- Great design
- Integrated charging tray
- Blu-ray drive
- No wireless
- Plastic top
Dell was one of the first mainstream computer manufacturers to break out of the mold and strike new territory in terms of interesting designs and attractive cases. The Studio XPS is a new chapter in that story, featuring Dell’s recent trend toward white electronics mixed with glossy black plastic, powered with Intel’s newest Core i5 processor technology. Read on for our full review.
- Processor: Intel Core i5-750 @ 2.66GHz
- Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM
- Hard drive: 1TB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Optical drive: Blu-ray Rom / DVD+/-RW tray-loading drive
- Sound: Integrated HD audio
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 w/1792MB video memory
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
- Inputs: 8 USB2.0 (2 front, 2 top, 4 rear), eSATA, FireWire, Analog/digital audio out, DVI-I, TV out
- Power supply: 350W (internal)
- Warranty: One year limited parts and labor
In this configuration, the Dell Studio XPS 8000 carries a suggested retail price of $1299. Packed together with the SX2210 display, it runs $1579.
Build and Design
Dell recently changed a lot of the way their branding works; whereas the XPS used to be a dedicated brand featuring their premium products and equipment, not it’s become an addendum of sorts to all of their other lines. The Studio line, for instance, is a relative newcomer to Dell’s family, targeting mainstream computer buyers. The Studio XPS, then, is a computer that fits within the rest of Dell’s Studio strategy, but offers users a little more, a little extra.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of the new Studio XPS 8000 is that it’s really a kind of study in opposites. The front of the machine is glossy black, while the top and sides are matte white. The front and back are detail and lend a high-tech feeling, while the sides are smooth and mostly featureless. It’s definitely an interesting look, and while originally I didn’t think I’d enjoy white electronics, it’s definitely starting to grow on me. The overall lines are sleek and defined, presenting an attractive shape that while still speaks of a piece of electronics, isn’t so jarring as to disrupt a styled room in the house.
If you remember our look at the Studio One 19, Dell’s recent petit multitouch all-in-one desktop, you might recognize some of the same styling features on the Studio XPS 8000. On the front of the machine, the glossy black plastic extends outward from the rest of the case, leaving a silvery sliver of plastic visible. It’s a neat design choice and gives a lighter feeling to what otherwise might be a bulky machine. It also serves to tie this computer in with the rest of Dell’s Studio lines; between the colors and gentle curves, Dell’s notebooks and desktops together are really starting to feel like a cohesive family. It’s easy to point at one and immediately recognize the computer as Dell’s, which is an important distinction that companies need to achieve in order to remain competitive. Dell has definitely gotten better at it than rivals such as HP or Gateway/Acer, who don’t generally have such immediate recognition.
The face of the computer features the optical drive covers we’ve all come to know; almost no manufacturer ships bare optical drives anymore. The eject buttons have again been relegated to the right of the optical drive, with small vertical plastic faces. The only quibble I have about this is that they don’t have the standard eject symbol on them, and I could see someone pretty new to computers unable to really understand how to open the optical drive (of course, most of those people probably won’t be buying a Studio XPS desktop). Right below the Blu-ray drive is an empty optical bay, and below that is a sliding door that hides an empty 3.5-inch bay as well as two USB2.0 ports. It’s nice to have, but it feels a little clunky just to have two USB ports in there; I’d like to see Dell do something creative with the bay. At the very top of the front plate is an integrated multi-in-one card reader.
The power button has been relegated to the top of the machine, which is a handy design feature since most desktop users place bigger machines like these beneath their desk rather than on top of it. Right next to the power button is a charging/storage tray indented into the top surface of the computer. HP was the first OEM that we saw to implement a feature like this, and I’ll say it again: it should be on every single desktop computer that ships from this point forward. It’s just too handy to have and get used to, and so cheap for manufacturers to implement. At the back of the tray are two more USB2.0 ports as well as the microphone and headphone jacks normally found on the front of the computer. The top itself, despite matching the sides of the machine almost seamlessly, is actually made of matte plastic instead of metal. Unfortunately, it does feel a little cheap, but it keeps the weight down and honestly, it looks fine.
Inputs and Expansion
The Studio XPS 8000 is bigger than most minitowers but much, much smaller than a full tower, so I’m not completely certain how to classify it. Needless to say, however, there’s a lot of space both in and outside of the machine to play around with and add features. As mentioned earlier, there are three externally available drive bays – two 5.25-inch bays and one 3.5-inch bay. One of these is taken up with the Blu-ray read / DVD+/-RW optical drive, but two are free for expansion. There’s also four USB2.0 ports on the front/top, two audio jacks, and the card reader.
Naturally, most of the ports are on the rear of the machine-and not a one of them is one of the older standards we’ve come to collectively call ‘legacy’ ports. No PS/2, parallel, or serial ports are found. There’s not even VGA. It’s nice to see manufacturers get rid of some of those ports, considering how much space they take up. Left in their place are four more USB2.0 ports, one FireWire, one eSATA and Gigabit Ethernet. Audio-wise there’s 7.1 analog out as well as optical S/PDIF, line in and microphone jacks. There is no onboard video; the included NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 takes care of that with its two DVI-I ports and TV-out. NVIDIA’s TV-out port lets users hook s-video up directly, or use a special adapter and get composite or component video.
To get inside the machine, you have to take off the left-hand panel, which is removed with a single thumb screw. The fit is definitely tight – I found it a little tough to yank the door off, though it will go back on pretty easily. Once inside you can see that there’s a lot of space to work around with. One of the more noticeable features and differences from some of the Core i7 platform-based systems out there is the number of RAM slots. There’s four, not six or more. That’s because Intel’s Core i5 works with dual-channel RAM instead of tri-channel, whose improvements have been found to be marginal at best.
All four are filled; two have 2GB DIMMs and two have 1GB DIMMs. There are three card slots available, but only one PCI-E x16 slot, which is taken up by the GTX260. On the right is an interesting drive cage, which mounts the hard drives horizontally and parallel to the motherboard.
There are a couple of issues inside the case, though. While there are a couple of SATA ports not already taken up with the included hard drive, at least one of these is blocked by the enormous GeForce GTX260, making it unusable. It’s possible you might be able to use a SATA cable that features a connector attached at a 90-degree angle, but at the very least you’d have to completely remove the massive video card in order to gain access to the port. It’s a little ridiculous, all things considered. Otherwise, you’ll be limited to two SATA ports, one of which is taken up by the hard drive.