- Contemporary design
- Good build quality
- Tray, ports on top
- Silver trim feels cheap
- Front: fingerprint magnet
- Loud under load
The Studio XPS 8100 is an affordable mainstream desktop that handles most tasks with style.
Dell’s mid-range Studio line has come a long way since its inception. Adding a touch of sophistication to the more affordable Inspiron lines, Dell’s Studio segment offers an option to mainstream users who want a little more – without having to spend the cash on an Alienware. The Studio XPS 8100 marries glossy black and matte white finishes with modern Intel CPUs, but is it worth your hard-earned dollars? Read on for our full review.
- Processor: Intel Core i5-650 @ 3.20GHz (2 cores, 4 threads)
- Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM (4 x 2GB DIMMs)
- Hard drive: 1TB SATA @ 7200RPM
- Optical drive: 16X DVD+/-RW SuperMulti
- Sound: Integrated THX audio
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTS 240 w/1GB GDDR3
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless networking: 802.11b/g/n
- Dell wired keyboard and mouse
- Hybrid NTSC/ATSC/ClearQAM tuner with Windows Media Center remote control and IR blaster
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Power supply: 350W internal
- Warranty: 2-year limited parts and labor
- Dimensions: 16.1 x 7.3 x 17.9 inches (HxWxD)
The Dell Studio XPS 8100 starts at $699; our configuration clocks in at $1189. One thing to keep in mind: Dell’s online configurator can sometimes be tricky to navigate. In calculating the suggested price of this review unit, we were able to score the same configuration with a two-year warranty instead of the base one-year and get it for forty dollars cheaper. In other words, it pays to play around with the different configurations on Dell’s site and see if you can’t save a few bucks.
Build and Design
The Studio XPS 8100 follows the same design principles as its brand progenitor, the Studio XPS 8000 that we reviewed a few months ago. The Studio line, regardless of model, features a few things in common, like a white body with silver and black accents. The Studio XPS line builds on this with a solid white body and glossy black faceplate. The Studio XPS 8100 has a silver trim in between the face and body, while its bigger brother, the more expensive Studio XPS 9000, uses red.
Dell has actually been something of a trendsetter in this area; other manufacturers are starting to offer their own light-colored options. When they first started coming out with the white-model computers, we were a little skeptical: a white computer? That sounds like it’s begging for dirt and scratches. Pleasantly, however, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be much of an issue. The sides of the XPS 8100 are comprised of metal coated with a thick, durable white paint. It feels pretty scratch-resistant. The top is a dense white plastic – while typically I hate to see plastic all over desktops, the material used in this model feels like it’s of a higher quality than most. Moreover, since it’s white all the way through, and not just painted, scratches and scrapes can be buffed out – if they show at all.
Embedded into the top of the unit is a shallow tray design to store small objects such as cell phones or media players. In the back of the tray are two USB2.0 ports for charging, as well as audio jacks. The tray on top seems to be a growing trend on desktop computers, thankfully. It’s incredibly handy to have a dedicated spot to sit charging devices, change or even your keys.
The only let down we’ve found, in terms of the design and build quality of the Studio XPS 8100, is the front facing materials and coatings. The glossy black plastic looks very pretty, but it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet and a pain to clean, besides. In addition, the sliding door which reveals the 3.5-inch drive bay and an additional pair of USB2.0 ports opens stiffly. I’m not sure why the company bothers with it, frankly – there’s not much that consumers are going to be putting into a 3.5-inch drive bay these days except a memory card reader, and that’s built into the top. It would make for a cleaner design if Dell omitted the sliding door entirely.
Inputs and Expansion
The Studio XPS 8100 doesn’t really hurt for inputs or port selection. The top of the machine offers the aforementioned dual USB2.0 inputs as well as headphone and microphone jacks. It’s nice to see Dell put the audio jacks on top of the machine; most consumers these days tend to put the computer tower either on the floor or on a shelf below their working surfaces, and having the two USB ports plus the audio jacks positioned here makes them much easier to access from above.
Going down the front of the machine, Dell has multi-card reader built in for syncing the removable media found in cell phones and digital cameras. There’s also a sliding door which reveals a further two USB2.0 ports. They’re in something of an awkward position, but at least they’re available when necessary.
Around the rear of the machine you can find the rest of the inputs: four more USB2.0 ports (sorry, no USB3.0 to be found on this rig), FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, line-in audio as well as 7.1 analog and digital optical S/PDIF out. The three expansion cards with which our review unit was pre-populated add S-video and two DVI-I video out ports, two wireless networking antenna connectors and the TV tuner’s coaxial, component and s-video in, for recording purposes.
Inside of the machine, things are fairly clean, with most wiring kept bundled and out of the way. Dell went with an interesting means of mounting the hard drives this time around; they’re oriented vertically on the side of the case. It’s a clever way of adding storage expansion capacity without taking up extra room, but it does leave a lot of wasted space in the bottom front of the machine that can’t be used without MacGuyvering a solution of your own. There are two free traditionally-fixed drive bays left open – one 5.25-inch, perfect for a Blu-ray unit or second DVD burner and one 3.5-inch suitable for more storage space. Both of these latter bays have external access.