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Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1408NBC review: Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1408NBC

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MSRP: $899.99

The Good Well-rounded configuration includes discrete midrange 3D card and Wi-Fi; strong single threaded and multitasking performance.

The Bad Native quad- and six-core AMD-based PCs provide faster multithreaded application performance than this Dell.

The Bottom Line The Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC will satisfy most mainstream consumers with its capability to handle typical computing tasks from photo editing to modest PC gaming. While other PCs in this price range may perform better with apps that target multicore CPUs, this Dell offers everything we expect in a desktop for day-to-day use.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

You can blame the midrange Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC's long name on the fact that it's a fixed configuration desktop available only at retail stores. As a midrange PC, this system comes across as a respectable all-around desktop. Gamers looking for an affordable PC might prefer it if Dell included a faster 3D card instead of wireless networking, but for most consumers this PC will provide a satisfactory combination of performance and features for its $899 price.

The Dell Studio midtower chassis remains one of the more well-designed on the PC market, even if it's getting a little long in the tooth. The smooth, curved lines and glossy black plastic give the SX8100 a sculptural appearance that's more pleasing than the boxy midtowers that make up the majority of retail PCs. The upward sweep to the array of front-panel USB ports and memory card slots makes them easy to use, and you'll likely find the gadget tray depression on the top of the case conveniently placed as well.

  Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC Asus Essentio CG1330-05
Price $899 $979
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650 2.6GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1035T
Memory 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT220 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

The higher-end Asus Essentio CG1330-05 is probably the Dell's closest in-store competition, with only $80 separating the two. The Asus system is larger, and it has a faster graphics card and better multithreaded performance, as you'll see below, but it lacks wireless networking. We can't say we find Wi-Fi a requirement for desktops with a midtower case, but the Dell meets our other expectations for an $899 PC; the wireless card comes across like an added bonus feature. Gamers will be tempted by the Asus system for its faster 3D card, but anyone looking for a well-rounded desktop, even if you have modest PC gaming ambitions, will find this Dell a fair deal.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Asus Essentio CG1330-05
HP Pavilion p6540f
Asus Essentio CM5675-07
Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC
Gateway DX4831-03

Our performance charts provide further evidence of a trend we've noticed among the current crop of midrange desktops. The Asus CM5675-07, the Gateway DX4831-03, and this Dell all come with Intel Core i5 650 CPUs, a desktop chip with two physical cores, that provides four processing threads total through the power of Intel's HyperThreading technology. Presumably by offering only two physical cores, Intel can achieve faster clock speeds in this price range than the AMD chips in the Asus CG1330-05 and the HP Pavilion P6540y, which feature six- and four-core AMD chips, respectively.

That clock speed advantage likely explains the Dell and the other Core i5 650 PCs faster performance on our clock-speed-focused tests, particularly Photoshop and iTunes. But when you get to our Cinebench multithreaded test, which focuses on cores rather than clock speed, the native multicore CPUs pull ahead of the Intel-based PCs, the six core Asus system most dramatically. Thus, if you are considering a midrange PC and you spend a lot of time with programs you know are multithreaded, like more demanding games and many digital media editing apps--like the most recent version of Photoshop, which we don't test with yet--you can get better performance in this price range from an AMD-based PC.

We found the Dell's gaming capabilities reasonable for its price. You'll need to dial down the image quality and resolution settings on more demanding shooters, but with persistence and reasonable expectations, you should be able to find a playable setting for most titles.

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