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It's a desktop! It's a tablet! Dell XPS 18 vs. Sony Vaio Tap 20

Brian Nadel | May 31, 2013
We look at the Dell XPS 18 and the Sony Vaio Tap 20: Two all-in-ones that transform into large-scale tablets. Is this an alteration you can work with?

Not too long ago, computers were computers and tablets were tablets. However, some vendors are experimenting with hybrid All-in-One (AIO) computers that combine the best of both worlds.

Dell's XPS 18 and Sony's Vaio Tap 20 Mobile Desktop can be set up as regular AIO Windows 8 desktop systems, including large, adjustable touch displays that contain reasonably powerful computers, wireless keyboards and mice. However, because they run on battery power, the displays can also be picked up and carried anywhere.

Well -- almost anywhere. While the typical laptop or tablet is small enough to be dropped into a briefcase, these hybrid desktops are bulkier and heavier, weighing between 5 lbs. and 11.5 lbs., and taking up as much as 12.4 x 19.8 x 1.6 in. They are more suited for a journey from cubicle to conference room than from home to office.

To test these portable desktops, I used them every day for two weeks, moving them from the office to the basement to the porch. I spent time playing games, writing emails, watching online movies, editing images and visiting a variety of websites.

Along the way I found unexpected uses for them. My favorite was temporarily setting one up in front of my stationary bicycle to watch the morning news on while exercising.

What you choose to use them for depends on how mobile you want to be.

Dell XPS 18
Despite looking like a traditional all-in-one PC, on closer look it becomes clear that Dell's XPS 18 is meant to be carried around.

The Dell XPS comes in four models. The basic model comes with a 1.8GHz Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive ($900); the next offers a 1.9GHz Intel Core i3 processor and a 500GB hard drive ($1,000).

Dell XPS 18

The review unit is based on Intel's Core i5 3337U dual-core processor that runs at 1.8GHz and uses TurboBoost technology to sprint at up to 2.7GHz. It comes with 8GB of RAM and a two-stage storage system that combines a 500GB hard drive with a 32GB SSD. The flash portion caches the most frequently used data and programming code to speed start-ups and raise overall performance. Prices for this model start at $1,350.

Finally, the highest-end model comes with an Intel Core i7-3537U processor with up to 3.1GHz; it starts at $1,450.

At 18.1 x 11.2 x 0.6 in., the 5.1-lb. XPS 18 is not only significantly smaller than Sony's Vaio Tap 20, but weighs less than half as much. Dell's 18.4-in. display has an all-black bezel with strategically placed soft rubber grips, but lacks a carrying handle. If you want to take it outside of the home or office, Dell sells a $30 soft sleeve for the system.


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