capsule review

Dell Studio XPS Power Desktop

At a Glance
  • Dell Studio XPS

    PCWorld Rating

    The Studio XPS delivers powerful performance for its price; but the internal design hampers this awesome PC.

This Studio XPS (model 435mt) includes a 2.93-GHz Intel Core i7 940 processor, an excellent CPU that delivers powerful speeds in conjunction with the system's 6GB of DDR3 (1066 MHz) memory. As you might expect, a 64-bit Windows Vista version--Home Premium--is this system's operating system of choice. It rests on a single 500GB, 7200-rpm Western Digital Caviar Blue hard drive; a good level of storage, but nothing that hits top-of-the-chart speeds. The PC is priced at $1999 (as of December 3, 2008), and $349 extra gets you a 23-inch Dell SP2309W display.

While the system's 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 isn't the fastest graphics card on the market, especially when compared with some of the dual-GPU offerings of other PCs in this category, it still performs well on our Doom 3 and Far Cry benchmarks: The Studio XPS achieved 202 and 236 frames per second, respectively, in those tests. Its WorldBench 6 score of 136 nestles it solidly within the top percentile of power desktops we've tested, coming just 5 points shy of the category leader at the time of writing: Polywell's $4000 Poly X4800-Extreme (equipped with a 3.2-GHz Core 2 Extreme X9770 and 4GB of speedy DDR3-1625 RAM). We'd take the Studio XPS for $2000 less, any day--at least, on paper.

What the paper doesn't show is the Studio XPS's weak internal design: It's disappointing enough to pull the system into the middle of our top-ten list instead of catapulting it toward the top of it. The only noteworthy expansion you're going to get inside of this chassis is room for a single hard drive. That's all, and even then, you have to screw into the side of the chassis in an unorthodox fashion. The system uses its two 5.25-inch bays for a Blu-Ray combo drive and a DVD reader/writer. The sole PCI Express x16 slot is already taken up by the video card, and an included TV tuner steals one of the three available PCI Express x8 slots. This chassis truly is an upgrader's nightmare.

Four rear USB ports join onboard 5.1 surround sound, an optical S/PDIF jack, a single eSATA port, one FireWire 400 port, and one Ethernet port on the back of the machine. The front of the case comes with an above-average offering of four USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, and an included media card reader.

As expected, the Studio XPS comes with a standard Dell media keyboard; its function buttons are useful for Web surfing and media playback, and the keyboard design is nice (even though it's slightly smaller than a typical keyboard). The two-button mouse has two additional back/forward buttons where your thumb rests.

Though standard parts and components can be customized and changed over time, Dell is relatively locked to its proprietary case and components. That's a shame, because in a normal, upgrade-friendly chassis, the Dell Studio XPS would shine as a solid PC for power users. The Studio XPS isn't a bad choice overall, just as long as you can stomach the hardships when you try to upgrade the system.

--David Murphy

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Studio XPS delivers powerful performance for its price; but the internal design hampers this awesome PC.

    Pros

    • High-performance Core i7 CPU
    • Competitively priced

    Cons

    • Internal design issues
    • Only 500GB storage
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