Dell XPS 18 review

Dell XPS 18

Sony got there first with the Tap 20, but Dell’s XPS 18 is a welcome addition to this interesting new category of semi-portable mega-tablets. See Group test: what's the best all-in-one PC? 

The XPS 18 all-in-one PC is a little smaller than the Tap 20, with an 18.4-inch touch-sensitive IPS display that measures 18 mm thick. The entire unit weighs about 2.45 kg. See also: Dell XPS 10 Tablet review - basic Windows 8 RT tablet has great battery life.

That’s comparable to a typical 15-inch laptop, so it’s light enough to pick up and carry from room to room at home, even if you’re not likely to slip it into your backpack when you go away for the weekend.

It houses quite a decent PC system too. Prices range from £849 for a model with an Intel Pentium processor, to £1100 with an Intel Core i7.

We tested the middle-of-the range model, which sells for £999 with an older Ivy Bridge dual-core Core i5 running at 1.8 GHz, 8GB of memory, and 500GB hard disk – here supplemented by a 32 GB solid-state mSATA module.

The XPS 18 also includes a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a weighty iron stand that doubles up as a charging dock.

When used with that stand and keyboard the XPS 18 simply looks like a compact all-in-one desktop PC. The slimline screen panel doesn’t leave any room for an optical drive but the XPS 18 does have a pair of USB 3.0 ports so that you can add extra storage or connect a printer.

There’s also no wired ethernet, though, so networking is Wi-Fi only. It would have been nice to include HDMI input and output too, but Dell has perhaps missed a trick by not even building those ports into the dock unit.

Of course the real selling point of the Dell XPS 18 is its versatility. You can sit down and use it like a regular desktop PC, and then just pick it up the screen panel and carry it in another room for web browsing and entertainment when you’re finished.

We quickly found ourselves using it to watch the BBC News channel in the kitchen, as well as streaming films and TV programmes from LoveFilm account by night.

The XPS 18 managed a little over 3.5 hours of battery life for streaming video this way – twice the endurance of the Sony Tap 20 – so you could potentially watch an entire film or binge on a few episodes of your favourite TV programme between charges.
 
Application performance is in line with a similarly-specified laptop. The Dell XPS 18 Desktop achieved a low score of 2690 points when running the PCMark 7 benchtest although. That’s largely due to the use of a relatively slow hard disk that holds back perceived and benchmark speed.

In practice, the XPS 18 coped easily with web browsing and running Microsoft Office, and its 8GB of memory means that it can also handle a spot of photo- or video editing too. And while the SSD module doesn’t help much with the PCMark 7 tests, it does ensure that the XPS 18 feels snappy and responsive, taking 10 seconds to restart from hibernation into the Windows 8 Start screen, and waking from sleep in a snap of your fingers.

We were also pleased to see that the XPS 18 never became more than mildly warm during several days of testing, so there should be no problems with overheating.

Its graphics performance was disappointing. The integrated HD Graphics 4000 processor barely managed 15 fps, even running Batman: Arkham at the lowest quality settings and limited to 1280 x 720 resolution. Gaming action will probably be restricted to Angry Birds and other family fare.

Continue reading on the next page for our initial Dell XPS 18 hands-on review.


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