Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC review: Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC

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MSRP: $1,049.99

The Good Best deal on this assortment of features; its gaming and application performance meet our expectations; has wireless networking.

The Bad Limited upgrade room; no black-on-white version available at retail.

The Bottom Line This retail version of the Dell Studio XPS 8100 isn't remarkable in any one area, but its value and its overall capabilities are more than adequate to meet the needs of a mainstream shopper with an eye on gaming and general performance. That it's a pretty good deal doesn't hurt either.

Visit for details.

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

Editors' note: This review is part of our , which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.

Dell's Studio XPS line has done fairly well in our reviews lately, and we find that the $1,149 Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC is no exception. Although its full model name is a mouthful, this retail-only desktop compares well with others in its price range from both mainstream and smaller PC vendors. We recommend this Dell to anyone looking for a system to handle a wide-range of mainstream productivity and gaming tasks.

Dell offers a Studio XPS 8100 on its Web site as well as in retail stores. You can customize the online version, but with the same parts ordered directly from Dell as our retail review unit you'd pay about $1,360, not including shipping. You can add a few other features on Dell's Web site, including a TV tuner, more RAM, different hard drives, and a faster CPU, but the retail model covers the basics for a performance-oriented midrange system. While some of its components aren't the best available from Dell for this product line, they're only below by a tick or two.

Our one criticism with the design of this system compared with its online counterpart stems from a color variation. The all-black version offered at retail isn't offensive, but it looks like almost every other desktop on the shelf. Online, Dell offers the Studio XPS 8100 with a black front plate and a white body that looks far more distinctive. The physical characteristics of the two versions are identical, the highlight of which is an upswept front panel that makes the media card reader and front side USB jacks easy to access.

  Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Price $1,149 $1,199
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset Intel H57 Intel X58
Memory 8GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 9GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770 896MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (216 core)
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

We went to HP, Gateway, Velocity Micro, and Dell's own Web site and found no real comparison for the Studio XPS 8100-1986NBC. Most systems we custom built came in too expensive when we matched the components. And Gateway's ready-made FX-Series PCs were all too high-end. With no real competition on the market right now, we've opted to compare the Dell with a desktop from Asus that came out last August for $1,200, although it's now available for at a steep discount of $799. As you can see, you don't get many more features for $1,200 now compared with six months ago, the lone major exception is the Dell's wireless networking card. The Dell's performance tells a different story.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC

Multimedia multitasking tests (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Talon
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007
Dell Studio XPS 8000

Don't let the Dell's third-place spot on a few of our charts fool you. The Velocity Micro system was overclocked and cost $1,349 at the time of its review, and the Falcon Northwest cost $2,500. Further, the Dell isn't that far behind the Velocity Micro system, and the Dell actually wins on our multimedia multitasking test. Regardless of the standings, the Dell demonstrates solid mainstream performance, and as long as you don't have professional-level video editing in mind, it should be suitable for most consumer-oriented productivity tasks.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (4x aa)  
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Dell Studio XPS sx8100-1986NBC

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 sx8100-1986NBC

The Dell's gaming performance doesn't overachieve, but it meets our expectations for a mainstream gaming PC. It will play Far Cry 2 smoothly at full detail and lower resolutions. As the resolution climbs, you might notice the occasional slowdown, but it should still play and look pretty good, and you shouldn't have to dial the detail settings down too far to overcome choppy frame rates. You might find a few games that give the Dell a workout if you have a 22-inch or 24-inch LCD, but generally, you can expect smooth gameplay.

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