From a performance standpoint, the Dell is simply the fastest 27-inch all-in-one at its price. Among Windows PCs it has no true speed competition. The Core i5-based $1,599 XPS One 27 (and its $1,399 non-touch equivalent) would also be competitive, if not quite as fast. Our Dell review unit also trounces the existing 27-inch $1,999 iMac. A more expensive iMac with a Core i7 chip would perform better, and a new iMac might also give the Dell a race. Dollar for dollar, though, the Dell XPS One 27 is currently faster.
Moving beyond a pure price-performance calculation, the newest phase of Windows computing aspires for more than simply posting fast benchmark scores. Whether you like it or not, touch screens, lightweight applications, and product design are all ascending. The XPS One 27 excels in most of these aspects as well.
Of these "softer" features, the Dell's touch screen might be its best. Like competing new all-in-ones, the XPS One 27 has edge-to-edge glass, which means you won't struggle to make proper contact with the screen in its corners and along its edges. But more than that, Dell also seems to have put an effort into the responsiveness and the general feel of controlling the system with touch.
Unlike with touch screens on the Acer and the Sony Vaio Tap 20, your fingers glide relatively smoothly along the XPS One 27's screen, with minimal drag. In our test with the Air Hockey app, downloaded from the Microsoft's Windows 8 app store, the Dell also never lost our input with the onscreen paddle. Those other systems, the Acer especially, can't say the same. You don't always need to maintain a continuous, fast-moving connection to the touch-screen on an all-in-one. Dell deserves credit, though, for ensuring that you can.
If I have any major complaint with the Dell, it has to do with its inability to recline the display a full 90 degrees. Both Dell and Acer settle for 60 degrees of movement. The battery-powered Sony Vaio Tap 20 makes 90-degree positioning simple -- you simply lay it down on a tabletop. I agree that you're more likely to use the Sony that way given that you can free it from a power cable, but Lenovo's non-battery-powered IdeaCentre A720 also offers full flat input, thanks to a well-designed stand. Limiting the XPS One 27 to a 60-degree recline feels like stopping short.
The Dell's other features mainly carry over from the original all-in-one. Its screen is huge, clear, and bright. HD video content in particular looks great, and the higher resolution also means that the Dell can fit more text than its competitors into shortcut boxes on the Windows 8 main UI screen. Photo editors and others might balk at the glossy coating on the display, and the high resolution also means that SD video can look particularly blotchy. You might have trouble playing some more challenging games at its native resolution, but Dishonored was smooth and visually stunning at 2,560x1,440 pixels.
As for other details, the slot-loading optical drive is a polished touch. Input arrays on the left edge and along the back provide you with most of what you'd want in a high-end all-in-one, including the aforementioned HDMI jacks, and six USB 3.0 inputs. The ports on the back of the system are a bit cramped behind the display stand, but you can move the screen easily enough that it's not a major obstacle.
It took two years before any Windows vendor found a way to offer an all-in-one with the same 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution as the 27-inch iMac. Now that Dell has figured it out, the remaining 27-inch Windows PCs look woefully under-featured. Dell may have locked up the right supplier to make the XPS One 27, or perhaps it's simply willing to make less profit than its competition. Whatever Dell has done to make this system available, consumers have won. At any of its various price points, the XPS One 27 is the best Windows 8 all-in-one you can buy.
All performance testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
System configurations (at the time of each review)
Apple iMac 27-inch (Spring 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 (second generation); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 6970M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
Acer Aspire 7600U
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 768MB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600S; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
Dell XPS One 27
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro 64-bit; 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Omni 27 Quad
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400S; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB Intel HD Graphics 1000 (embedded); 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M ; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive