Dell XPS 27 AIO Desktop Review: Beauty, Performance, And Sound

By Patrick Moorhead - August 15, 2017
Dell XPS 27" AIO front view The quality of the latest crop of Microsoft Windows-based, premium PCs has been quite impressive. From sleek 15" notebook designs with discrete graphics to thin and very light 13" notebooks and 2-in-1s, I have never seen the quality this high. This week, it's onto All-in-ones. Dell recently loaned me its new XPS 27” All-In-One Desktop PC to take a spin on. In the last week, I also wrote about HP Inc.’s ENVY AIO, so I’m currently in AIO mode—plenty of reference points for comparison. I’ve been a fan of the XPS line in the past, and I recently wrote a review on the XPS 13 2-in-1 notebook. I wrote that Dell had been extremely consistent with XPS, in terms of experience, design, commitment to quality, and risk-taking on value-adding features, and it’s consistency like that, across product lines, which Dell can thank for its 17 straight quarters of revenue growth. I was very interested to see if all these XPS qualities would carry over to the new AIO desktop unit. After using the XPS 27” on and off for the last two months, and I wanted to go ahead and offer up my thoughts on the device. What I liked At 27 inches, the display is a great size for an AIO. Overall, the design was flexible, modern, and industrial, with machined aluminum and an all-glass bezel. The back of the device has a shiny aluminum finish, which gives off a very “premium” vibe. The stand connected to the display was very useful, capable of rotating the display up and down a good amount. It can almost lay all the way flat, enabling very natural touch-screen capabilities. A small downside to the design is that it is a very heavy system (at 36.4 pounds), but that’s really only an issue when you are trying to plug something into the back of the device, or moving it around the house. Dell XPS 27 AIO, rear view. I was impressed by the beautiful, high-quality 4K resolution and color accuracy. To my surprise, the display was a touch screen, and was very bright and vibrant—it was responsive to my touch, and it didn’t leave any smudge on the display, or at least one I could see. The XPS boasts 100% Adobe RGB color gamut, in Ultra HD. In addition, the XPS’s PremierColor software lets users easily tweak different settings (such as preset and custom color gamuts) by application and it even has a custom app splitter that lets users take more advantage of the 27” display beyond the basic Windows "pinning". The device’s AMD Radeon M470X graphics are a big adder (though it is of note that more recent versions of the XPS have upgraded to AMD’s Polaris graphics and Intel’s Kaby Lake). Unlike many AIOs, this system is also certified for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR systems.  All these things considered, I see this device as being well-suited for mid-tier gaming and video streaming—everything looks really good. The device runs off a powerful, 60 watt Intel Core i7 processor, which easily handled everything I used it for. I ran Office 365 applications, streamed video on YouTube, my interns ran college applications (like Globalyceum), and I had multiple browser tabs open at once—all without any trouble. The system also boasts 16GB DDR4 memory and 500 GB NVME storage. I think this solid performance will play well to many demographics: students, consumers, and even business looking for an alternative POS system.
I thought the audio of the XPS 27 was absolutely top-notch. Designed by the award-winning audio engineer Jack Joseph Puig, there are 10 speakers total—6 external speakers, as well as 4 more additional speakers hidden in the device. The system has four front drivers, two front tweeters, two down-firing full-range speakers, and two passive radiators. It’s quite the auditory experience. As far as input goes, I was also impressed by the far-field microphone array—it worked well with Cortana from across the room, like an Amazon Echo or Dot. The camera placement on the bottom of the display, frankly, left a lot to be desired, but I did appreciate the Windows Hello capability. I really enjoy this feature for easy logins.
The keyboard was overall pretty solid. With a full numeric keypad, it was much longer than others I had previously used; an appropriate size for my hands. The keys were smooth and punchy. The mouse had a visually intriguing, curved design, and worked well for all the tasks I used it for. Both the keyboard and the mouse were wireless and lightweight, which is very nice when you’re trying to clear space on your desk for other functions. I will say that I felt as though the keyboard didn’t quite live up to the “premium” feel of the rest of the device. I’d like to see Dell explore using metal versus plastic components—I think that might help. In addition, the keyboard and mouse both use AAA batteries, while most others on the market use some sort of rechargeable solution. As for ports, the XPS boasts a pretty impressive selection of modern and legacy IO: a USB 3.0 port, SD card reader, and audio jack (all on the side), and a ThunderBolt 3 port over a USB-C, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, audio out, HDMI out, DisplayPort, and 4 USB 3.0 ports (all on the back of the device). Room for improvement As I say with all my reviews, there is always room for improvement as there are no perfect products. It is as important to recognize that there are trade-offs in any product’s design. While the things I liked about the XPS greatly outnumbered the things I didn’t, there are a few areas I would suggest improvement on. First off, the camera I mentioned earlier—the camera is placed on the bottom of the display. As a result, the photos and videos it takes are not flattering at all, because of the upward angle of the camera. I tried tilting the screen to fix the issue, but there was no away around it. In addition to that, the 720P webcam looks grainy. For a premium device, I expect a premium 1080P camera—especially for the price tag on the XPS. The XPS 27 falls victim to the perennial problem of certain AIOs—poor port accessibility in the name of beauty. Only one of the four USB ports is located on the side; the rest are nearly impossible to access on the back of the device. I recommend putting the unit face-down on a pad or towel to plug items into it, but beware, it's heavy. It would be really nice to have at least two USB ports on the side, seeing as I often charge my phone and use a flash drive simultaneously. I also wish there was an HDMI-in port somewhere on the device—it would be nice to be able to have a guest hook up their laptop to the XPS’s killer display.
Lastly, while I appreciated the size of the keyboard, I thought some of the key selection was odd: three keys to do a screen capture the screen, but no way to increase/decrease brightness? Seems like a bit of an oversight to me and likely done to leverage a keyboard already in service.
Wrapping up
When all is said and done, I did enjoy this device and can recommend this AIO. The 4K touch display is remarkable, the Core i7 performance is solid, and the audio was great. Overall the keyboard and mouse worked well, even if I would prefer metal to plastic, and rechargeable batteries to AAA. Overall, the XPS offers a great combination of power, speed, and sound—if you love music, photos, and video streaming, and you can afford this price tag, this is the device for you.
+ posts
Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.