Dell Studio XPS 8000-2361JBK
Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
We've already reviewed a direct-order version of Dell's Studio XPS 8000, but we thought it would be worthwhile to also have a look at the fixed-configuration version available at retail locations. We came away impressed by the price-performance value of the $1,119 Studio XPS 8000-2361JBK, although we must say we like the online version's black-on-white exterior better than the all-black affair offered in stores. Cosmetic issues aside, we feel comfortable recommending this Dell as a day-to-day desktop for general productivity and mainstream PC gaming.
The retro-futuristic aesthetic of Dell's newer desktops has placed its PCs second only to Apple in terms of visual appeal. The rounded shapes of Dell's various cases have contributed, but the color variety that successfully mixed white, black, and, in some cases, red, has probably done more to separate Dell from the current glut of all-black Windows PCs. That's why we're a bit disappointed to find the retail version of the Studio XPS 8000 regress to all-black conformity. We get that the prickly demands of in-store retail allow for fewer risks, and the color scheme is not generally a primary consideration in how we judge a desktop. Still, reverting to monochromatic black in the retail version of the Studio XPS 8000 is a letdown.
|Dell Studio XPS 8000-2361-JBK||Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007|
|CPU||2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860||2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel P55 Express||Intel X58|
|Memory||8GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM||9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1,024MB Nvidia GeForce GTS 240||896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core)|
|Hard drives||1TB, 7,200rpm||1TB 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless||Gigibit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
Fortunately, there's more to this Dell than just looks. The combination of Intel's new Core i7 860 CPU and plenty of RAM makes this PC a versatile performer, and competitive among other desktops in its price range. The Asus system above represented the higher end of the retail spectrum for the back-to-school season, and aside from the Dell's wireless card and the Asus' higher-end graphics card, the two are roughly the same as far as features. Dell wins on price, though, and also on performance, as you'll see below. We should also add that if you were to configure this same Studio XPS 8000 on Dell's Web site, you'd pay $1,308 as of this writing.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
Outpacing or tying the more expensive Asus on every benchmark is an impressive enough feat for the Dell, but we're also surprised to see it run on par with a $1,350 overclocked midrange gaming box from Velocity Micro on our iTunes test. Short of professional-level processor-intensive tasks, we expect this Dell will have few performance issues in your day-to-day computing.
|1,920 x 1,200 (4x aa)||1,280 x 1,024 (4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
Using this Dell for gaming is a slightly different story. It should be fine for most mainstream PC titles, at least those that are currently available. And as long as you stay realistic about the image quality and resolution, you can probably eke out an acceptable experience from more challenging games. Still, given that this system and its better-than-basic GeForce 240 GTS graphics card clearly have some gaming ambitions, we might have suggested that Dell trade the wireless networking card for an even better 3D card. This is a midtower after all, so you're likely to put it on a desk and leave it there, which makes stringing an Ethernet cable to it a reasonable option.
With the graphics card and wireless card currently in place, the Studio XPS 8000 offers only modest upgradeability. You get one standard PCI expansion slot, and a single 1x PCI Express slot. Ditch the Wi-Fi card and you gain another 1x PCI Express input. There's no second graphics card slot in this system, which isn't a surprise given its price. Memory upgrades are also limited, since all four slots are currently occupied, although you'll probably be fine with 8GB of RAM for the foreseeable future. You also get room to add one more hard drive, via Dell's unique, clunky faceplate-mounting system.
We've slammed Dell's lower-end retail systems for out-of-date connectivity options, but fortunately Dell has done a better job of keeping the Studio XPS 8000 up to date. In addition to the standard assortment of USB 2.0 jacks, analog audio outputs, and graphics card-mounted DVI outputs, you also get an eSATA port for fast external data transfers, and an optical S/PDIF audio output. Rounding out the connections are a gadget tray with a pair of USB 2.0 ports and headphone and audio jacks on the top of the system.
|Dell Studio XPS 8000-2361JBK|
|Raw (annual kWh)||374.10456|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$42.46|
In addition to competing well with other midrange performance PCs, the retail Studio XPS 8000 joins the online model in demonstrating admirable power efficiency. It's not surprising that the Dell is more efficient than the overclocked Falcon Northwest and Velocity Micro systems, but we commend Dell for this system's efficiency compared with the very similar Asus desktop.
Dell's support is also better than that from Asus. Out of the box you get one year of parts-and-labor coverage, plus 24-7 toll-free phone service. Asus lacks both the broad phone support hours, and also Dell's many and varied support resources on its Web site.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 920 (overclocked); 9GB 1,066 DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.67GHz Intel Core i5 750; 8GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1762MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive
Dell Studio XPS 8000-2361JBK
Falcon Northwest Talon
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-860 (overclocked); 8GB 1,330MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 275; 80GB Intel X-25M solid state hard drive, 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Velocity Micro Z30
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.22GHz Intel Core i7-860 (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive