Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Dell XPS 27 Touch All-in-One (2720) Review - The hunt for my next workstation

I was due to get a new work machine this year because my Windows iMac was slowly showing it’s age.

The late-2009 iMac has held on for quite a few years already and was willing to do a couple more. The Intel Core 2 Duo chip, 8gb of memory and 1TB drive still had some more power to give but one does outgrow that ‘power’ at one point, specially when running multiple, CPU intensive programs at once that require multi-thread read and writes as well as accessing and saving lots of large-format documents.

The hunt for my next machine began. I was thinking of something new, something powerful, easy to upgrade and future-proof (in a way) and there were initially 3 options that I was considering.

1. iUpgrade: Get the newer and thinner iMac 27”

Buying the new and cool looking iMac was the natural evolution from what I was using. I liked the hardware and the Apple display quality but I rarely ever boot into OSX and I hated driver incompatibilities at times. Plus I didn’t want to get locked down again with replacing and upgrading stuff. I want flexibly of an AIO without the hassle of bringing it to  a service center every time I need to open it. I can pay Apple’s hefty price but I won’t. I just can’t. They’re really overpricing stuff.

2. DIY Desktop: Build a powerful desktop again

I also thought of going back and building my own hardware again, one part at a time. It’s cheaper and flexible. I could buy as I go and upgrade by parts. The problem is I have no idea what is the market right now for all these motherboards, coolers, PSUs and even cases. I also don’t think I’ll be upgrading by part anyway after 4 to 5 years or so and would prefer to buy a new one. Because the tech would just be too dated by then to just change a single component.

My main reason came to aesthetics and taste. I liked the neatness of AIO machines and didn’t like a tower sitting on my desk (or gathering dust below). I also didn’t find any 27” qHD touchscreen-enabled monitors at the time so that solved it. I can’t have touch if I go this route.

3. Go All-in, Go All-in-One: Buy a Windows-exclusive AIO

This was my next logical choice and my final one. Find another AIO, a Windows-based one. Something that would allow me to open it up and upgrade as I wanted to. It also had new technologies like a touch-screen panel to future-proof it for Windows 8.

We all know that finding a good balance of specs on Windows OEMs is really hard. It’s either they get the screen but fumble the GPU, it’s not unlike Apple where they just have one desktop line and they give their all on that, best and top of the line specs.

There was HP’s Z1 and  Asus’ 27” ET2700 but I eventually chose Dell’s XPS 2720 due to the balance of power (CPU + discrete graphics), feature-sets (Touch+qHD+ Blu-ray) and reviews (Dell XPS 27 also got rave reviews and bested even the iMac.)


Dell XPS 27 Touch All-in-one (2720) Specs:

  • CPU: 4th Generation Intel Core i7-4770s processor (8M Cache, up to 3.9 GHz)
  • Display: 27 inch LED Backlit Touch Display with IPS/Anti Glare and Adobe RGB QHD resolution (2560 X 1440)
  • RAM: 16GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz - 2 DIMMs
  • Storage: 2TB 7200 rpm SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive + 32GB mSATA Solid State Drive
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2GB DDR5 with TPM V1.2
  • ODD: Slot Load Blu-ray Drive (Reads Blu Ray and Writes to DVD/CD)
  • Soundcard: Integrated 5.1 with WAVES MAXXAudio 4
  • Wireless: Killer Wireless-N, 1202 for Video & Voice + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Media Card Reader: 8:1 (supports SDXC (SD3.0), Secure Digital (SD), Multi Media Card (MMC), Memory Stick (MS), Memory Stick PRO, xD‐Picture Card, Hi Speed‐SD, Hi Capacity‐SD )
  • Ports: Rear: (4) USB 3.0, (1) RJ-45 10/100/1000, HDMI out, HDMI In SIDE/Front Ports: Power button, Brightness adjust, HDD LED, 8:1 MCR, Microphone, phone jack, (2) USB3.0, ODD eject, Input select

- - -

No available Dell XPS 27 in the Philippines for sale (yet)

Dell Philippines mostly sell laptops Inspiron and Vostro lines. They don’t sell the XPS line as far as I know (just the XPS 13 Ultrabook) and their Facebook page did not provide any relevant answers on product availability.

My route led me to just buy online and possibly forego warranty.

I was lucky that I was able to see a seller on eBay selling the exact specs that I wanted. It was kinda rare to see any seller selling that had the configuration since Amazon and Newegg had it on pre-ordered/back-ordered still. I talked with the seller and requested information, and verbal guarantees against DOA and he was pretty much very accommodating. Good seller. I quickly snapped it up and had it shipped here. Warranty was also transferred to me.

Note: For those interested in the Dell XPS 27 (Haswell-version is the 2720) here in the Philippines, A Dell rep told me that it will come before the end of the year. December 2013. I’m also hopeful since it means this can be serviced here if something happens.

What’s in the box?

Upon opening the super huge box you will see 2 long boxes. The black one holds the keyboard and mouse accessories. The other brown one has the power cord, manuals and warranty information.

(click photos to enlarge)

The mouse and keyboard is made by Logitech for Dell. It has Logitech’s unifying receiver technology that only requires a single receiver for compatible devices (saving USB ports). I think that the machine inside has a built-in receiver already as the keyboard and mouse instantly was paired upon turning it on. The keyboard is awesome and great to use, but the mouse was meh.

Hardware + Software Experience

The Dell XPS'’s 27 construction, though very iMac-y, stands on its own. The back isn’t made with aluminum, it’s just plastic. I really thought the rear part was aluminum based on the pictures I saw online so was quite disappointed with that. However, the black trim up to the front seems to be made of a harder-type of plastic and feels premium. The whole machine is made up mostly of the display and the base and stand really was made to hold the entire thing so it was really expected to be heavy.


The hinge on this thing can tilt the display down until its chin nearly hits the base itself. It can then tilt upward to more than 45 degrees for those touchscreen usage moments. It’s also perfect for working while standing up which I now often do.

The back has 4x USB 3.0 slots, Ethernet port and thunderbolt connector. It also has the HDMI out and HDMI in on the left back side which allows it to be used as an external display (just like the 27” iMac)

I have been using it while playing Prototype 2 on the Xbox and the graphics are interpolated to fit the qHD 2560 X 1440 resolution since the Xbox can only support up to 720p. It doesn’t look that great but it works and still playable.

(click photos to enlarge)


The screen is really bright and crisp. The colors bests the one on my old iMac and the Windows Live Tiles really come to life. Dell is marketing this as one of the most color accurate all-in-ones in the market – even besting Apple’s 27” iMac. It comes with Adobe RGB calibration out of the box as opposed to Apple’s sRGB.

The touchscreen also works as advertised and is quite refreshing to use, and to be able to touch the elements on this large display. I don’t think people will really use this regularly but it’s a nice feature to have and to be able to interact with Windows 8 with touch.


The speakers are also surprisingly loud and crisp. Dell included Maxx Audio Pro software plugin which really enhances the sounds coming from this machine.

One more thing to note is that this machine also packs a separate 32gb mSata SSD drive that is being used by Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology to cache frequently used programs for faster response. This can be upgraded to a 256gb dedicated mSata drive and can be used as primary  disk for Windows and other installed app. Super cool.

This is a preview of the FreshPaint app on Wndows 8 Store.

Solid and Powerful Machine from Dell

My only complaints with this machine is that at low brightness, I can see some refresh lines on the display. I don’t know what’s causing that but setting the brightness to maximum resolved it. I have checked it again right now, and I’m not seeing it so I hope it’s a driver fluke or something.

Beyond that I am very, very satisfied with the Dell XPS 27 and would definitely recommend this computer for those looking for an all-in-one package that has all of the worthy components. Great, solid and powerful machine that just blows away it’s leading Apple direct competition.

The XPS 27 configuration above retails for $2,500 over at

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