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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?

The XPS 18's 18.4-in. display is 1.6 inches smaller than the Tap 20's, but can show full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. I found that the screen reliably responded to 10 individual touch inputs and accepted gestures, like pinching or spreading my fingers to zoom in or out. I also used it with a Wacom Bamboo Solo stylus without a problem.

Minimalist to a fault, the display has a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an audio jack and an SD card slot. Unlike the Tap 20, the XPS 18 doesn't have an Ethernet port; it depends on 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

There's a prominent Windows Home button under the screen as well as a power button on the right edge and volume controls on the left. There are two speakers, one on each side; I found the sound to be reasonably rich and natural, but without the Tap 20's impressive volume.

As with the Tap 20, the system comes with a matching wireless mouse and keyboard.

A handy charging stand
While you can use the XPS 18's fold-out feet to set it up like a traditional all-in-one, I preferred the cantilevered charging stand that comes with the $1,350 and $1,450 models (it's available as a $100 option for the $900 and $1,000 models). The stand looks like a piece of modern sculpture and provides power to the system (although it would have been nice if it also offered some additional data connections).

The stand allows the screen to tilt from a vertical display position 3.5-in. above the tabletop to 10 degrees short of horizontal orientation. This provides the flexibility to easily use the display for standard desktop computing or tilt it to a flat angle for use as a touchscreen.

The higher-end models of the Dell XPS 18 all-in-one system come with a charging stand that lets you tilt the screen from a vertical to a horizontal position; you can also just use the display's fold-out feet.

There's no physical latch; the screen is held in place with a magnetic strip, making it perfect for grab and go maneuvers. (As a result, though, it wobbles somewhat when you swipe or tap the surface.) I like the ability to remove the screen, but the XPS 18 is tedious to hold on your lap for more than a few minutes at a time. In other words, look for a table to lay it down on.

Like the Tap 20, the XPS 18 offers WiDi hardware and software to wirelessly connect to a display. I used it with a WiDi-ready Netgear NeoTV Max Streaming Player connected to an LG 47LH40 TV; the system stayed connected up to 25 feet away.

 

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