Biggish Tablet, Smallish All-in-One or Both? The Dell XPS 18 is a portable desktop.
The Post PC marketplace is rapidly changing. Bulky towers are giving way to sleek All-in-Ones and the portable end is producing light and powerful Ultrabooks which vie with powerful and feather light tablets. Dell is trying to plant its XPS 18 in a new category right in the middle. Call it a Portable Desktop.
My Dell XPS 18 review sample unit is pretty impressive. The 18-inch 1080p display, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive with 32GB SSD is tucked into a chassis that’s just 463.6 mm wide (18.25″), 283.7mm (11.17″) wide and18mm (0.7″) at its thickest point. The main unit has dual kickstands but I prefer the lightweight stand/charging unit that is included with this and the i7 model.
The screen is spectacular, a I 18.4 inch full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS panel that is bright with great contrast and terrific viewing angles. The touchscreen is covered with Dragontrail Glass which I find a bit more draggy than Gorilla Glass for a slightly different touch experience. I loved this screen it is great for watching movies but the audio is a bit of a disappointment it was a bit thin with no bass no matter what setting I used on the built-in equalizer.
Behind the screen is Intel’s Core i5 3337U dual-core processor that runs at 1.8GHz and uses TurboBoost technology to ramp up to 2.7GHz when needed. It comes with 8GB of RAM and a two-stage storage system that combines a 500GB hard drive with a 32GB SSD. The flash portion caches the most frequently used data and programming code to speed start-ups and raise overall performance. I found performance to be similar to an Ultrabook, not slow but not a screamer either. The integrated graphics and the laptop class CPU limit gaming options to fairly basic games. Start-up is a pretty snappy 12 seconds and cached apps pop open instantly but others seem painfully slow to open once you get accustomed to the SSD speed.
The XPS 18 unit tips the scales at 2287 grams (5.04 pounds) who you’re not likely to toss it in a backpack to take it to the park. But it is great for moving around the house..following a recipe in the kitchen or flat on a table to play games. I find it especially handy as a second screen while I am watching TV. Battery life is pretty good for such a big screen, I was able to get 5 hours away from the charger over several days.
As you would expect ports are pretty thin, there are two USB 3 ports, a combination microphone/headset port as well as a media card slot that supports 8 different formats. There is also a power port on the unit as well as magnetic connectors on the bottom for use with the stand.
This is an interesting computer from Dell in a new niche. While it has some shortcomings the XPS 18 is the best of the current crop in this niche. It is a solid well built unit with a great screen and laptop performance at a bit of a premium price. I think this portable desktop is the perfect device for those compact nooks now popular for home PCs. It has plenty of power for household use and I was able to find several interesting uses for the portable tablet. Not to mention it is fun to use.
There are four models of the XPS 18 starting at $899 for a Pentium CPU up to an i7 model at $1499. I recommend the model I tested with the i5 processor at $1349, the less expensive units are underpowered and the slight performance increase you get from the i7 isn’t worth the extra 150 bucks. I would prefer to see a bigger SSD option. Check them out at Dell’s US and Canadian websites.