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Dell Studio XPS 9000 (formerly XPS 435) review: Dell Studio XPS 9000 (formerly XPS 435)

Dell Studio XPS 9000 (formerly XPS 435)

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness

Rich is the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, KY. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printing to Z-Wave smart locks.

Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
7 min read

Despite our preference for a more purpose-built computer, we actually have a fair opinion of this $1,579 Dell Studio XPS 435 build. It's fast, attractive, and comes with a Blu-ray drive and a reasonably capable graphics card. You could plunk this system in a dorm room or a home office and with a large enough monitor it would satisfy the majority of your productivity and digital entertainment needs. A few absent features and only so-so performance keep it from a higher rating, but for a desktop promising a well-rounded set of features, the Dell Studio XPS 435 lives up to most of our expectations.

OVR
7.5

Dell Studio XPS 9000 (formerly XPS 435)

The Good

Dell's strongest chassis design in years; highly capable jack-of-all-trade configuration; strong customer support options.

The Bad

Not as fast or as affordable as some of its off-the-shelf competition; a few missing features; power hog.

The Bottom Line

The Dell Studio XPS 435 successfully overcomes our bias against desktops that claim to be experts at everything through charming case design and a strong configuration at a relatively fair price. It misses greatness because of a handful of minor missteps, but if you need a do-it-all mainstream tower system, this Dell more or less covers all the bases.

Perhaps our favorite aspect of the Studio XPS 435 is its design. A retro-modern, minimalist approach with red highlights against glossy black and white plastic, the case does trend toward the larger PCs out there. Still, we find this design as attractive as it is stylized. We've accused Dell of taking few risks in the past, but the Studio XPS 435 makes an unapologetically bold statement with its looks.

Beyond its visual appeal, the Studio XPS 435 also has a smart feature built into its design by way of a top-of-case gadget tray. These trays have become common in desktops lately and while we don't consider them crucial, they are handy for storing your cell phone or a digital camera while you sync or charge it. Dell has three USB 2.0 ports and analog microphone and headphone jacks situated along the back edge of the tray to facilitate easy cord connections. We also like the side panel, which feels substantial, but also slides on and off easily once you remove a pair of screws.

Even if we like its case, we can't argue that the Studio XPS 435 is the best deal out there. The Asus Essentio CG5290 goes for $1,199 at retail, has better performance, and while the Dell has a Blu-ray drive, the Asus has a faster graphics card and more RAM. The Dell beats the Asus on style points, but an almost $400 difference when the components are basically a wash gives Dell a bit of a value challenge. Dell has much more complete and easy-to-use customer service features online, as well as 24-7 toll-free phone service. More robust support and better design won't be worth a $400 premium to everyone, but the style conscious or tech insecure might be willing to pay Dell's higher price tag

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS 435
85 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS 435
166 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS 435
493 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Shuttle XPC H7 5800
17,055 
4,265 
Dell Studio XPS 435
16,024 
3,675 
Maingear Pulse
12,529 
3,512 
Dell XPS 625
12,449 
3,387 

For the most part, the Dell's performance comes in where we expect it to. It's not quite as fast as the Asus system, but, except for iTunes, which has given Dell trouble lately, few people would notice a difference. In the bigger picture, the Studio XPS 435 is a fully capable desktop that can edit photos and (at least) standard definition video, multitask, convert media between different formats, and generally get work done with little difficulty.

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Dell Studio XPS 435
27 
39 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 
Maingear Pulse
18 
25 

Far Cry 2 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Dell Studio XPS 435
52 
67 
Maingear Pulse
34 
48 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 

The gaming scores paint a slightly different picture for the two systems. The Dell actually outperforms the Asus on our lower resolution gaming tests, but falls behind when we get up to 1,920x1,200 on Far Cry 2, which is likely what you'd want to use on a 24-inch LCD. You could argue that for those with smaller displays, the Dell is actually a better gaming choice. We'd counter that for this configuration at least, what's the point of paying extra for a Blu-ray drive if you match it with a suboptimal display? Perhaps if you configure the Dell with a standard DVD burner, the smaller monitor argument holds, especially as the 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 is the fastest card Dell offers for the Studio XPS 435.

Which is not to say that the Dell won't play games at higher resolutions. You might have to dial down the image quality settings, but we'd expect it to handle most current titles. The bigger issue for serious gamers is the lack of a second graphics card slot. When so many boutique vendors offer PCs in this price range that support two 3D cards, it's hard not to criticize desktops that don't. Perhaps Dell wants to preserve the line between its Studio XPS and more gaming-oriented XPS systems, but this system will frustrate gamers who take their frame rates seriously. It's only a different motherboard and a more robust power supply away from crossing over into true gaming desktop territory.

Nongamers, on the other hand, should find the Dell's upgrade path more than adequate. With three hard-drive bays and six RAM slots, the Studio XPS 435 gives you plenty of room to expand its storage and memory capacities. You also get a pair of 1x PCI Express slots, as well as a 4X PCI Express slot and a single standard PCI card input. Aside from a second graphics card, you'll find few upgrades this system won't accommodate.

The outside of the Studio XPS 435 offers about as much flexibility as the interior. You get the usual array of USB 2.0 jacks, along with a digital audio output and a set of 7.1 analog audio outs. Dell also includes both FireWire and eSATA for external storage connections, which you won't find on some lower-end Dells. The only change we'd really like to see is an HDMI output on the graphics card. Although you likely wouldn't haul a system this big into your living room, more and more standard LCDs support HDMI, and there's no reason why Dell couldn't have elected for a 3D card with HDMI out. Especially for a system with a Blu-ray drive, the absence of an HDMI output feels like an oversight.

Juice box
Dell Studio XPS 435  
Off (watts) 2.26
Sleep (watts) 4.8
Idle (watts) 157.09
Load (watts) 263.06
Raw (annual kWh) 656.26416
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $74.49

Annual power consumption cost
Dell Studio XPS 435
$74.49 

We don't have many systems to compare with the Dell's power rating, as its configuration really only puts it in league with the Asus. The Shuttle has a dual-chip graphics card, and the Maingear was designed specifically for power efficiency. Even so, we don't love the fact that the Dell is both slower and more costly to operate than the Asus system. Dell can do better than this.

Even if this Dell is a power hog, Dell's customer service features make Asus look primitive. Dell and Asus have matching one-year parts-and-labor warranties, but the similarities end there. Unlike Asus, Dell has 24-7 toll-free phone support, as well as features we've come to take for granted like online support chat, easy-to-find, system-specific support info online, as well as reasonably useful self-diagnostic software on the Studio XPS 435 itself. If you anticipate needing the helping hand of a vendor in times of system distress, Dell gives you a much sturdier safety net.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell Studio XPS 435
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920; 6GB 1,066 DDR3 SDRAM; 1TB ATI Radeon HD 4870; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

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 XPS 625
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear Pulse
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.83GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550s; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT Eco graphics card; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital Scorpio hard drive.

Shuttle XPC H7 5800
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 940; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285; 500GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

OVR
7.5

Dell Studio XPS 9000 (formerly XPS 435)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 7Support 7
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