Dell Studio XPS 8100: Core i5 Performance Bundled With 3D-Gaming Extras
At a Glance
Dell Studio XPS 8100 Value PC
The Studio XPS 8100 is a solid all-around performer with good connectivity and a bundled 120Hz Samsung LCD and nVidia 3D glasses. Just don't count on making upgrades.
The Dell Studio XPS 8100 is an affordable performance desktop aimed at people seeking an all-around capable system that doesn't necessarily need tinkering with. Priced at $1429 (as of February 1, 2010), it comes with a Core i5-750 processor, 8GB of DDR3-1333 memory, powerful nVidia GTX 260 graphics, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. You can upgrade to a Core i7 processor for $115 more.
The Studio XPS 8100's Core i5-750 CPU runs at 2.66GHz; combined with the copious RAM and the 1TB 7200-rpm hard disk, the processor helps Windows 7 hum along smoothly. The machine scored a respectable 129 in our WorldBench 6 test suite, a mark pretty much on a par with that of the Dell XPS 435 desktop it replaces. For maximum performance for $1500, however, it's hard to look past the Micro Express MicroFlex 95B: That PC's overclocked Core i7-950 processor and 3GB of DDR3-1600 memory catapulted it to a WorldBench 6 score of 148.
The MicroFlex 95B's dual-GPU GTX 295 graphics setup also outshone the Dell's GTX 260 video card, despite the latter's inclusion of 1.8GB of memory. For instance, the Micro Express achieved 112 frames per second in our Unreal Tournament 3 test (1920 by 1200; high settings), versus 37 fps from the Dell. The Dell's results still represent decent high-resolution gaming for a competitively priced machine, though.
The Studio XPS 8100 also comes with nVidia's GeForce 3D Vision goggles. The stereoscopic goggles support a wide range of games and work with a bunch of 3D movies, too. You'll need a compatible 120Hz monitor for the goggles to work--and the good news is, Dell bundles a 120Hz-ready, 22-inch Samsung SyncMaster 2233RZ monitor with this system for the $1429 price. Remember, though, that the 2233RZ (like many, but not all, 22-inch LCDs) limits gaming to its native 1680 by 1050 resolution. (For more details on other displays, see our Top 5 20- and 22-inch widescreen LCD monitors chart.)
Clad in a simple, two-tone glossy case, the Studio XPS 8100 is striking. Four USB ports sit on the front--two on the top, and two concealed behind a bay door that also hides the spare 3.5-inch drive bay. The configuration we tested also included a combo Blu-ray reader/DVD writer, and had room for one more 5.25-inch drive. A multiformat card reader that supports all of the favorites resides on the top front panel of the case. On the rear of the chassis you'll find four more USB slots, a FireWire port, 7.1 surround-sound analog-out, S/PDIF connectors, and eSATA ports, as well as S-Video and twin DVI connections on the graphics card.
Sliding off the case's side door reveals a cavernous space…without much room for expansion. The graphics card occupies the single PCI-Express x16 slot. Tucked nearby is the hard drive, which is mounted vertically, and both components are bolted behind a metal guard rail. Though the system does have a free PCI-Express slot and room for an extra hard drive, enthusiasts can forget about SLI, or even upgrading much beyond the basics. Everything is locked down fairly securely, too, so you'll need to break out your screwdriver if you want to do any tinkering. You likely won't find much reason to futz around inside the chassis, but the cables are tied down neatly, offering excellent airflow.
Among the bundled goodies is a generic, black Dell keyboard with standard (but useful) browsing and media shortcut keys. The included mouse is a bit more impressive, presenting a pair of side buttons and a scroll wheel in addition to the standard two buttons, with a DPI hotkey on the spine. On-the-fly DPI changes will be of greatest interest to gamers, but in general the mouse is comfortable, responsive, and worlds better than the standard two-button variety.
When you take into account the bundled monitor and nVidia goggles, the Dell Studio XPS 8100 is a well-priced multimedia workhorse that offers more than a nod toward gaming. Your internal upgrade options are limited; but if you're not inclined to tinker, it's definitely a machine to consider.