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Dell XPS One (with Blu-ray drive) review: Dell XPS One (with Blu-ray drive)

Dell XPS One (with Blu-ray drive)

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
7 min read

Dell offers four basic configurations for this new XPS One all-in-one system, and our $2,399 review sample represents the highest-end model. Complete with a Blu-ray burner, 802.11n wireless networking, and a TV tuner, it competes well against other higher-end all-in-ones, namely Sony's high-end VAIO LT19U. Overall, though, HP's cheaper, small-scale Pavilion Slimline s3200t desktop and its HD-DVD/Blu-ray drive outshines any all-in-one in price and versatility. Apple's iMac also maintains its hold as the best overall computer in the all-in-one category. That awards the XPS One the prize for most affordable all-in-one with a Blu-ray drive. If you're looking for a system in that narrow category, you should check it out, especially because it has some unique usability features. Otherwise, you can get better overall computing and home theater experiences from other systems.


Dell XPS One (with Blu-ray drive)

The Good

Best HD-equipped all-in-one; 802.11n and Bluetooth for plenty of wireless flexibility; convenient walk-up controls.

The Bad

In light of a recent HP Slimline system, PC vendor HD format allegiances now look silly; not as fast as an iMac, not as home-theater-capable as the aforementioned HP; $2,400 is a lot for a secondary home entertainment PC; no video out.

The Bottom Line

It's outclassed as a computer by Apple's iMac, and as a home entertainment system by a recent HP, but in the weird niche of high-end, digital-media-friendly all-in-ones (of which we know of one other competitor) the Dell XPS One gets our nod. If you're not shopping in that narrow market, move on.

We could make several direct comparisons to the XPS One. The HP Slimline is one of our current favorite systems for its HD DVD/Blu-ray combo drive and its low price. Pair it with a $500 24-inch LCD and you'd still be ahead of the 20-inch XPS in terms of price, screen size, and overall functionality. Of course there's an elegance factor to the modern all-in-one desktop that you can't duplicate with even a smaller desktop like the Slimline, thus, the Sony VAIO LT19U becomes the best matchup for Dell's new rig.

Sony can claim the advantage with a few features, probably most importantly its larger screen and the unlisted VESA mount-compatibility that lets you stick the VAIO on a wall or a support arm with relative ease. But overall, the Dell has just as much to offer in the way of multimedia features, it welcomes interaction with mobile devices via its integrated Bluetooth receiver, and it costs $600 less. If you intend to use an all-in-one as a standalone device for movie-watching, perhaps in your kitchen, office, dorm, or other non-living-room setting, the Sony's larger screen might give it the advantage, but overall, we'd rather save $600 and live with the smaller display.

Because of both its all-in-one design and its lack of a video-out, however, we can't categorize the XPS One as a home theater PC, and we wonder just how many people out there are interested in dropping $2,400 on a secondary Blu-ray system. It does have digital audio-out, so you can send music to a full-fledged sound system. And because it has 802.11n wireless networking, you can also stream nonencrypted HD video to a Windows Media Center Extender hooked up to your main television. The problem is that you cannot send the content from the XPS One's Blu-ray player over your network. For primary living room HD-movie watching, and arguably as a secondary system paired with a traditional standalone LCD, the HP Pavilion Slimline s3200t is a shockingly better deal than the XPS One, both in terms of its $1,500 price and its hybrid Blu-ray/HD DVD drive that embraces both HD formats.

If it's not the best pure living-room PC, the XPS One is also not the best productivity-oriented desktop, even among other all-in-ones. In that category, Apple's iMac still rules the day. The performance charts more or less speak for themselves.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS One

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS One

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Apple iMac
Dell XPS One
Gateway One

Quake 4 performance (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024 x 768 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Apple iMac
Dell XPS One

You know your performance is in trouble when your gaming scores are slower than a Mac's. But on every test, from music encoding to photo editing to multitasking, the XPS One falls behind the iMac that costs $750 less. There's no HD drive on the iMac, so its entertainment powers are limited to standard-def audio and video, but it's also reasonable to expect from any all-in-one that it also perform well as a computer. We wouldn't use a Dell XPS One as a gaming system, but it delivers decent enough performance during basic digital media editing and encoding tasks. It's just not as fast as its significantly less-expensive competition.

The XPS One has a few other features to offer that focus specifically on its potential as a system you might walk up to, rather than sit down in front of. A proximity sensor on the front edge of the display triggers the lighting for the touch-sensitive media controls built into the frame of the unit. Combine the proximity sensor with the "go dark" button that puts the LCD in sleep mode and back (quickly, too) and it's easy to imagine walking up to the XPS One, setting it to play some music, and then shutting down the screen. That's a much preferable scenario than having to sit down with the mouse to play your MP3s.

The Dell's proximity sensor and the "go dark" button are the only other nods to a "walk up" usage model that we've seen since HP's touch-screen-enabled TouchSmart all-in-one debuted this past January. The Dell has no touch screen, and its display offers only about 30 degrees of front and back adjustability; there's no extra height adjustment like the HP. In general, the XPS One isn't meant for you to be able to drive everything on it while standing up, but we appreciate that it invites at least some kind of casual interactivity.

For other typical all-in-one features, you get the obligatory wireless mouse and keyboard. The keyboard even has a touchpad, although if you're driving the XPS One from a distance, you're probably more likely to use the included remote control. It also comes with an integrated Webcam above the LCD, as well as an integrated media card reader, and an only-adequate set of built-in speakers.

The XPS One also shares a lack of internal upgradability with the iMac. Both Sony and Gateway (and to a lesser extent HP) offer basic upgrade paths for their all-in-ones this year, with removable back panels and spare hard-drive slots. We don't miss the upgradability too much here. What we do miss is the external expansion ports on the power brick like you'll find on the Gateway One. The XPS has a cable wrangle built into the base of the system, so it at least lets you gather any peripheral cables neatly, but we favor Gateway's approach that lets you keep the cables off of your desktop entirely.

As it did with its new XPS 420 desktop, Dell again closes the gap with Apple on this system with its software. Argue about Vista vs. the new Leopard OS all you want, but we're referring to Adobe's Elements Studio suite that competes strongly against Apple's iLife 08 software. No other PC vendor offers an answer to iLife, and this remains a selling point for Dell. You also get a handful of the usual nonsense links, including ads for various Dell services. Fortunately, shortcuts are easily deleted.

One link we'd keep, though, is Dell's Support Center 2.0 software. It's not as good as HP's TotalCare application, because Dell's version links out to Dell.com to answer various support questions, rather than hosting them locally on your PC. At least it provides basic system information in an easy-to-understand presentation, which is welcome. We're also glad to see Dell continue to treat its XPS customers well by offering two years of parts and labor coverage as the standard warrant for the XPS One. The 24-7 phone support and year of onsite service don't hurt, either.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple iMac
Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive;

Dell XPS One
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6550; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive

Gateway One
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics chip; 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive

HP Pavilion Slimline s3200t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4500; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive

Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GT graphics card; 500GB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive


Dell XPS One (with Blu-ray drive)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 6Support 8