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Dell XPS 18 Hands-On Review

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Dell has announced its Dell XPS 18 at SXSW, and we got a chance to get our hands on it. Dell’s goal with the XP 18 all-in-one (AIO) computer is to design a beautiful and functional “ultimate” home computer. Secondly, the company wants to make sure that the PC performs well, and that the design aspect does not compromise the overall performance and user experience of the product. This is reflected in the hardware options that go all the way to the powerful Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM.

Update: you can now read our in-depth review of the Dell XPS 18.

In terms of design, the Dell XPS 18 is an ultra-thin 18.4″ AIO computer with that is basically built like a 18.4″ Windows 8 tablet with an internal battery and all, although Dell points out that they did not intend users to perceive this (and judge it) as a tablet. This is truly meant to be a PC that you can move around if you want to, but is not designed to be a “mobile” computer in the sense that you would carry it outside or travel with it. [Photos credit: Karsten Lemm]

Industrial Design

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The XPS 18 design and is great, and I think that many will find it surprisingly stylish – Dell has that habit of building some jaw-dropping designs every once in a while (do you remember the Adamo series?). We have seen other concepts like this, but most of them look more like “televisions” because they are thick and heavy. This is not the case here: Dell’s design is sleek and unique among all-in-one PCs: At 17.7mm and 4.87lbs, this 18.4″ computer can be moved around as easily as you would move a laptop. In fact, the XPS 18 is impressively light if you compare that to my 15″ Macbook Pro Retina” which weighs 4.5lbs.

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The front is all glass and looks very minimalist, but in the back, you will find an integrated stand that allows the Dell XPS 18 to be in an upright position without the use of the optional dock/charger. Without the dock, the power is connected directly to the device, which is not as sleek, but it works.

The XPS 18 comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard, but it’s a real PC, so you can also use any other input devices you want. The screen size is large enough for relatively comfortable typing on the touch screen, although I don’t think that this would truly replace a physical keyboard.

Usage models

This is the kind of PC that could easily be used in a conference room to share or collaborate during a meeting. You could imagine this computer being great for showing something to a client, whether it is schematics, photos, drawings or even websites: the sheer size of the screen would probably make anything more presentable for that kind of purpose.

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When used outside of work, it’s also a transportable computer that could be used to keep kids occupied with a cartoon while grown-ups can chat or have a nice diner nearby. The optional stand ($49) is very small and moves around very easily as well, so you don’t have to rely on the internal battery if you plan on using this computer for a while. When used in battery mode, the battery depletion should be about 5 hours : we haven’t had time to run that test ourselves, so we’ll take Dell’s word for it at the moment. The maximum battery life in the specs sheet is 7.26 hours. Obviously, this will depend greatly on your hardware options, screen brightness and app usage.

In terms of gaming, you will be able to play mid-level games, but don’t hold your breath on running the latest Call of Duty at high frame-rates  Without a discrete graphics card, it’s just difficult to achieve the highest gaming performance. The good news is that older games and most casual games should run fine.

Dell has included a few apps that take advantage of this huge touch display, but overall, you will have to rely on the Windows 8 software eco-system to fulfill your needs. I think that most people will be happy with what can be found on the market today, but if you are thinking about using this for specific graphic or music application, I recommend doing your own research. After all, it’s all about the apps and what you can do with your computer.

Display

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The Dell XPS 18 has a 1920×1080 resolution, which makes it capable of playing HD movies in their full glory. The display comes with a glossy treatment, which makes the colors “pop” a little more – it’s very common, but there are no matte version in case you were wondering. The  display view angle is very good (obvious in the photo above), which is great since it is meant to be viewed by more than one person during sharing/collaboration sessions. Finally, Dell has told us that no other brand would get this display since it is a Dell-exclusive for 9 months.

Technical highlights

If you are willing to pay for it, it is absolutely possible to get “Ultrabook performance” with the Dell XPS 18 computer, which means a full PC experience with no compromises – you simply cannot get that with today’s iOS or Android devices (including Android displays, which are very simple computers).

CPUs: Pentium all the way to Core i7
Integrated Intel GPU up to Intel HD4000
4GB to 8GB of DDR3 RAM
HDD or SSD storage up to 512GB (mSATA module for SSDs)
8 in 1 Flash card reader
two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port
WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel Wireless Display
69Whr battery capacity
Starts at $899, availability: mid-April

Conclusion

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Dell has come up with a great industrial design: the XPS 18 is truly a beautiful PC that can be used in a home or at the office. Its price may seem high, but one could argue that it is affordable for this level of design and performance. The $899 model comes with a mechanical hard-drive and 4GB of RAM but we recommend the SSD option if that’s the only thing that you can upgrade from the base model. A this point, Dell is still working on the final pricing, but we don’t expect the high-end model to cost twice as much as the base model.

The XPS 18 is surprisingly cool and sleek. We really like the concept and think that Dell deserves a lot of credit for building this. This computer brings laptop-level weight to an 18″ home computer which is amazingly lean and easy to move around. One day, all home computers may look like this, but for now, the Dell XPS 18 is uniquely cool.

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