4K touch screen. Superb audio. Excellent graphics and multimedia performance.
Pricey. Awkward port placement.
- Bottom Line
The Dell XPS 27 All-in-One may be pricey, but it includes a stunning display, heart-pounding audio, and excellent computing power in a single package.
Plan to replace your hard drive or add memory in a few years? Want to add a better video card? You're probably eyeing a conventional desktop tower over an all-in-one (AIO), many of which don't have user-serviceable components. The Dell XPS 27 All-in-One ($1,399, $2,599 as tested) begs you to reconsider, though. Not only are its components upgradeable, but it also has one killer, rare feature that would be exceedingly difficult and expensive to add to a desktop: This 27-inch AIO sports a whopping 10 speakers—some downward-facing and others front-facing—that result in one of the best-sounding computers you can buy. It's fast, too: a processor upgrade makes the latest XPS 27 even better than the otherwise identical and already excellent one we reviewed back in January. That means it's our new Editors' Choice for best high-end all-in-one.
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Enough Audio for a Home Theater
The XPS 27 has six front-firing speakers mounted in its bezel below the screen, lending the PC a mildly aggressive look that suggests it's more at home in a garage recording studio or man cave than a kitchen nook. A black bezel, black stand, and very dark gray aluminum on the rest of the chassis underlines this aggressiveness. It's by no means an ugly design, but neither is it as svelte as the Apple iMac 27-Inch With 5K Retina Display. It's also not as unique as the ultra-wide HP Envy 34 Curved All-in-One, which shared our previous Editors' Choice for high-end all-in-ones with the Microsoft Surface Studio.
In addition to the front-firing speakers, there are four more downward-facing ones that hide out of view behind the screen. All told, there are two tweeters, six full-range drivers, and two passive radiators that ensure robust bass. Dynamic amplifiers ensure 50 watts of power for each channel, and the net result is that we recorded an ear-shattering 107dB at full volume when we tested the speakers in PC Labs earlier this year, enough to be heard more than 200 feet away through walls, glass, and office furniture.
At 17 by 25 by 3 inches (HWD), the XPS 27 is a fairly standard-sized 27-inch AIO, though all of those speakers weigh it down significantly. Our review unit comes in at just more than 38 pounds, nearly 18 pounds heavier than the 27-inch iMac. In addition to the speakers, you can also ascribe part of the weight difference to the stand that Dell devised for the touch-screen version of the XPS 27. Among Microsoft's many requirements for touch-enabled Windows desktop displays is that they offer a variety of viewing angles, so the stand articulates to enable the XPS 27 to move completely parallel or perpendicular with your desk, and pretty much any angle in between. The horizontal orientation would be particularly useful as a digital canvas for kids to paint pictures without messy finger paint, and the stand is certainly sturdy enough to withstand their antics. If you opt for the non-touch XPS 27, you'll shave 10 pounds from the weight, but you'll end up with a non-articulating stand.
The touch screen itself is extremely capable, boasting a 4K resolution and crisp, bright text and images. Touch gestures feel very natural, with excellent accuracy and very little latency when dragging application windows with the tip of a finger. Below the screen is an array of four microphones and a 720p camera that's compatible with Windows Hello facial recognition. That's especially handy if you're using the XPS 27 in the kitchen to display recipes and need to wake it up without getting cookie dough all over the keyboard or screen. The keyboard and mouse that come included in the box are both wireless and use a single USB receiver to connect, though they're also Bluetooth-compatible. I find the lightweight keyboard to be very comfortable for short typing sessions, but the boomerang-style mouse is more awkward, offering nowhere to rest thumbs and pinky fingers.
The XPS 27 comes with a robust port complement for an AIO, including an easily-accessible USB 3.0 port on the right edge and a headphone jack and SDXC card reader on the left. The rest of the ports are woefully hard to reach, however, since they're located underneath the stand arm on the back of the chassis. They include a second audio-out port, four more USB 3.0 jacks, a set of two USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, and HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.
The downward-firing speakers eliminate the possibility of a more accessible placement like you find at the bottom-right of the rear of the iMac, which is a shame for anyone who frequently needs to plug in and unplug a Thunderbolt hard drive. Hidden beneath a cover near the rear ports are two screws that hold the back panel in place. Remove it and you've got full access to the system's components, including the hard drive and memory, which makes the XPS 27 a good choice for tinkerers who are planning upgrades later on.
Our review unit comes with 16GB of memory and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive. You can opt for a hybrid drive configuration with a 2TB 5,400rpm hard disk and a 32GB M.2 SATA SSD cache instead. On the non-touch model, which starts at $1,549, the base drive configuration is a hybrid with a 1TB disk and a 32GB cache. Both touch- and non-touch XPS 27 models also come with built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, as well as a one-year hardware warranty with onsite service. Service add-ons include up to four additional years of warranty coverage and accidental damage service, for upcharges that range as high as $299.
Better Components, Impressive Results
A graphics upgrade and a switch to Intel's seventh-generation "Kaby Lake" processors means that the XPS 27 performed exceptionally well on our graphics and productivity performance tests. With a Core i7-7700 CPU running at 3.6Ghz, it outperformed most of its high-end AIO competition, with the exception of the gaming-focused Digital Storm Aura. Its performance on the Handbrake video-encoding test (0:52), the Cinebench 3D benchmark (860), and the Photoshop image-manipulation tasks (2:34) were slightly improved compared with its predecessor, and markedly better than the 27-inch iMac and a pair of HP Envy all-in-ones. The HP Envy 34 Curved All-in-One scored higher on the PCMark 8 benchmark, however, which measures typical productivity and multimedia tasks.
The XPS 27 demonstrated similar improvements when it comes to gaming performance. It now boasts an AMD Radeon RX 570, instead of the Radeon R9 M470X in the older model. That GPU upgrade allows it to deliver impressive frame rates on our Heaven and Valley tests. At medium quality settings, it recorded an average of 154fps on the Heaven test and 137fps on Valley. With the exception of the Aura, which has a superior Nvidia GTX 1080 card, all of the other all-in-ones had scores between 58fps and 98fps on these tests. When I turned the quality settings up to ultra at 1080p resolution, the XPS 27 also delivered performance that blew away most of the competition. On the 3DMark graphics benchmarks, the XPS 27 also fared better than the rest of the lineup, again with the exception of the gaming-specific Aura.
An All-in-One's All-in-One, But at a Price
Copious graphics and computing power along with a 4K touch screen and a speaker complement worthy of a home theater setup suggests that Dell hopes the XPS 27 will fulfill pretty much any computing need a modern household could have, and its enough to make this high-end AIO our new Editors' Choice. All of that performance will take a toll on your wallet, however: Our review unit has a list price of $2,599. If you just want a pretty all-in-one that sounds good, you can buy the base model for $1,549, which comes with a slower processor, less memory, and an inferior graphics card, but still includes a 4K display and 10 speakers. Meanwhile, gamers who care about eking out every last frame will want to consider the Digital Storm Aura, which boasts a superior Nvidia GPU, and video editors will want to consider the 5K resolution on the 27-inch iMac.
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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