Dell XPS 27 (2017) review:

A feast for the senses in an all-in-one footprint

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Dell XPS 27 (2017)

(Part #: RH3J1)
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The XPS 27 (2017) has a terrific audio system, especially for an all-in-one, and a display with excellent color reproduction.

The Bad The webcam is poorly placed and it's not the most graceful-looking all-in-one.

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

8.3 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0

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 -- as long as you're not a hard-core gamer -- or compact-footprint choice for audio editing.

Prices start at $1,499, with initial choices of 6th-generation Core i5 and i7 processors (Skylake). You can choose integrated graphics or switchable discrete AMD R9 M470X and M485X GPUs. You can also choose between a UHD 4K (3,840x2,160-pixel-resolution) touchscreen display or a nontouch panel of the same resolution but 50 nits brighter and using Dell's thin-bezel Infinity Edge. It doesn't seem to be available in the UK or Australia yet, but the previous model is listed as discontinued for both regions; directly converted the prices start at about £1,220 and AU$1,995.

Dell XPS 27 AIO (2017)

Price as reviewed $2,799
Display size/resolution 27-inch 3,840x2,160 touch display
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6700K
PC memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 4GB AMD Radeon R9 M470X
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

None of its components scream "future-proof," even the top-end configuration with 32GB RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive and a Radeon R9 M485X GPU, which will run you $3,400. Whether or not there's ultimately a speed increase with Intel's 7th-generation processors, it starts out with last-gen CPU options, at least at the time of our review. And the graphics processor options it offers are the mobile versions, which are decent but really aren't up to serious VR (virtual reality) or high-frame-rate gaming standards. So there's little reason to opt for the maxed-out configuration unless you're doing hard-disk-intensive operations (such as photo or video editing) or using tons of applications simultaneously. I think the $2,000 alternative will suit most people who don't really care about the touchscreen, or the $2,500 model if they do.

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.

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