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Dell Studio XPS review: Dell Studio XPS

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The Good Outstanding performance for sub-$1,500 PC; configurable options let you get a Core i7 CPU for less than $1,000.

The Bad Competing systems have more exciting features; limited upgrade path.

The Bottom Line You can find flashier PCs than Dell's $1,299 Studio XPS, but few have as much power where it counts. We don't recommend its small, pared-down case for upgraders, but this PC will satisfy anyone who needs a loaded, powerful PC for gaming and consumer-level digital media editing.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Support 7

The Dell Studio XPS is the fourth PC we've reviewed from Dell using the same glossy black midtower chassis. We're still excited by this system, however, because it's another affordable PC with Intel's powerful new Core i7 desktop CPU. The Studio XPS reviewed here is a $1,299 configuration that outperforms competing systems thanks to a sizable allotment of system memory. Budget-minded enthusiasts will wish for more upgradeability, but as configured, this desktop will satisfy anyone looking for a fast computer that costs less than $1,500.

The Studio XPS actually starts at $949 in its most basic configuration. Dell is running a deal for a limited time in which you can get this system with 4GB of RAM and with a 20-inch LCD for that price, but we expect once the initial offer fades, the baseline $949 configuration will only net you 3GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a lower-end 3D card.

The more important part of the Studio XPS is that all of the configurations include Intel's Core i7 desktop CPU. The baseline model and our review configuration include the 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920 chip, with an upgrade option to the 2.93GHz Core i7 940. Based on our charts and testing we've done with a Core i7-based PC from Gateway, you can expect that any PC with a Core i7 processor will deliver outstanding performance for the dollar.

A media card reader and a set of USB ports hide behind a front panel door.

On the exterior, however, the Studio XPS is much less interesting than the competing Gateway PC. The Dell's glossy black plastic case is arguably more attractive than the orange-and-black Gateway. It has the requisite media card reader/USB port hub hidden behind a door, as well. However, the Dell lacks the Gateway's more intelligent port placement, the well-designed, front-accessible hard-drive trays, and touch-sensitive media control pad. None of those things is crucial, but they lend the Gateway some flash and ease of use the staid Dell can't match.

  Dell Studio XPS Gateway FX6800-01e
Price $1,299 $1,249
CPU 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
Memory 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 3GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200rpm 750GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Feature-wise, the Dell has a leg up. The two are very close in configuration and price, but by opting for 6GB of RAM to the Gateway's 3GB, the Dell was able to outpace the Gateway on every performance test. The Gateway has a 750GB hard drive, larger than the Dell's 500GB drive, and if you consider storage capacity more important than raw performance, perhaps that will give the Gateway an advantage in your mind. Overall, we prefer the Dell's balance of 6GB and the large-enough 500GB hard drive. All of those comparisons go out the window, of course, as you customize the Dell to your preferences.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS
Gateway FX6800-01e

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS
Gateway FX6800-01e

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS
Gateway FX6800-01e

Cinebench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Dell Studio XPS
Gateway FX6800-01e
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Maingear Prelude

By the fact that it outperforms the Gateway on all of our tests, it's plain that the Dell is the performance winner of those two PCs. We're also pleased by both systems' performance against the Velocity Micro Edge Z15, a $1,999 PC from September that the Dell outperforms on two of our four multimedia tests. Those test scores indicate the strength of Intel's new CPU, as well as the way Intel's accompanying X58 motherboard chipset uses the system's memory. Moore's Law is still very much in effect here.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Maingear Prelude
Dell Studio XPS
Gateway FX6800-01e

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