User Experience, Heat, and Power Consumption

Where I think Dell seems to have missed the boat with the XPS One (and the corresponding new Inspiron One 23 and Inspiron One 20) is in the thermal design. Aesthetically I find these all-in-ones to be very attractive (the Inspiron Ones look almost exactly like the XPS One, just smaller), and once again the minimal software bloat is greatly appreciated.

The problem with the XPS One, and potentially with the other new Inspiron all-in-ones, lies again in the cooling design. If you remember our review of the Inspiron One 2320, we found that while the processor was well cooled, the GPU and hard drive were essentially being toasted inside the chassis. 50C was way too high for a hard drive to be running at, while 90C was pushing the upper boundaries of the GPU's tolerance. That's why it's unfortunate that the XPS One's thermals aren't much better.

This time the situation is essentially reversed; the i7-3770S is roasting inside the XPS One under high load while the GT 640M is generally more comfortable (77C for any modern GPU really isn't bad at all). Unfortunately, neither HWMonitor nor AIDA64 could give me readings on the storage subsystem so you're really taking it based on faith.

We're really getting to the crux of the problem with all-in-ones, though. Heat management gets a lot more complicated when you're also dealing with the heat that the screen itself is throwing off. Given how much better mobile quad-cores have gotten, I have to wonder if the incremental drop to the i7-3770S was really enough in the XPS One and unfortunately the only other processor choice is the i5-3450S, which is still 65W. Where we need to be are the comparably priced i7-3770T and i5-3450T to take some of the stank off these thermals.

Part of the problem with a system running this hot, is that you'll notice that under sustained stress the system's fans are basically running at full bore, and when that load is removed it takes them a while to spin back down again. Having those fans running that high is brutal; while the system is quiet under idle, sustained load drives fan noise up to a punishing 47.7dB (measured about a foot away). An all-in-one running that loud is unacceptable, full stop.

Dell's thermal solution involves middling ventilation around the perimeter of the body (basically the recessed gap between the screen and the silver backplate), and while I don't envy their engineers the task of having to find a way to cool a beast like this, frankly they just haven't found the answer.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption

Being the biggest all-in-one we've tested, it should be unsurprising that the Dell XPS One 2710 is also the most power hungry. What's shocking is the difference in load consumption between the XPS One 2710 and TouchSmart 610. If we assume power saving technologies are kicking in (e.g. Optimus for the XPS One 2710), some of the ~10W difference in idle power is due to the larger monitor, but the always-on HD 5570 in the TouchSmart makes that a less than perfect comparison. Regardless, despite having a CPU with a TDP 30W lower than the TouchSmart 610's, the difference in load power consumption sees the XPS One 2710 is pulling fifty watts more than the TouchSmart. The GT 640M simply isn't that big of a power hog, and the difference between the two units should honestly fit in that reduced CPU TDP.

Or if you want a potentially better comparison, look at the Inspiron One, which also uses an NVIDIA GPU with Optimus and a 65W S-series CPU. There the difference at idle is 21W, and once again we're looking at 50W more power draw on the XPS One under load--or 30W more once we remove the extra power used by the 27" LCD.

While load power consumption isn't horrible, it's a lot higher than I expected. Given the cooling issues with the older Inspiron One 2320, it looks like Dell has simply swapped one problem for a different one. We've also seen evidence that Ivy Bridge runs hotter than Sandy Bridge, and that appears to be the case here; more performance in a smaller area often makes that happen. Unfortunately, the noise generated by the XPS One under load makes such high temperatures a real concern.

Screen Quality New Inspirons and the Conclusion
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  • lurker22 - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Just buy an iMac. Dell continues to be lousy engineering. Reply
  • lowlymarine - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Well, I'd say at least wait for the IVB refresh of the iMacs (which should land inside a month or so). When that happens, the prices on these will have to com down; they're barely competitive with the current-generation iMacs as it is.

