Introducing the Dell XPS One 2710

The last time we reviewed an all-in-one from Dell, our impressions were decidedly less than favorable. Dell delivered a polished software experience, but the Inspiron One 2320 we saw had serious issues virtually across the board in terms of both hardware and configuration. As a family appliance (the market typically targeted by all-in-ones), the Inspiron One 2320 was a bust. Yet with the XPS One 27 (along with the impending Inspiron One 20 and Inspiron One 23) they're looking to reverse their fortunes.

Gone are the poor quality screen, awkward stand, and middling connectivity. In their place we find a PLS screen by Samsung, a more ergonomic stand, and all the modern connectivity you could ask for. Better still, the advent of Ivy Bridge and Kepler promise to shore up many of the hardware weaknesses of the last generation of all-in-ones. So does the new Dell XPS One make the grade? Starting as usual with the hardware specs, here's what we received for review, in bold, with alternate parts listed where applicable (e.g. on the CPU).

Dell XPS One 2710 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3770S
(4x3.1GHz, Hyper-Threading, 3.9GHz Turbo, 22nm, 8MB L3, 65W)

Intel Core i5-3450S
(4x2.8GHz, 3.5GHz Turbo, 22nm, 6MB L3, 65W)
Chipset Intel H77
Memory 2x4GB Samsung DDR3-1600 SODIMM (Max 2x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 (16 EUs, up to 1150MHz)

(384 CUDA cores, 645MHz/4GHz core/memory clocks, 128-bit memory bus)
Display 27" LED Glossy 16:9 2560x1440
Samsung PLS
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 2TB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD

Samsung PM830 32GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive Blu-ray reader/DVD+/-RW writer (HL-DT-ST CA30N)
Networking Atheros AR8161 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC275 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and mic jacks
Front Side Webcam
Speaker grilles
Right Side Optical drive
Power button
Left Side Headphone and mic jacks
2x USB 3.0
SD/MMC/XD/MS Pro card reader
Back Side 4x USB 3.0
Ethernet jack
HDMI out
Optical out
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 19.32" x 26.14" x 1.25-2.81"
490.75mm x 664mm, 31.76-71.6mm
Weight 35.16 lbs
15.95 kg
Extras Webcam
Wireless keyboard and mouse
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
Blu-ray reader
TV tuner (Optional)
Warranty 1-year basic support
Pricing Starting at $1,399
As configured: $1,999

Dell wasn't messing around with the new XPS One, and indeed the entire line is the result of their engineers having gone back to the drawing board. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, Dell also benefits from the new technology Ivy Bridge and Kepler bring with them.

The Ivy Bridge-based Intel Core i7-3770S is capable of being almost every bit the performance equal of the i7-3770K, starting from a 3.1GHz nominal clock speed (to maintain the slightly reduced 65W TDP) but able to turbo up to 3.9GHz on a single core, just like the 3770K can. It's only in the in-between turbo modes that the 3770K is able to produce a performance advantage, but the mild reduction in performance coincides with an equally mild reduction in overall power consumption. Honestly I remain a bit skeptical about the need for the S series chips; when Intel's quad-cores had 95W TDPs, a 30W reduction would be a substantial one, but just 12W seems too incremental and you'll see later on that the difference wasn't enough. The i5-3450S is the lower end CPU option for now, which drops the clock speeds and Hyper-Threading, along with a lower price.

What got my attention when I saw the spec sheet for the XPS One was the NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M equipped with GDDR5. Spec wise, the GK107 chip that powers the GT 640M is only slightly weaker than the previous generation's GF116. The GF116 may have been slightly underwhelming compared to AMD's Radeon HD 5770/6770, but it was generally able to get the job done at 1080p. The GK107 loses 8 ROPs and 64 bits off of the memory bus, but has roughly equivalent shader power. 384 CUDA cores clocked at 645MHz aren't bad at all, but when we reviewed the GK107 in the Acer TimelineU I suspected the chip was being memory constrained with just DDR3. Now that we have a system that pairs it with GDDR5, we can see if the increased memory bandwidth will allow the GeForce GT 640M to stretch its legs. Better still, there's the potential here to finally have a reasonably-priced graphics solution that can actually power all-in-ones and justify including discrete graphics hardware.

While the rest of the system's configuration is pretty respectable (with the 32GB SSD configured for Intel's Smart Response Technology), the screen is another big plus. Dell opted to include Samsung's PLS technology display in a 2560x1440 resolution, and it's a thing of beauty. If there's an unusual omission here, it's the lack of touchscreen support on this or even any of the new Dell all-in-ones. While I'm not a fan of large touchscreens, Microsoft has clearly decided to go whole hog on them for Windows 8, and so omitting that feature here seems shortsighted. If you're like some and prefer to stick with the old mouse and keyboard interface, though, you may find more to like here.

The price looks pretty steep at first glance, but you have to consider everything that you're getting. The base model still includes a display that would typically go for around $1000 on its own (Samsung's 27" PLS displays don't come cheap!), so $400 gets you the remaining components for a decent desktop experience. At the high-end, which is what we're reviewing, Dell loads up all the extras: more memory, faster CPU, SSD caching, Blu-ray, etc. There's definitely a case of diminishing returns, but Dell is clearly going after the same market as the high-end Apple iMac. That may not be a great way to go about things, though, since one of Apple's biggest selling points is the uniqueness of their OS X experience. In terms of strict hardware comparisons, however, the XPS One 2710 at $1999 comes out ahead of the current 2012 iMac 27" in quite a few areas. Let's get to the benchmarks now and see just what Dell has to offer.

