updated 11:58 pm EDT, Tue May 14, 2013
Full Windows 8 experience on portable 18-inch multitouch display
After nearly a year following announcement, Dell has begun shipping its hybrid desktop PC and Windows 8 tablet -- the XPS 18. This 18-inch full Windows device has been in Electronista's hands for a few days now, and we've taken some time off to put it through its paces.
As tested, our configuration is the higher end of the spectrum. Regardless of processor, the screen is an 18-inch capacitive touchscreen, running at 1920 x 1080. The processor installed in our unit is an Intel Core i5-3337u nominally running at 1.8Ghz with speed boosts up to 2.7Ghz. HD4000 integrated graphics drive the display. A pair of (not blue) USB 3.0 ports adorn the side of the unit, with a memory card reader also installed. Wireless networking is provided by an Intel chipset with 802.11n compatibility, and Bluetooth 4.0. The massive tablet weighs 5.04 pounds, making a bit of an issue to haul it around mitigated only somewhat by strategically placed rubber grip pads on the back of the device.
Our tester came with a Bluetooth keyboard, paired with the computer. The optional recharging stand was provided to us for evaluation, with Magsafe-like connector in the bottom of the stand providing power to the unit when installed. We found it a little fussy to line up just right, and we would like to see a track or some other guide other than the touch panel with the half-inch square Windows logo to eyeball in a centerline position to properly charge. The unit does have an AC adapter plug, so the stand is optional, as the computer does have kickstands to prop it up.
Make no bones about it -- the XPS 18 is a full-powered portable computer, albeit a large one. It runs the full version of Windows 8. It took us about four hours to completely drain the battery playing Civilization V with all graphical options on medium, and 4:21 playing iTunes HD video files on continuous loop until rundown. More battery testing and speed benchmarking will be performed in the future for our full review.
The XPS 18 intrigues us technically. Initially, we though it would make an excellent two-page 8.5x11 paper e-reader. It does make a good large factor reader, but trying to puzzle out other practical uses for the slab, but the thought of lugging about an 18-inch tablet with accompanying five pound weight is a bit overwhelming. One of our testers likened the device to the Mel Brooks comedy skit of 15 commandments coming down from the mont, with five not quite making the journey just from the perilous size of the media.
Few apps really consider the sheer size of the portable device, and user interface conventions can be a bit challenging. What works on a 18-inch display on the desktop doesn't necessarily work well on the same size screen on the go. Large form-factor tablets like this are fairly rare, so it is uncertain if accommodations will be made for them in the future.
There are factors to consider when getting a tablet. Portability and battery life are two of the major concerns, but a third often overlooked one is what exactly is going to be accomplished on it. There are more convenient form factors than an 18-inch tablet. There are tablets with longer battery life. There are certainly lighter ones. The Dell XPS 18 is a tablet answering a need that we just don't have here, but that said, it is an intriguing device. Portable only in the loosest sense of the word, the too-large tablet just cries out to be used, just to see what a mobile touchscreen with these dimensions can be used for.
Look for our full review in the coming weeks.