end all-in-one desktop PC that gets Windows 8 right. It starts off by helping you learn how to use the new operating system (and let's face it, Windows 8 is new to most people), plus its touch interface makes sense in the new tiled Start screen environment.
Add a speedy Core i7 processor and a feature set that lets you run faster and further than other all-in-one PCs, and you'll see why we chose the Dell XPS One 27 Touch as a recipient of our Best Buy award – despite its considerable price tag. This machine has the power, it has the features, and it's got the touch.
Design and features
From the front, the XPS One 27 Touch looks a lot like Dell's older non-touch model, at least until you adjust its height. Both systems sport 27in 2,560 x 1,440 (QHD) screens. As per its moniker, the XPS One 27 Touch has a 10-point capacitive touchscreen built into its chassis. The most prominent difference between the two is apparent when you look at the system from the side: The XPS One 27 Touch has a two-hinge support arm that not only governs tilt, but also allows a range of height adjustment, which is more versatile than a single-hinge arm that doesn't allow height adjustments. The dual-hinge design allows you to lean the screen way back for easier hands-on use, and is similar to systems like the Lenovo A720, which also tilts back a great deal.
The XPS One 27 Touch's power cord still connects directly to the unit, eliminating the need for an external power brick (a good thing). You may wish to compare this system's styling (and certainly its price tag) to the iMac 27in (late 2012). The iMac is certainly more svelte, due to its thinner chassis and lack of an optical drive, but the XPS One 27 Touch holds up fine due to its height adjustment and minimalist styling.
The front of the system is where all the action happens. The bezel around the screen is glossy black, while the speaker "chin" below the screen sports a neutral grey colour. These features will blend into the background when the system is in operation, as the 27in screen is bright and vivid. Blu-ray movies and online videos look great on this display. We recommend you choose "no" when the pre-installed PowerDVD program asks to reduce the resolution to 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) to match the output from Blu-ray movies (the system is powerful enough to scale 1080p video up to the full screen resolution).
The screen is glossy, which aids colour accuracy, but the glossy finish also contributes to inadvertent reflections, particularly when viewing dark movie scenes or monochromatic desktop backgrounds.
The XPS One 27 Touch has a row of backlit soft buttons below the screen that let you change inputs to the HDMI in port, eject the disc in use, or turn the screen off entirely. The HDMI in port lets you connect additional sources like game consoles, and will let you continue to use the screen after the internal PC components are obsolete. The HDMI out port lets you hook the system up to a larger screen HDTV, or use another monitor with the system for a multi-monitor multitasking setup.
The system's six USB 3.0 ports aren't blue, as they are on most laptops and desktops, but they are all compliant with the fast USB 3.0 standard. This means you don't have to worry about plugging your external drive into the "wrong" (i.e. slower) port. There's an SD card reader on the side for your digital snapshots, and the system's Ethernet port is the remaining external connector. However, you don't have to use wired Ethernet with the XPS One 27 Touch: The system comes with Bluetooth and 2.4GHz along witth 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and the included keyboard and mouse are wireless.
Windows 8 is best used on a touchscreen system, so it's no surprise that Windows 8 works well on the XPS One 27 Touch. The Start screen's tiles come up quickly, and it's easy to swipe, twist, and tap on the large seamless glass panel. You can bring up charms and use other Windows 8 UI commands with a swipe of the finger on the touchscreen.
Aside from the standard group of Microsoft apps, Dell pre-loads Amazon (the store), Kindle (the reading app), the Dell Shop, Skype, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, Cyberlink Media Suite (PowerDVD), and a link to download or activate Office. The fact that all of these apps are on the Start screen helps to keep the XPS One 27's desktop mode uncluttered. You'll also find a Getting Started with Windows 8 app on the Start screen, which is a great help to the millions of folks out there who haven't used Windows 8 until now.
Windows 8 is reasonably easy to navigate, once you unlearn many of the shortcuts you’re used to from previous versions of Microsoft’s OS. For example, the Getting Started app helps you learn how to use the Charms bar and switch between apps. You can still use the keyboard and mouse to navigate Windows, but the touchscreen is better when you're on the Start screen. The machine we looked at came with a one year subscription to McAfee Security Centre as well as a one year warranty.
The system is powered by a high-end Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics, and a 2TB hard drive with a 32GB mSATA supplemental cache drive. The cache drive helps speed operations, plus 2TB is plenty of storage space for an average family (or one determined downloader).
So the XPS One 27 Touch definitely isn’t short of power. The Intel Core i7-3770S processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics combine to give a power user a system that isn’t afraid of tackling some real work. It can handle moderate gaming duties, as shown by its 38 frames per second (fps) score in Aliens vs. Predator, and 41 fps score in the Heaven benchmark test (both at medium quality settings).
Handbrake was quick as well, with a score of 34 seconds, only a touch slower than the Apple iMac 27in’s 32 seconds. The XPS One 27 Touch recorded a time of 3 minutes and 15 seconds on our Photoshop CS6 test, just one second behind the iMac 27in – so for all intents and purposes, the Dell machine is the equal of the iMac in the multimedia stakes.
Both the iMac and the XPS One 27 Touch have hybrid-style disk drive setups, though the iMac's Fusion Drive works in a fundamentally different manner to the Dell's Intel SRT cache setup. Regardless, the end result is a system which is much faster overall than less expensive high-end touchscreen all-in-one PCs like the Acer Aspire 7600U.
The Dell XPS One 27 Touch is close to the pinnacle of all-in-one desktops, with a price tag to match. With a Blu-ray player, a Quad HD resolution display, and bags of high-end power, the XPS One 27 Touch is a great choice for users who want to use Windows 8 now, or those in the market for a high-end all-in-one that isn’t an iMac. The late 2012 iMac we reviewed is a fair bit pricier and has higher-end graphics so it's got better 3D numbers, but the XPS One 27 Touch is equal to the iMac on multimedia tests. In short, the XPS One 27 Touch is the closest thing we have seen to a perfect Windows 8 PC, and well worth its asking price, taking home our Best Buy award.
Manufacturer and Model
Dell XPS One 27 Touch
Intel Core i7
Nvidia GeForce GT 640M
Primary Optical Drive
Storage Capacity (as Tested)
2000GB + 32GB SSD
Microsoft Windows 8 Professional