Your first meeting with the Dell XPS One will almost certainly be a positive one. It’s impossible not to be charmed by this clever all-in-one PC and monitor hybrid that, like the Apple iMac that it apes, is cunningly crafted, discreet and elegant. For a desktop PC, the attention to detail is second to none.
From the heavy glass base to the slot loading DVD drive, the XPS One has clearly been designed by someone who knows what looks good on a desk. It’s bulkier than the slimline iMac, thanks to a large V-shaped housing at the back, but it combines its sturdier build quality with a sort of grace.
The piece de resistance is the proximity-activated media control panel built into the right hand side. Simply move your hand towards it and the pressure sensitive buttons light up. It’s a gadget lover’s delight, and the spookily sentient controls are impossible to resist.
The same controls are built into a brilliant slimline keyboard, as is a mouse pad. An equally fine Media Center remote control complements the integrated digital TV tuner and suggests that it’ll be amiable company for nights in watching Steven Seagal’s back catalogue.
You know, for charidee
If you’ve not been won over by the XPS One yet, wait ‘til you see its sensitive side. This special edition carries the Product Red logo and £40 is donated to the foundation for each machine sold.
For the £200 premium over a regular XPS One, though, you’d expect more than a clean conscience – and here’s where the perfect relationship goes sour.
A larger hard drive, a better graphics card and a slightly faster processor don’t offer good value for money, particularly as that Radeon 2400 GPU isn’t going to improve the risible gaming capability. A similarly priced iMac out-specs the Dell in every way.
Worse, the highly reflective LCD panel isn’t up to Dell’s (or Apple’s) usual standard. The washed out colours, low contrast levels and 1680x1050 resolution make a mild mockery of the media controls – who wants a home entertainment PC that can’t do 1080p or rich blacks? The XPS One should have had a best-in-class display.
The speakers are also a bit of a let down. Not only do they not quite fit in with the otherwise flawless aesthetic, they lack any kind of bass punch for movies or music.
Loud, not proud
On the subject of noise, the most unforgivable flaw in the XPS One is the CPU fan. Touch sensitive controls are a pleasant indulgence, but the one thing a low powered, small form factor PC must be able to do is silence – look at Asus’ Nova, for example. The DVD drive is also an aural mess while it spins: you might as well try to watch movies while mowing the lawn.
It’s a shame, because with the XPS One Dell is nipping at the heels of Apple’s iconic iMac design. But there’s too much that’s second best for it to be good enough for even the most die-hard Apple cynic.