    Also, remember when Apple used to be the company using hilariously anemic GPUs in their computers while everyone else had higher-end chips available? When did that table turn? A 640M as the highest-end option in a 27" AIO, with the XPS branding no less, while Apple offers a 6970M in last years model? Ridiculous.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    I would have to agree, the iMac seems like a downright great value now that other companies are trying to target the same range. And if it gets upgraded to retina displays this next refresh... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Look at the pricing on a 27" iMac with an i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 2TB HDD, SSD caching and Blu-ray (they don't offer these two options, actually), and a 6970M before you hand Apple the crown for AIOs. If you're looking purely at the GPU, Apple wins. If you're looking at the overall design and aesthetic, I'd call it a toss up, but I'd assume the Apple 27" iMac is able to cool the CPU+GPU better so we'll give Apple another win. And then you get to the price.

    It looks like a comparable current-gen iMac 27" with a better GPU will run you $2550 online at B&H, and you still lose Blu-ray capability and the SSD caching. I'm not sure if Apple will support Intel's SSD caching with the next generation iMac either -- Apple has been pretty careful about what new techs they support, particularly in the SSD realm. And of course the bottom line is that if you don't like OS X, you'd be crazy to purchase a Mac of any form. I know plenty of people that like OS X, but I know just as many that hate it; I happen to fall into the latter camp.

    Still, it boggles the mind that Dell couldn't just have a second HSF cooling the CPU in the 2710 to fix the temperature issues.
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    You could always install 16 GB SO-DIMM DDR3 plus 128GB Samsung SSD for like 260 USD if you care to do the upgrade. As it might not be straight forward. An external Blu-ray drive costs you 70-100 USD and a Windows retail license of W7HP costs you some 170 USD. That would enable you everything including blu-ray playback. Might be a 600 - 700 USD upgrade though. Just installing ram though costs you 32 USD and requires no disassembly. A 2TB drive is 150 USD though if you don't want to disassemble the case. The i7 is 200 USD addon too, and not Ivy yet. If graphics isn't that important I would go with the HP Z1 Workstation though.

    On a system with mSATA the upgrade would obviously be to install a 128/256GB mSATA SSD. Not some Intel RST feature. It's just Intel Windows driver software any way.

    Not that Dell here isn't unusably reasonable in it's configure. We mostly see 20-23" low end machines around 1000 dollars with TN displays otherwise. But they don't seem to have taken the build seriously restricting themselves to slightly low power cpus. I guess using a 3770k would have speed up things a bit.
    Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    "Also, remember when Apple used to be the company using hilariously anemic GPUs in their computers while everyone else had higher-end chips available?"

    No. I bought an ibook back in 2002 because it had a 100 mhz bus G3 and a mobility radeon 16 MB. Contemporary PC laptops were either integrated graphics (i810 chipset) or a slightly larger form factor with discrete graphics and lower battery life.

    While the powerbook titanium / aluminum line never really had high-powered discrete graphics .. they offered basically the best GPUs that could fit in their 1" form factor. Charged an arm and a leg for it too..

    Excepting a brief period in 2006-2007 (mac mini and macbook with intel GMA 950), Apple has typically used a pretty high base level of graphics hardware in their systems. They've only rarely offered truly excellent graphics options (6970M in current iMac is a big exception), but by offering a high baseline they've been able to build their operating systems with a minimum level of guaranteed graphics performance.

    Perhaps not unexpectedly, the iPhone / iPad lineup has always offered some of the best graphics available among contemporary smartphones.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    Think the Mac towers. For a long time, the bottom rung configuration of systems that have almost always started at a brutal $2,499 almost always included what seemed like the worst dedicated GPU they could find. Reply
  • AssBall - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    That still doesn't present a good argument from a reasonable perspective. You don't need a high powered gpu in an i-mac, because you aren't going to run any software that stresses it. imacs and aio in general are for the fung-shui crowds. A lesser gpu in a 27" will run games fine at max with a good subsystem. Gamers don't buy imacs, or any macs, for gaming. They are a nice piece of usefull furniture but nobody should pretend they aren't a luxury item. The rest of us will sb happy to settle for an upgradable, cheaper, run of the mill pc with more versatility. Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Actually, I know someone that purchased one of these. I was skeptical at first, but was quite surprised [in a good way] when I had used it.

    Mind you, they don't do any serious performance-driven use (gaming/video editing), but video and office products worked well and it had a few neat touch-driven games that came with it.
    Reply
  • guidryp - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - link

    Sounds like you are making things up. Did you read where it says there is "NO Touch Screen"? Reply

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