System Performance
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  • lurker22 - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Just buy an iMac. Dell continues to be lousy engineering.
  • lowlymarine - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Well, I'd say at least wait for the IVB refresh of the iMacs (which should land inside a month or so). When that happens, the prices on these will have to com down; they're barely competitive with the current-generation iMacs as it is.

    Also, remember when Apple used to be the company using hilariously anemic GPUs in their computers while everyone else had higher-end chips available? When did that table turn? A 640M as the highest-end option in a 27" AIO, with the XPS branding no less, while Apple offers a 6970M in last years model? Ridiculous.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    I would have to agree, the iMac seems like a downright great value now that other companies are trying to target the same range. And if it gets upgraded to retina displays this next refresh...
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Look at the pricing on a 27" iMac with an i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 2TB HDD, SSD caching and Blu-ray (they don't offer these two options, actually), and a 6970M before you hand Apple the crown for AIOs. If you're looking purely at the GPU, Apple wins. If you're looking at the overall design and aesthetic, I'd call it a toss up, but I'd assume the Apple 27" iMac is able to cool the CPU+GPU better so we'll give Apple another win. And then you get to the price.

    It looks like a comparable current-gen iMac 27" with a better GPU will run you $2550 online at B&H, and you still lose Blu-ray capability and the SSD caching. I'm not sure if Apple will support Intel's SSD caching with the next generation iMac either -- Apple has been pretty careful about what new techs they support, particularly in the SSD realm. And of course the bottom line is that if you don't like OS X, you'd be crazy to purchase a Mac of any form. I know plenty of people that like OS X, but I know just as many that hate it; I happen to fall into the latter camp.

    Still, it boggles the mind that Dell couldn't just have a second HSF cooling the CPU in the 2710 to fix the temperature issues.
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    You could always install 16 GB SO-DIMM DDR3 plus 128GB Samsung SSD for like 260 USD if you care to do the upgrade. As it might not be straight forward. An external Blu-ray drive costs you 70-100 USD and a Windows retail license of W7HP costs you some 170 USD. That would enable you everything including blu-ray playback. Might be a 600 - 700 USD upgrade though. Just installing ram though costs you 32 USD and requires no disassembly. A 2TB drive is 150 USD though if you don't want to disassemble the case. The i7 is 200 USD addon too, and not Ivy yet. If graphics isn't that important I would go with the HP Z1 Workstation though.

    On a system with mSATA the upgrade would obviously be to install a 128/256GB mSATA SSD. Not some Intel RST feature. It's just Intel Windows driver software any way.

    Not that Dell here isn't unusably reasonable in it's configure. We mostly see 20-23" low end machines around 1000 dollars with TN displays otherwise. But they don't seem to have taken the build seriously restricting themselves to slightly low power cpus. I guess using a 3770k would have speed up things a bit.
  • protomech - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    "Also, remember when Apple used to be the company using hilariously anemic GPUs in their computers while everyone else had higher-end chips available?"

    No. I bought an ibook back in 2002 because it had a 100 mhz bus G3 and a mobility radeon 16 MB. Contemporary PC laptops were either integrated graphics (i810 chipset) or a slightly larger form factor with discrete graphics and lower battery life.

    While the powerbook titanium / aluminum line never really had high-powered discrete graphics .. they offered basically the best GPUs that could fit in their 1" form factor. Charged an arm and a leg for it too..

    Excepting a brief period in 2006-2007 (mac mini and macbook with intel GMA 950), Apple has typically used a pretty high base level of graphics hardware in their systems. They've only rarely offered truly excellent graphics options (6970M in current iMac is a big exception), but by offering a high baseline they've been able to build their operating systems with a minimum level of guaranteed graphics performance.

    Perhaps not unexpectedly, the iPhone / iPad lineup has always offered some of the best graphics available among contemporary smartphones.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    Think the Mac towers. For a long time, the bottom rung configuration of systems that have almost always started at a brutal $2,499 almost always included what seemed like the worst dedicated GPU they could find.
  • AssBall - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    That still doesn't present a good argument from a reasonable perspective. You don't need a high powered gpu in an i-mac, because you aren't going to run any software that stresses it. imacs and aio in general are for the fung-shui crowds. A lesser gpu in a 27" will run games fine at max with a good subsystem. Gamers don't buy imacs, or any macs, for gaming. They are a nice piece of usefull furniture but nobody should pretend they aren't a luxury item. The rest of us will sb happy to settle for an upgradable, cheaper, run of the mill pc with more versatility.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Actually, I know someone that purchased one of these. I was skeptical at first, but was quite surprised [in a good way] when I had used it.

    Mind you, they don't do any serious performance-driven use (gaming/video editing), but video and office products worked well and it had a few neat touch-driven games that came with it.
  • guidryp - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Sounds like you are making things up. Did you read where it says there is "NO Touch Screen"?

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