Dell's new XPS 18 all-in-one doubles as tablet and a PC

Dell Wednesday introduced its versatile XPS 18 PC, an 18-inch all-in-one PC that can double as a supersized tablet.

The XPS 18 runs Windows 8, and with a large touchscreen, has the look of a mammoth tablet. At nearly 5 pounds, the machine is not highly mobile, but it is easier to carry around than typical all-in-ones.

The XPS 18, whose pricing starts at $899, also has a battery and functions as a tablet when detached from a power outlet. In tablet mode, the device provides up to five hours of run time on a single battery charge. Two stands that pop out on the back provide balance when the all-in-one segment rests on a table.

The announcement comes as Dell's commitment to the PC market is under question as the company pursues a leveraged buyout. Dell announced in early February it was being purchased for $24.4 billion by founder Michael Dell and equity investor Silver Lake. The deal, which is subject to shareholder approval, includes a $2 billion loan from Microsoft, and debt financing commitments from a group of banks.

Are larger tablets gaining momentum?

Though it offers limited mobility, the XPS 18 is not a static device. The larger screen size is attractive to some users, who will be able to move the device for gaming or for watching streaming video or TV, said David Daoud, research director at IDC.

The device's touchscreen can display images at a high-definition resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, according to Dell, which calls the device a "portable all-in-one."

PC makers have been introducing all-in-ones that transform into large-sized tablets since the start of the year. Asus last week introduced the 18.4-inch Transformer AiO, which can run either Android or Windows 8. At the International CES show in January, Panasonic showed off a 20-inch tablet with a display that can show images at a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels.

Asus_Transformer_AiO
Asus's 18.4-inch Transformer AiO

All-in-ones are assuming the role of desktops in homes, and adding tablet-like functionality was a logical next step for vendors, Daoud said.

"The industry likes the idea as it gives them an enhanced device," Daoud said. "It opens up new user behavior."

Daoud said a new usage model was reflected in Lenovo's 27-inch Horizon all-in-one PC, which can be placed flat on a surface for multiplayer gaming. The device was also shown for the first time in January at International CES.

The XPS 18 could also attract fans of traditional PC computing because it can also be used as a desktop PC, Daoud said.

"Above and beyond it offers continuity for people who are interested in the desktop world," Daoud said.

Touchscreen adoption lags in PCs, Daoud said. Eight out of 10 PCs bought are non-touch. The concept of XPS 18 is fantastic, but selling such touch devices online could be a challenge as people need to experience the new form factors in person, Daoud said.

The XPS 18's availability date was not immediately provided. The portable all-in-one has an option of Intel Pentium or Core i3, i5 or i7 processors based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. Other features include a 720p webcam, a memory card reader, Wi-Fi, two USB 3.0 ports, and Bluetooth 4.0. Storage options available are up to 500GB for hard-drive storage or 512GB for solid-state drive storage.

The all-in-one does not include a mouse and keyboard. PC makers usually upsell accessories with these types of devices, and can generate a healthy margin by sales of keyboards and mice, Daoud said.

Click here to read PCWorld's subsequent hands-on review of the Dell XPS 18 Touch.

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