Dell is equally at ease creating the magnificent as it is creating the mundane. Its Inspiron range represents the "meh" end of the spectrum while its XPS series usually consists of more exciting offerings.
The latest addition to the XPS series is the XPS One -- a self-contained, all-in-one desktop PC, which to the untrained eye just looks like a computer screen. In other words, it's an alternative to the Apple iMac. But how does it stack up against this rival?
The main benefit of the XPS One is its small footprint. It takes up only as much space as an ordinary monitor, meaning there's no need to have a separate base unit clogging up your desk or lurking by your feet. It's also nearly cable-free -- there's nothing you need to wire up aside from the power cord.
Aesthetically, the XPS One is not quite as attractive as an Apple iMac -- but it's not far off. We love how the rear of the screen is slightly angular in design -- an element that carries over to the aluminium stand. Another cool touch is the tempered smoked glass base, which looks pretty sexy. Then there's the glossy black front bezel and contrasting blue LED lighting, which give it that "look at me" aesthetic. The only thing we don't like is the speakers on either side of the screen. These could have been implemented in a less obtrusive manner.
The buttons on the XPS Ones are probably our favourite features. They're pretty much invisible by default, but wave your hand in their general vicinity and a motion sensor causes them to glow. They're all capacitive, or touch-sensitive, and make a funky buzzing noise -- a la Star Trek -- to confirm key presses. Move your hand away and the proximity sensor causes the LED lights to disappear once again.
On a related note, Dell has installed a 'Go Dark' button, which switches off the screen backlight and button LEDs, and disables the proximity sensor. This is handy when using the XPS One as a media player since the lights never cause a distraction.
Alongside the main control buttons you'll find a blue LED arc, which shows up to let you know there's a disc inside the machine. The drive is of the slot-loading variety, so while it looks really cool, it will probably have difficulty reading discs of a non-standard size. The 8cm discs you find in Blu-ray camcorders, for example, may get jammed inside the XPS One, based by our past experience with similar systems.
We're very pleased to learn the XPS One comes with an integrated hybrid TV tuner. This displays both analogue and digital TV so if the Freeview signal isn't so hot in your area, you can always fall back on the ever-reliable analogue alternative -- until they phase it out of existence, at least. Flicking through channels is made easy, thanks to the accompanying infrared remote control, but you can also adopt full control of the PC from the comfort of your armchair with the wireless keyboard. This sports a built-in mouse track pad and is pre-paired at the Dell factory so you don't have to fiddle about with it.
Connectivity to the outside world is possible with its six USB ports -- four at the rear and two at the side. You also get an 8-in-1 memory card reader, six-pin FireWire, 2.1 audio out/in, and an S-Video output. There's also a Gigabit Ethernet adaptor, but most users may prefer to opt for the 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi adaptor.