The Dell XPS 8300 desktop takes our pick of back to school machines for a number of reasons. Today’s computers take advantage of graphics capabilities more than ever before, and as an XPS-branded machine, you’re guaranteed to get substantially better performance than the integrated graphics found in baseline models. Each XPS 8300 computer comes equipped with 2011 Intel Core quad-core processor – either a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU.
As part of the XPS lineup, the 8300 manages not just to plow through all of your programs, but does it with panache. The computer is decked out in a stylish white and black color scheme, with high quality plastics and metal comprising the external case. A built-in tray on top gives you a place to sit your phone or MP3 player, and two USB ports in the back of the tray give you a spot to charge it, too.
Our review unit came equipped with 8 gigs of RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. If you’re going to be editing photos or video, that’s more than enough to help accelerate your creativity to another level. Not to mention that when you’re done with schoolwork, all that power will let you play any of today’s latest games with the details turned up a bit.
The XPS 8300 can also be configured with a Blu-ray drive to let you watch some of today’s hottest Hollywood movies; if you’re a big entertainment buff, you can also pick up a TV tuner, turning your desktop into your television. Dorm rooms are often crowded, and doubling up on electronics is a way to save on space. Wireless is generally included so that you won’t need to worry about stretching a network cable across your bedroom, office or dorm. Included in the box with the XPS desktop is a great cordless desktop; the high-quality wireless keyboard and mouse connect to the 8300 via a USB dongle that can get plugged into the back.
Speaking of USB, this desktop also includes two USB 3.0 ports; one on the front and one on the back. Combined with the eSATA port on the back, and there’re a number of ways to get your data on and off the machine without having to wait half an hour for the transfer to complete. There is no implementation of Light Peak (also known as Thunderbolt) on this desktop, but the open PCI-e expansion slots means you can add it in later.
The new XPS 8300 starts at less than $700, though you’ll need a little extra to get some of the goodies we talked about here. Head into Dell’s Outlet and pick up a refurbished display, and you could have an extremely versatile system for well under a thousand dollars. Perfect for you or the student in your life!
Any new system just isn’t complete without an awesome set of speakers to go alongside – whether you’re buying a new desktop, a new notebook or heck – even a new tablet. One of our favorite recent setups comes from Logitech, with their Z623 2.1 speaker system. This package comes with two front-facing satellites that tie into a THX-certified subwoofer; all of the necessary controls tie into the right satellite.
The subwoofer is capable of driving very satisfying bass wherever it’s placed; gamers and action movie buffs in particular would do well with these speakers. Two analog audio jacks on one of the satellites provide a spot for you to hook in your iPod or a set of headphones – helpful if your roommate has to study and doesn’t want to listen to your new Arcade Fire again.
Logitech has actually stepped up their audio cred in recent years with the acquisition of high-end earphone maker Ultimate Ears; the company can now boast that they have both reputable speaker systems and headphone offerings within its portfolio. The Z623 might not be as reproductively faithful as a dedicated set of high-end monitors, but the price versus performance ratio can’t be beat. You can pick up a set from Logitech for just $149.99 (but they’re currently on sale for $127.49!).
A Touching Alternative…
The HP Touchsmart 610 is an outstanding all-in-one desktop. It features a 23-inch display that can handle two simultaneous touch inputs, while HP’s custom TouchSmart 4.0 software suite takes Windows 7 and makes it just a bit more finger friendly. Check out our full review of the TouchSmart 610 and see if it’s the right fit for you.