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

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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.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

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.

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.

  Dell Studio XPS 435 Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Price $1,579 $1,199
CPU 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
Memory 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core)
Hard drives (2) 500GB 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray drive dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigibit Ethernet Gigibit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

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
Dell XPS 625

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 625
Dell Studio XPS 435

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 625
Dell Studio XPS 435

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Shuttle XPC H7 5800
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Dell Studio XPS 435
Maingear Pulse
Dell XPS 625

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
Dell XPS 625
Maingear Pulse

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
Maingear Pulse
Dell XPS 625

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.

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