How do you make an all-in-one desktop stand out against the Apple iMac? You can't go thinner. You can't go more minimal. You'll have to go louder.
That seems to have been Dell's thinking in creating the XPS 27, a monster all-in-one with a whopping 10 speakers - pretty much making it the go-to single box PC for audio pros. Or at least that's the idea.
I got the chance to put one through its paces this week, right after it got announced at CES in Las Vegas. Is it the killer Windows desktop we've been waiting for? Or does it still pale in comparison to the iMac?
Read on to find out.
MUSIC TO MY EARS
Sit down in front of the XPS 27 and you'll be staring down the barrel of six forward-firing speakers. Four handle the mid-range and bass frequencies, and two are dedicated tweeters for high-end notes. There's a pair of passive radiators inside, and two down-firing, full-range speakers underneath for some serious sound muscle.
Turned up to full blast, it can really fill a room with sound, and although I didn't have one handy for comparison, Dell reckons it's also twice as loud as an Apple iMac. Then again, a 27in all-in-one Mac isn't something I tend to keep in my backpack, so you can't really blame me for this one.
It's got a screen to match the sound, too, with a choice of touch and non-touch 4K resolution displays. The non-touch version might have a higher brightness (350 nits vs 300) but the touch-enabled version has a nifty articulating stand that pivots the screen to double up as a drawing easel.
That seriously adds to the weight, but once you've got one of these on your desk, you're not going to be moving it very far.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Behind the scenes, there's a 6th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU running the show, and up to 64GB of RA, making this one seriously powerful all-in-one. It certainly felt snappy switching between apps, but Virtual DJ wasn't exactly a great benchmark - we'll have to wait until closer to launch when we get one into the office to deliver a final verdict on performance.
There's room for one M.2 and one 2.5in SSD, for a maximum 3TB of super-fast storage, and choice of AMD R9 graphics chips for graphics work or video rendering.
The R9 M470x and R9 M485x aren't really built for gaming, especially at 4K resolutions, but they aren't massive power hogs, either - which is how the XPS 27 gets away with a relatively small power supply.
It's just not enough for VR though, in case you were wondering.
The XPS 27 might be an all-in-one, but there are still plenty of ports - including all your old faves. Dell hasn't followed Apple in ditching things like USB ports, so you get five USB3s, an HDMI output, SD card reader, headphone jack and wired network connection. Two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports future-proof the whole thing.
Dell XPS 27 initial verdict
Building the XPS 27 around one thing - great audio - really helps it stand out from all the other all-in-one Windows machines out there. It might not be as thin as the iMac, or as slick as the Surface Studio, but it does what you'd expect from something with 10 speakers. Sound flippin' loud.
I would expect most audio pros to already have a set of dedicated studio monitors next to their PCs, though - so I don't know if this will be a big selling point. Good job the rest of the PC looks pretty bang tidy too, then.
It's powerful, with a high resolution screen, and lots of connectivity. If Dell gets the price right, it could be just the ticket for anyone after a one-box PC that's got enough grunt for serious work.
The XPS 27 is on sale in the US right now, so hopefully we won't have too long to wait until we get to give it a full review.