- Attractive design
- Six-core CPU, powerful GPU
- THX-certified sound, Blu-ray drive
- Good value for the money
- No TV tuner
- Wired keyboard and mouse
This system offers consumers a very stylish design, a six-core CPU and an extremely potent graphics card. It's hard to ask for anything more.
Dell is the first major computer manufacturer to market a desktop both with AMD’s new Vision market branding as well as with their new six-core processors. The computer giant has put out some really solid offerings in the Studio XPS lineup; can the AMD-based Studio XPS 7100 compete? Read on and find out.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T @ 2.8GHz
- Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM
- Hard drive: 1.5TB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Optical drive: Blu-ray Rom / DVD+/-RW SuperMulti
- Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
- Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5870 with 1GB GDDR5
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless networking: n/a
- Dell wired keyboard and mouse
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Power supply: 460W internal
- Weight: 22.4 lbs
- Dimensions: 16.02 x 7.31 x 17.9 inches (HxWxD)
- Warranty: One year limited parts and labor
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Dell Studio XPS 7100 in this configuration is $1,249. One point of interest, however, is that just after launch, Dell added a wireless networking option – so for $1,229, consumers can choose to configure the Studio XPS 7100 with an 802.11n Wi-Fi card instead of the Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card. Given the fact that the XPS 7100 already offers THX-certified integrated audio, the wireless connectivity is probably the more useful (and cheaper!) option for most consumers. Dell is currently running a promotion on this setup, however, making the total package with the wireless card come to just $1,149, with free shipping.
Build and Design
Despite being the progenitor of the Studio XPS lineup, the original Studio XPS desktop was really more of a shiny Inspiron – when it came to looks, not its award-winning performance – than the rest of the lineup. The last effort Dell made to put AMD in a performance-oriented system, the XPS 625, turned out to be short-lived and overpriced. The XPS 7100 represents the first effort by the Round Rock giant to include AMD architecture in the Studio XPS brand.
Moreover, it’s also the first time Dell has released a system using AMD’s new marking campaign, Vision. Rather than get into what Vision means in this review, a brief summary: Vision replaces the CPU and GPU stickers consumers often see on the front of their notebooks and desktops. Instead of trying to figure out what processor and graphics card they need for their intended use, all they need to do is figure what Vision system would be right for them.
Four levels – Vision, Vision Premium, Vision Ultimate and Vision Black – means the new branding stretches across all performance segments of the market. If someone wants a basic computer to use Office with and send e-mail, they can get a Vision system. A gamer, on the other hand, would want to go with a Vision Ultimate or Vision Black.
The 7100 clearly takes its design cues from the rest of the Studio XPS desktops. A front panel reaches up and curves around the top of the case, with a built-in memory card reader at the top, then sliding and hinged doors hiding drive bays below. Unlike the striking white designs Dell used for the rest of the lineup, the Studio XPS 7100 has been born with a shadowy elegance.
Instead of brightly colored plastic, the front panels are made of a matte silver. The white sides and top, while still composed of metal and high-quality plastics, are now black. It’s almost as if Dell’s design team decided to give physical form to the dark horse campaign that AMD is pushing with their recent resurgence. As a package, the new look really just works.
Like the rest of the Studio XPS desktops, the 7100 has largely featureless sides, marked only by the occasional logo or venting grille. A tray, inset at the top of the machine gives buyers a place to rest their cell phone or media players, and the two USB2.0 ports at the rear of the tray give them a place to charge it.
Inputs and Expansion
Like most desktops, ports are scattered around the system, with the lion’s share falling along the rear. In the front is a built-in memory card reader; its placement makes getting pictures from digital cameras that much easier. Two optical drive bays sit just beneath it; the first is populated with a Blu-ray drive that can read Blu-ray discs and burn DVDs. The second is empty, but comes with one of those little buttons on the side that activates the drive.
Just beneath these bays is a sliding door that pushes down to reveal two more USB2.0 ports and an externally-accessible 3.5-inch drive bay. These sliding doors are always a bit clunky to use, and given the ports found elsewhere on the machine, it’s a good bet that most consumers will never actually open it. It would be nice if Dell could find a way to include these features with an easier-to-use pocket.
On top of the Studio XPS 7100 is the aforementioned charging and storage tray. It comes with two more USB2.0 ports as well as microphone and headphone jacks for easy access. Putting the audio in and out jacks up on top is a smart move. Given that most consumers will situate the the desktop in such a manner that they’ll have to reach down to use it, top-oriented ports are easier to use than those hidden down on the front.
Speaking of audio, the rear of the machine offers up a number of extra ports. In addition to the THX-certified sound integrated into the motherboard with its 7.1 analog and digital out, this review unit has a Creative X-Fi sound card installed into one of the PCI-Express slots. The sound card provides more analog audio in and out as well as two optical audio ports. Most consumers will no doubt opt for the wireless option over the sound card, since it just makes more sense.
In addition to all of the audio capability offered by this desktop, there are two more USB2.0 and two USB3.0 ports, one eSATA port and Gigabit Ethernet. Without a graphics card, buyers of these systems will have HDMI and DVI ports available. Those are covered over when configured with discrete graphics, however, since the video card will be the one to push video out to a monitor. In this case, the included graphics card gives users an additional two DVI outputs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort.
Inside of the machine, there isn’t a whole lot of room to perform upgrades. That’s fine, though, since Dell packed an awful lot of technology into here. There are both 5.25- and 3.5-inch drive bays available. Four sticks of RAM, comprising 6GB, fill the systems four slots. There are two PCI Express x1 slots present, as well as one PCI Express x16 and one PCI. Configuring the system for use with a discrete graphics card like the ATI Radeon HD 5870 means that not only is the PCI Express x16 slot used, but the sheer size of the card covers up one of the x1 slots, too. The sound card or wireless networking card will fill the other one, leaving the lone PCI slot available for use.