On paper, the Dell XPS 18 all-in-one/tablet hybrid shouldn’t work, with its massive 18.4-inch screen potentially destroying any possibility of portability. And yet, it works well.
The XPS 18’s large body is surprisingly light, thin, and portable.
While its five-pound chassis isn’t necessarily light, it weighs less than many gaming laptops and is quite svelte for its class, measuring 11x18.25x.69 inches, and is half the weight of Sony’s similar Tap 20 AiO/tablet hybrid. Although it’s more than double the weight of the Razer Edge, a 10-inch tablet we criticized for being too heavy, we never felt like we had to lift the XPS 18, as it could rest on our laps comfortably. And because its screen is so large, our necks never had to strain to look down. Flip-out stands on either end of the XPS 18 allow it to be used propped up on a desk in landscape mode—with a higher angle suitable for sitting, and a lower angle for using the device from a standing position. The XPS 18 is really made to be moved from desk to desk, but it’s so elegantly designed that you could use it as a giant tablet, provided you’re OK with the strange looks you’ll surely get in public (and yes, we know this firsthand).
Of course, the thinness that makes it viable as a tablet also leads to some compromises as an AiO, especially when it comes to ports. The XPS 18 has just two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. This means no HDMI out or in, no Ethernet port, no DVD drive. Furthermore, although an 18.4-inch screen is huge for a tablet, it’s quite modest for an AiO.
Luckily, the screen itself is gorgeous. The XPS 18 features a 1920x1080, 10-point capacitive-touch IPS display with great viewing angles and vibrant colors. Although it features a glossy surface, it’s not overly reflective like other AiOs we’ve reviewed.
Most tablets feature speakers on the back directing audio away from you, but Dell’s offering has them side-mounted, which contributes to the XPS 18’s clear sound—the volume capabilities, however, might disappoint headbangers hoping to blast the audio to 11.
Our unit came with a stand that raises the AiO about three inches and allows you to tilt the screen roughly 40 degrees. Supplementing it were Dell’s Tangerine wireless keyboard and mouse. While the peripherals’ black-and-gray aesthetic doesn’t quite match the XPS 18’s completely black design, both accessories are solid in use. The 15-inch keyboard has a nice weight to it and doesn’t feel like a cheap add-on, and the mouse features a scroll wheel that can be shifted left to right, which allows users to navigate horizontally through the Windows Modern UI.
Unfortunately, the XPS 18’s specs aren’t anything to write home about. Besides its 8GB of RAM, its parts are relatively humble: a 1.8GHz Core i5-3337U CPU that can Turbo up to 2.7GHz and a 500GB hard drive with a 32GB caching SSD that helps access times in frequently used programs. But its lack of a video card is its biggest flaw.
Because of this omission, the XPS 18 got blasted by our GeForce GT 630M–equipped Asus ET2300 zero-point by roughly 50 percent in both our STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 tests. This once again proves that integrated graphics can’t match even the weakest graphics cards—yet. While you certainly won’t be playing Crysis 3 on max here, we were able to get frame rates in the mid-50s on Valve’s popular Dota 2 Source Engine game on the lowest settings at 1080p resolution. The XPS 18’s dual-core CPU also could not rival our ZP’s quad-core Core i5-3330 processor, losing by similarly dramatic margins in our multithread-loving x264 benchmark. It fared a little better in our other CPU tests, but nothing worth mentioning. Booting the system took 21 seconds, which is about right for a computer with a hard drive and caching SSD combo. Battery-side, the XPS 18 lasted three hours and 22 minutes watching a high-def movie ripped from disc. While this isn’t great for a traditional tablet, it’s good for a laptop, and unprecedented for any AiO we’ve tested since, well, most don’t have batteries.
At $1,350, what you’re paying for here is the unique form factor and dual use cases. What it lacks in ports and power, the XPS 18 makes up for with its excellent large screen, relative portability, and thoughtful design.