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Dell XPS 27 (2017) review: A feast for the senses in an all-in-one footprint

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The Good The XPS 27 (2017) has a terrific audio system, especially for an all-in-one, and a display with excellent color reproduction. It can also be configured to deliver decent gameplay and basic VR capability.

The Bad The webcam is poorly placed and it's not the most graceful-looking all-in-one. And the back connectors are miserably difficult to work with.

The Bottom Line For discriminating ears and eyes, the XPS 27 (2017) all-in-one offers the best combination of features for the money.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

Editors' note: Originally published on January 18, 2017. Updated to reflect new configurations, performance results for the Intel 7th-generation CPU and Radeon RX 570 GPU and well as hands-on testing of the updating gaming and "entry-level VR" experiences.

Ear candy wrapped in a sturdy chassis with an excellent display and reasonably good performance for the money, the update to the computer we praised in 2014 as "almost everything you could want in an all-in-one" gets an overhaul for 2017. Most notably, this year's XPS 27 (model 7760) Windows 10 PC boasts the most sophisticated audio system built into a PC and a UHD 4K display with a broad color gamut, making it a great home entertainment system or compact-footprint choice for audio editing.

Prices start at $1,550, with choices of seventh-generation Core i5 and i7 processors (Skylake). You can choose integrated graphics or a switchable discrete AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU, as well as opt for a UHD 4K (3,840x2,160-pixel-resolution) touchscreen display or a nontouch panel of the same resolution but 50 nits brighter and Dell's thin-bezel Infinity Edge. The seventh-generation/Radeon RX 570 models aren't available in the UK, but the previous, non-game/VR-ready models -- which weren't available earlier this year -- are, starting at £1,700. Dell still doesn't offer the 10-speaker model in Australia.

Dell XPS 27 AIO (2017)

Price as reviewed $2,799
Display size/resolution 27-inch 3,840 x 2,160 touchscreen display
PC CPU 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 8GB AMD Radeon RX 570
Storage 512GB SSD, SD card slot
Connections 1 x Ethernet, 2 x USB-C/Thunderbolt, 4 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A; 1 x DisplayPort 1.2, 1 x HDMI out; audio out, headphone jack
Networking 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

The updated components do a much better job of future-proofing the system than the last generation. While it's still not a gaming powerhouse, it should get you through a few years of midlevel-frame rate fun, and the Radeon RX570 delivers a solid entry-level VR experience -- good enough for today's typical VR graphics.  Sadly, you can't configure any of the less-expensive systems with a full SSD drive; the rest use small SSDs for caching, to speed up the slow 5,400rpm spinning disk drives. So if you're going to get this system, you should probably go for the highest end model.

Hear ye, hear ye

If you've got discriminating ears -- or just like your music really loud -- this is the system for you. It has 10 speakers; you can only see six of them -- two tweeters and four full-range drivers -- lined up prominently under the screen, but there are also two down-firing and two passive radiators (the latter for better bass).

The goal of the audio design seems to be bleeding-ear, furniture-vibrating loudness with minimal distortion, a broad frequency-response range and good surround-sound directionality -- each of which is difficult to achieve in an all-in-one by itself, much less simultaneously.

And Dell achieves those goals. When cranked up all the way, it's loud enough that I couldn't hear myself singing at the top of my lungs. (Thankfully, the office was deserted.) Music ranging from soft to loud, high frequencies to low and instruments and voices with complex overtones all sounded great cranked to the max.

I could feel "Smells Like Teen Spirit," even in the middle of the volume range, and it produced rich sound at the lower volumes. The surround-sound rendition in movies and music seemed quite accurate and encompassing. I did find the highs a little too bright for my taste, but that's personal preference, and the rest of the frequency range sounded a bit warmer. The system incorporates the Waves software audio control panel as well, bearing the imprimatur of producer Jack Joseph Puig who also helped design the hardware.

To incorporate PC-shaking audio, Dell had to create a rigid cabinet for the system. It remains to be seen whether the bass vibrations will affect the workings over time.

The closest competitors for high-quality audio are the recent HP Envy All-in-One models that incorporate four front-firing Bang & Olufsen speakers; while the HP line sounds good, it's not nearly as full-toned. Then again, with Dell you're paying a premium for the higher-quality sound and display.

Color me impressed

The 27-inch touch display on our evaluation unit wasn't isn't quite up to that of the Microsoft Surface Studio or iMac 27-inch for pixel density, but it's still damn good with excellent color accuracy. It covers 100 percent of Adobe RGB for photo editing and most of DCI-P3 for better color rendition when playing movies, and the Dell PremierColor software is quite good, allowing you to control all of the important parameters and offering presets for all the essentials -- including separate profiles for Adobe RGB and P3. Dell's software only supports the $200 X-Rite i1Display Pro calibrator, but since it doesn't store profiles in hardware it doesn't matter whose calibration tools you use. (Note: the second time I tested the system I did see some backlight bleed in the upper right corner.)

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