Dell Studio XPS 7100: A Versatile PC in a Pretty Package
At a Glance
Dell Studio XPS 7100
Versatile, attractive, and capable--Dell’s Studio XPS 7100 lacks upgrade potential, but it’s a strong contender for the media-savvy set.
Priced at just over $1500 (as of August 1, 2010, as configured), the Dell Studio XPS 7100 is a mainstream desktop targeted at shoppers who want a PC that has enough muscle to tackle modern games and CPU-intensive tasks such as photo editing or light video editing, but that doesn't scare off houseguests. It's attractive, it offers a six-core AMD processor, and it bundles a few media-centric hardware extras, making for a surprisingly versatile package.
The Studio XPS 7100 packs a 2.8GHz Phenom II X6 1055T processor, 6GB of DDR3 RAM, and a capacious 1.5TB hard drive. All told, the 7100 earned a respectable score of 120 on our WorldBench 6 test suite. Its graphics performance was also quite strong: The ATI Radeon 5870 graphics card pegged a solid 88 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (2560-by-1600-pixel resolution, highest quality).
The chassis is rather appealing, clad in a striking silver-on-black color scheme. The combination Blu-ray player and DVD burner is tucked behind a panel, resulting in a sleek, streamlined face. Just above the drive are two USB ports, a multiformat card reader, and the requisite microphone and headphone jacks. A handy divot on top of the machine offers two additional USB ports, plus space to rest gadgets while they're charging or syncing.
The rear provides four more USB ports (for a total of eight), and an eSATA port. A pair of DVI ports, an HDMI port, and a DisplayPort connector reside on the graphics card. The gigabit ethernet port is a standard complement on desktops; Dell has also tossed in 802.11n Wi-Fi, a less-common addition. Overall, the loadout is just right for the category, and the Wi-Fi and the Blu-ray drive make the machine an interesting candidate for home-theater use, too.
Alas, the 7100's innards are less enticing. It doesn't give you much room to maneuver inside, and the internal components are locked down tightly. The free space on the motherboard is dominated by the graphics card. The system does have a bit of room for an extra hard drive or an additional optical drive, but you'll need to contend with an untidy wiring job before you set to work. That won't be a concern if you never plan to muck about inside the case, of course.
You won't find much in the way of bundled extras, either. The included mouse is generic Dell fare--comfortable enough to wield, but lacking any extra buttons or functionality. The keyboard is fairly comfortable to type on, and its keys are spacious; it also offers a few dedicated media-shortcut keys. Considering the PC's built-in Wi-Fi, wireless peripherals for on-the-couch access without a bunch of cables would have been a neat complement.
Bundled software offerings include Dell's Dock, a fairly superfluous overlay that supplies links to your media and programs. You'll also see persistent requests to sign up for Dell's DataSafe online backup service, but you can disable the notifications if you'd rather not. In general the included software is innocuous--some people might even find it handy. Where software bundles are concerned, less bloatware is always preferred, so Dell gets our nod of approval here.
If you're unperturbed by the limited upgrade potential (a standard caveat for systems from the bigger PC vendors), Dell's Studio XPS 7100 is a solid choice. It combines an attractive chassis with strong general and gaming performance, and it adds nifty home-theater potential--particularly with that spacious hard drive--to the mix.