Dell XPS 18 review

The all-in-one PC that's everything in one

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The Dell XPS 18 squarely targets the computer user who wants a system with maximum versatility. It bears some similarities to the Lenovo Horizon 2 , particularly in how both systems are large screen tablets that can be connected to stands. However, the differences are night and day.

The XPS 18 only weighs a third of what the Horizon 2 does and is far more portable than that 27-inch all-in-one system. Not to mention, the XPS 18's battery lasts almost twice as long as the Horizon 2's, despite the former's higher performing Core i7 processor.

Dell XPS 18 review

While the Lenovo can only travel short distances, like from the office to the living room, the Dell XPS 18 has the potential to go almost anywhere. However, the XPS 18 also has fewer input ports, a smaller hard drive (on most configurations), and a weaker GPU. Furthermore, there is no HDMI-in port for hooking up entertainment devices, like Blu-ray players and game consoles.

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4510U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4400 graphics
  • RAM: 8GB Dual Channel DDR3L (1,600 Mhz)
  • Screen: 18.4-inch 1,920 x 1,080, LED Backlit Touch Display
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Ports: 2 USB 3.0 ports, media card reader, headphone/mic jack
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: H.264 via SW / Color Sensor
  • Size: 18.25 x 11.17 x 0.7 inches (W x D x H),
  • Weight: 5.14 lbs

The XPS 18 comes in four different configurations. The lowest price model, which retails for $599 (about £395, AU$758), includes an Intel Core i3 processor and doesn't come with a stand. I reviewed the top-end model, which contains everything listed above for $1,499 (around £987, AU$1,889). That's a little on the pricey side, given its screen size and features.

Dell XPS 18 review

In the UK, prices start at around £998, and they all include an adjustable stand. Australian folks may be disappointed to learn that the XPS 18 is not yet available in those parts.

Performance

Although the system features a decent processor, the XPS 18 suffers when it comes to 3D graphics, so it's best not to tax it. The Horizon 2, far and away, wins out on the graphics front when compared to the XPS 18, thanks to an Nvidia GeForce GT 840A graphics chip. Here's how the XPS 18 fared in our benchmark suite:

  • 3DMark: Fire Strike: 621; Sky Diver: 2,489; Cloud Gate: 4,543
  • PCMark 8 Home: 2,499
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3h 23min 51s
  • Cinebench Graphics: 25.36 fps; CPU: 271 cb

The Horizon 2 scored over twice as well in 3DMark and Cinebench graphics tests, like its 5,177 3DMark Sky Diver result and 53.05 fps rating in Cinebench's graphics test. Although the XPS 18 is considerably more portable, it simply isn't designed for heavy 3D graphics. That said, the Intel Core i7 CPU inside the XPS 18 moderately (if unsurprisingly) beats out the Horizon 2's Core i5 CPU, which scored 230 points in Cinebench's processor test.

Dell XPS 18 review

What is surprising is how closely midrange all-in-one systems, like the Acer Aspire U5, compare with the XPS 18. The Aspire U5, a sedentary all-in-one PC, reported PCMark 8 (2,502) Cinebench (292 cb) scores within digits of the XPS 18's results.

Also, the Acer all-in-one gets some better performance out of its Intel HD 4600 graphics than the XPS 18's Intel HD 4400. It's not an incredible speed increase, but the two systems match against each other very nicely. With that in mind, the Aspire U5 makes for an appealing option if you want to trade in portability for a lower price tag.

Dell XPS 18 review

Finally, the XPS 18 also features a pretty decent battery that lasted for about 3 hours before having to plug it in again. That's plenty of time to watch a movie, check email, surf the web, and get some work done. However, the graphics aren't very powerful, so it's not great for playing most games.

We liked

Whether you're using it as a large screen tablet or an all-in-one desktop, the Dell XPS 18 is there to please. The ability to simply lift the screen off its stand and work from another room using its folding legs can be invaluable, and I enjoy the sense of having a portable desktop system.

I also like how the heavy base can be tilted so that they system can be operated while standing, making it easy to quickly check things like news headlines, the weather, and sports scores. The system has a nice, bright, LED backlit touchscreen and very loud speakers, which makes it ideal for watching video or viewing photos.

We disliked

Portability creates sacrifices, and the XPS 18 is no exception to this rule. The slate only has two USB 3.0 ports and a media card reader to expand its storage. The screen has one vented side, and it has a tendency to get hot with prolonged use.

However, the biggest downside of the configuration we reviewed is the price. At $1,500, this high-end system is quite an investment. The Lenovo Horizon 2 doesn't win out in the portability department, but it features a massive 27-inch screen, backed by an Nvidia GPU, while retailing for the same price.

Final verdict

The Dell XPS 18's greatest value is its versatility. There's nothing quite like knowing that you can pick up your computer at a moment's notice and continue working from a different location without necessarily having to sacrifice the desktop experience.

However, the price for the Core i7 model seems exceptionally high, considering its unimpressive graphical performance and small handful of ports. It would be great if Dell offered a model with a Core i7 processor, but equipped it with a less expensive storage option. Without that, you will have to either pay more or add on more external storage.

Here's the bottom line: with a long-lasting battery, high degree of portability, fast processor and high resolution display, the Dell XPS 18 could easily serve as the hub for your home computing life. That said, you might want to aim for one of the lower-end models, or keep an eye out for sales.