updated 03:34 pm EDT, Tue June 25, 2013
Windows 8, issues with large touch screens slow integration
Nearly a month ago, Electronista took a look at the new Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch all-in-one detachable tablet hybrid. We had some concerns about the device -- it fell in the middle of the performance range for modern all-in-one computers, and the 18-inch form factor made it a bit awkward as a tablet. In our first examination, we really had no idea who the target market for the device was. After mentioning our issues with the device to Dell, we have been given a unique opportunity for a new device review -- Electronista has been granted special dispensation to hold on to the XPS 18 for a few months before returning it to the Texas manufacturer, rather than the normal few weeks allotted to reviewers, to see how it integrates into a family over time.
Our chosen test family is multi-generational. Under one roof are two senior citizens, three adults, and three children -- one of which is disabled. The house is predominantly Apple-based, with a large amount of Cupertino hardware, both old and new, in use daily. As with most technically-savvy families, however, there are also Windows PCs of several flavors and ages in the house.
The Electronista employee in charge of this effort has 33 years of computing experience, with other levels of technical ability demonstrated by other family members in the test environment, ranging from toddlers hammering on touch screens through to senior citizens re-entering the digital age with iPads after retiring from daily computer use at a Fortune 500 company.
The first few weeks of the integration are best described as initial investigations of device potential, with mis-steps. The toddlers have been shown a few apps that they've used on other platforms, and find the large screen fun, but not fun enough to replace an iOS device. The senior citizens have been shown the device, but so far, but find it too unwieldy off the stand for anything other than periodic use.
So far, the use cases for the device in the family have been media streaming from a home server, and some portable gaming. An abortive attempt was made to use the device in the kitchen, but fear of flour penetration into the device washed that out quickly.
Dell calls the device "best used as an all-in-one, with the added flexibility of being able to take it on the go." The i5 processor in the device is an Ivy Bridge model, but we're sure that a future transition to Haswell will make a giant difference to the currently-anemic (but surprising for the screen size) five-hour battery life for detached use. So far, our experience with the device bears Dell's placement idea out -- it's been best to ignore the tablet-esque qualities of the device when considering usage, and treat it like we have any other PC desktop in the past.
This ongoing evaluation will periodically pop up here, in the news page, as events warrant. We're going to attempt to update at least once a month, until the device is recalled back to Dell at some point in the future. While this extended review isn't a manufacturer-sponsored series, we do have access to Dell representatives for questions during the evaluation to assist in the process. If readers have any questions about the device, or want any (non-destructive, please!) specific testing done, feel free to let us know in the comment section.