The downside to all of this, of course, is that none of these desktops hold a candle to the impressive design aesthetics that reigned back at the peak of the XPS dynasty, with sleek desktops that had more in common with futuristic jetliners than the bleak grey of the 90s. Despite that, the XPS 8300 manages to hold its own.
Some of Dell’s biggest competitors in this arena are the HP Pavilion (and Pavilion Elite), and some of the Gateway/Acer desktops. While the others might all be confused for one another, the XPS 8300 still stands out and is instantly recognizable as a Dell product. It’s distinctive and attractive, and cleverly uses lower-cost plastics while successfully mimicking a premium feel.
Like previous entrants in the family – and taking a cue from competitors’ products, the XPS 8300 has a tray molded into the top of the unit. At the back are a few ports, handy for charging a mobile phone or audio player. Frankly, and probably to Dell’s chagrin, these trays would also be useful for minding all the detritus that ends up in your pockets at the end of the day, like wallets, keys and change.
Inputs and expansion
The XPS 8300 has all of the typical ports one might imagine with a desktop computer, though there are a couple of nice surprises secreted away here and there. On the front of the machine is a set of multi-card readers – just below that is the optical drive. In this tower, it’s a Blu-ray readable, DVD-rewriteable disc drive, hidden behind a now-commonplace plastic barrier.
Right below this is a drop down door hiding an external 3.5-inch drive bay and two USB 2.0 ports. In this model, the external drive bay holds a single USB 3.0 port. I understand that adding USB 3.0 functionality is still an iffy prospect for computer manufacturers, but it still looks pretty funny to see that lone USB port – there’s another lonely, singular USB 3.0 port sitting in a PCI expansion slot on the rear. At the top of the machine sits the power button, and at the rear of the previously mentioned tray, two more USB 2.0 ports and analog microphone and headphone jacks.
Turning things around back, there are another four USB 2.0 ports (and that extra USB 3.0 input). For those playing along at home, that brings the grand total up to eight USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. There’s also an eSATA input, optical audio jack, Gigabit Ethernet and analog in/ out audio jacks.
Video out on the motherboard is helpfully blocked to help newer computer users figure out which connector is used to attach their display. Since this machine has a discrete video card, there are two DVI-I video ports, one HDMI and even one DisplayPort. Since this is an AMD ATI video card, that means it has EyeFinity technology built-in – and the opportunity for a whopping four displays at one time.
Inside there’s some room to hook up new components, but not a whole lot, since Dell put a fair amount of tech inside already. You won’t be able to hook up a second graphics card with this tower, but you can find an extra open PCI slot. There’s also enough room to add at least one, and probably two 3.5-inch drives. Maybe even more than that if you use 2.5-inch hard drives or SSDs.
That brings us to the MOST EXCITING PART OF THE XPS 8300! Forgive me, if you will, for being excited over something (literally) so small. When I first pulled the 8300 out of its box, I noticed there were no Wi-Fi antenna on the rear of the machine – selling any desktop over $500 (frankly, any desktop at all) without Wi-Fi built in is a crime. In my head, I was already chastising Dell. When the machine booted up, however, there was a wireless connection icon in the corner of the display.
In this desktop, Dell put a mini-PCI slot on the motherboard, and filled it with a Wi-Fi radio card similar to what you might find if you pulled open a notebook computer and started looking around. So this desktop has perfectly strong wireless connectivity without any antennas that stick out and catch on things. Every manufacturer should implement a similar solution. Good job, Dell.