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Dell's review strategy tends to lean toward sending us the more expensive configurations of its built-to-order desktops. We wish it had chosen a different course with its new all-in-one desktop, the Studio One 19, because we have a feeling the baseline $699 model ($869 with the multitouch input option) would offer a compelling counterpoint to the recent batch of low-cost, low-performance Nettops. Unfortunately, our $1,024 Studio One 19 review unit bumps up too close in price to Apple's 20-inch iMac and Sony's Vaio JS250J, which offer larger screens and better features for the same price. We suspect you can configure a price-competitive Studio One 19 with or without touch capability. We just can't recommend this one.
Before we dig into the touch input, the Studio One 19 chassis itself deserves some mention. Dell's philosophy behind this desktop was to offer a streamlined, stripped-down version of its larger, more expensive XPS One. Gone are that system's sharp, dramatic angles and touch-capacitive external lighting, replaced here by a gradually curved back panel and a fabric wrapper that provides a backdrop for the 18.5-inch wide-screen LCD. You can choose from four colors for the fabric: dark red, pink, dark blue, and charcoal. Ours came in dark blue, which we found attractive.
Similar to other all-in-ones, the Studio One 19 lets you adjust only the tilt of the screen. According to Dell, it designed the stand so you can adjust the screen to a touch-friendly angle when you're standing in front of it, and we were happy with the screen's range of motion. We hope someday for an all-in-one that can swivel. We'd also like to see Dell adopt wall-mounting options for its all-in-ones, as Sony has with its LV series.
Because of a relatively sparse software library, we consider touch-based input for desktops still in the experimental phase, even though HP's TouchSmart line has been on the market for more than two years. We're glad Dell makes touch input optional for this system, though, and for $100 opting in involves relatively little risk.
We've seen basic paint, photo, and music applications on other all-in-ones that support touch, all of which you'll find on the Studio One 19 with touch input. Some of the Dell's touch programs, like the drum set software and the DrumZone rhythm game are new to us, but we saw the same Webcam software and its cheesy special effects on the Asus Eee Top 1602.
Most of the programs are easy to use and range from harmless to fairly useful. We were especially glad to see that, as with HP's TouchSmarts, Dell used the context-aware software keyboard via Windows Vista's Tablet software. Touch a text box in a browser with your finger and an icon will pop up to call up the software keyboard. That context-awareness makes typing with your finger on screen much easier than with the Windows XP-based Asus Eee Top, which requires you to drag the keyboard over manually when you want to use it.
Windows' Tablet software also provides controls for "flick" and multitouch gestures to allow for more touch-friendly navigation. We found the flick navigation easy enough (slide your finger up, the page scrolls up), but the multitouch gestures only give you four custom controls, and they weren't as responsive as we wanted them to be.
|Dell Studio One 19||Sony Vaio JS250J|
|CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E5200||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E5200|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chip||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9300 GS integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||320GB, 7,200rpm||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Dual-layer DVD burner||Blu-ray/dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
We're willing to forgive a few issues with the Studio One 19's touch interface because it only costs $100 to add touch input, and it really does open up a whole new way to use your computer. The ability to use your PC as a home entertainment/organizational kiosk in a kitchen or other high traffic area has a degree of usefulness and novelty we think many people will appreciate. Our disconnect comes with the lack of truly compelling touch software. We can justify touch input if the system is very cheap, like with the Asus Eee Top, or if touch is just one component of an otherwise rich feature-set. At $1,024, our Studio One 19 review unit doesn't fit into the cheap category, and its features fall flat compared with similarly priced all-in-ones desktops from other vendors.
Sony's Vaio JS250J is the biggest problem in our minds for the Dell Studio One 19. For just $75 more than our review model, the Sony gets you a larger 20.1-inch display, a Blu-ray drive, and 802.11n wireless networking. The Dell's 18.5-inch LCD is crisp enough, but it feels very small, especially because it has so much chassis framing it. And while Sony does not offer a touch input option, we'd trade a spot in the Dell touch experiment for the Sony's Blu-ray drive and its larger screen, which has less trouble entertaining a whole room of people. Drop the $100 touch option from the Dell and the price goes down to a more attractive $924. Add a Blu-ray drive to the Dell and the price goes up another $150, though, and you're still stuck with its smaller screen.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
It's too bad that the Studio One 19 comes up short on features because its performance is exactly where it should be. All-in-ones are still slower than their desktop counterparts, but the core components of the Apple iMac, the Dell Studio One 19, and the Sony Vaio JS250J are nearly identical. Apple's performance edge on multitasking applications is well-established, but the Dell lives up to our expectations for Windows systems in this category.
The performance of this unit actually helps us make the case for lower-end configurations of the Studio One 19. You'll find the same 2.5GHz dual-core Intel chip in our review unit in the $699 version of this system. Even though you get only half the memory at that price, that's still a strong foundation, and it gives you an idea of what the $699 performance might look like compared with the much slower Intel Atom CPU-based Asus Eee Top and the forthcoming MSI Windtop.
The Atom-based systems we've tested are so slow it might be better to consider them appliances than computers. But considering that the Eee Top costs $600, the $699 Studio One 19 suddenly starts encroaching on the so-called Nettop market with a much better performance story. Yes, the $600 Asus has touch input, and you have to pay $869 for the lowest end touch-enabled Studio One 19, so it's not a perfect comparison. But with no other full-fledged all-in-one available at such a low price, we find the lower end Studio One 19 configurations much more compelling, at least on paper, than our high-end review unit.
Dell rounds out the Studio One 19 with the usual accoutrement of all-in-one computers. The slot-loading optical drive on the right edge is more or less a must in this category. Between the left side and the rear of the system, you also get six USB 2.0 ports, a networking input, a 7-in-1 media card reader, and headphone, microphone, and audio out jacks. Built into the frame you'll find a Webcam and a pair of surprisingly decent stereo speakers. Remove the rear panel and you can also access the hard drive and the memory slots to replace or upgrade those parts. A wireless mouse and keyboard set come standard, although compared with recent streamlined peripherals from Apple, Sony, and others, the standard wireless Dell keyboard feels massive, and would take up quite a bit of space on a countertop.
Among the six all-in-ones we've tested for power efficiency, the Dell Studio One 19 consumes the second highest amount of power, trailing only Sony's Vaio LV250B, a 24-inch system with a discrete graphics card. Particularly damning for Dell is that even Apple's 24-inch iMac is more efficient than this system, and faster almost across the board. The Studio One 19 still falls within the range of EnergyStar compliance, so it's not all bad, but it seems incongruous that of the six all-in-ones we've tested, the one with the smallest display needs the second highest amount of juice but provides relatively slow performance for all of that power draw.
|Dell Studio One 19|
|Raw (annual kWh)||182.7205|
|Annual energy cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$20.74|
Dell's service and support for this system are in line with the rest of the industry. You get one year of parts-and-labor coverage standard, as well as a year of onsite service. Dell also maintains a 24-7 toll-free support line and a wealth of support resources on its Web site.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple OS X 10.5.6; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell XPS 430-121B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 ; 6GB DDR3 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 120 Graphics card; 750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell XPS One 19
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
$2,499 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.