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Article updated on June 19, 2022 at 7:00 AM PDT

Dell XPS 8950 Desktop Review: Lots to Love, Inside and Out

Editor's Choice: Dell leveled up its premium desktop in all the right ways.

Our Experts

Written by 
Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
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8.5/ 10
SCORE

Dell XPS 8950 Desktop

Pros

  • A lot of configuration choices
  • Ample room for expansion, upgrades
  • Power supply, liquid-cooling options

Cons

  • Base configuration not worth considering
  • Design still doesn't live up to XPS laptops

Every year the gap between desktop and laptop performance gets smaller. A laptop will always have the portability advantage, and with more workers splitting time between home and the office, being able to easily pick up and work anywhere is a plus. Then again, more people are working from home full-time, and a desktop such as Dell's XPS 8950 might be the best move now. 

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Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background
Joshua Goldman/CNET

Dell revamped its premium XPS desktop for 2022 with a larger chassis that accommodates a greater variety of components. That means this midsize tower gives you room to expand and increase performance down the road -- the biggest benefit of a desktop over a laptop. With a generous port assortment front and back, there's no need for a dock or hub. Plus, with new power supply and liquid-cooling options, the XPS 8950 can be a discreet gaming PC, a productivity machine and a content-creation system all in one box. 

Dell XPS 8950 Desktop

Price as reviewed $1,713
CPU 3.7GHz Intel Core i5-12600K
Memory 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR5 4,800MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
Storage 512GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD (boot) + 2TB 7,200rpm SATA 6Gb/s (storage)
Networking Killer Wi-Fi 6 1675 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.2
Connections USB 3.2 Type-A Gen 1 (x2 rear, x3 front), USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (x1 rear, x1 front), USB 2.0 Type-A (x2), 3.5mm combo jack, 7.1 audio stack, gigabit Ethernet, SD card slot
Operating system Windows 11 Home

The Dell XPS 8950 Desktop starts under $735 but at that price, you're paying extra for the case and future upgrade opportunities. (A similarly configured desktop from Dell's Inspiron line is just $588.) Even spending a little more for an XPS configuration around $1,000 will get you a much better PC experience. The configuration I tested, which is far from fully loaded, is available for around $1,700. Component options vary by region but a similar configuration is AU$3,599 in Australia and £1,666 in the UK. But, unlike in the US, the XPS 8950 configurations in the UK and Australia are not as configurable before they ship.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

Room to work. Room to grow.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Get more power

Dell offers a lot of component options for the XPS 8950. A lot. You can choose from 12th-gen Intel Core i5, i7 or i9 processors including unlocked K-series versions of each. There are three Nividia GeForce GTX graphics cards, seven RTX cards up to the RTX 3090 and four AMD Radeon options including the RX 6900 XT. It supports up to 128GB of memory. And there are four single-drive and eight dual-drive selections for storage. There are even two case color choices, night sky and platinum silver, although only the latter comes with little metal feet; the night sky case gets rubber feet.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

Liquid cooling can be added to the K-series Intel CPUs for $50.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Regardless of what components you go with, if you plan to upgrade the processor or graphics card post-purchase, strongly consider maxing out the power supply. Dell offers a 460-, 750- and 1,000-watt PSU and since it's not a standard size, it's best to spend $50 or $100 extra and get more power up front. Also, if you go with a K-series processor, you can add liquid cooling for $50. 

Well connected 

Along with the case being overall larger with more room inside than its predecessor, the XPS 8950 has a redesigned exterior. The silver version I tested has an aluminum front panel, a resin grill and aluminum feet and sides. It definitely looks nicer than the plastic front of the XPS 8940 but it still falls short of the clean, streamlined bodies of the XPS laptop line. The front bezel and interior layout is designed to pull air from the front to back across the graphics, power supply and M.2 SSD storage. The cooling system is quiet, too.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

A full complement of audio, video and data connections are on the back. 

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Dell markets the XPS 8950 toward content creators and the port assortment backs that up. The front panel has you covered for quick connections with a headphone jack, SD card slot and USB-C and USB-A ports. That continues on the back with 7.1 audio jacks as well as Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C for fast data transfers.

It might be tempting to go with a gaming laptop or one made for content creators instead of a desktop. You can certainly get models that can rival desktop performance. But if you honestly don't need portability you really are better off with a desktop such as the XPS 8950. You can get it configured for your performance needs, even if that includes video and photo editing and gaming. It's also a solid pick if you're looking for something somewhat compact and attractive that can start out with a more modest configuration and be built out as your needs change. It's the flexibility you won't get with a smaller Mac Mini-type computer or an all-in-one, but not so big you'll lose a bunch of floor or desk space to it.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Gigabyte Aero 16 13124Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H 12862Dell XPS 8950 10765Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition 8956HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 6638
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H 18033Dell XPS 8950 17355Gigabyte Aero 16 13949Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition 11789HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 9698
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme

Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition 25501Dell XPS 8950 24145Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H 23866Gigabyte Aero 16 19269HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 9388
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Highest 1,920x1,080)

Dell XPS 8950 159Gigabyte Aero 16 113Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H 95Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition 60HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 30
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

System Configurations
Dell XPS 8950 Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-12600K; 16GB DDR5 RAM 4,800MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 Ti; 2TB HDD
Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 RAM 2,933MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-11700; 16GB DDR4 RAM 3,200MHz; 6GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 1TB SSD + 512GB SSD
Gigabyte Aero 16 Microsoft Windows 11 Pro; 2.9GHz Intel Core i9-12900K; 32GB DDR4 RAM 4,800MHz; 16GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 Ti; 1TB +2TB SSD
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-12700H; 16GB DD4 RAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070 Ti; 512GB SSD