Dell XPS 8500 review:

Dell XPS 8500

None of this is to say that the Dell is slow in absolute terms. In the grand scheme of desktops, it offers reasonably fast performance, particularly when it can flex its 2GB of graphics memory and all eight of its CPU processing threads. The fact that for the most part it lags behind the $1,199 Origin Chronos hurts, though. That you get so much more speed for just $300 more with the Velocity Micro system also works against the XPS 8500's cause.

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Far Cry (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  

3D Mark II combined test (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Extreme (1,920x1080)  
Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)  
Entry level (1,680x1,050)  

The gaming charts tell a similar story. The high-resolution Metro 2033 test is our most demanding benchmark, and while the Dell XPS 8500 outperforms the Velocity Micro system at 2,560x1,600 pixels, the frame rates for these PCs are all under 20 frames per second. That makes the 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution scores more relevant for this class of $2,000-ish desktop. At that resolution, both the Velocity system and the more affordable Origin PC offer a better gaming experience, the Edge Z55 in particular.

Post-purchase expansion options for the XPS 8500 are limited to a few 1x PCI Express slots and a spare hard-drive bay. The design of the Dell's in-facing hard-drive cage makes adding or replacing a drive arduous. Dell says it has a redesign in the works, but that won't help owners of this PC.

For connectivity, the XPS 8500 offers what I expect to find in a system like this. You get an assortment of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 jacks, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs on the graphics card, as well as S/PDIF and 7.1 audio ports. I can't ask for more for now. I'm curious to see what will happen when Thunderbolt becomes more common at the end of this year, but then all indications I get from the various PC vendors are that the limited ecosystem of Thunderbolt peripherals will make the standard a tough sell to most consumers.

Juice box
Dell XPS 8500 Avg watts/hour
Off (watts) 0.20
Sleep (watts) 2.07
Idle (watts) 41.79
Load (watts) 176.43
Raw (annual kWh) 266.25
Energy Star-compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $30.22

One criticism I've had of Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips is that they don't offer a dramatic CPU performance leap. This isn't a surprise given Intel's chip release schedule (years like this bring a design efficiency boost, the next year offers a new, usually faster architecture), so at least Intel can say that it offers big power efficiency gains. There's no apples-to-apples comparison here since all of the other PCs in this chart are overclocked, but the fact that Dell can at least stay in the same performance ballpark with half the power draw is a testament to Intel's chip design improvements.

Should you need to service the XPS 8500, you'll find Dell's on-paper service and support policies compare well with those of its mainstream competition. You get 24-7 phone support, a one-year parts and labor warranty, a variety of support resources online, and various diagnostic tools on the system itself. Phone support quality, of course, varies from support rep to support rep.

I appreciate that Dell is trying to add a less-than-common feature in the XPS 8500 with the mSATA solid-state drive. Unfortunately, Dell's inflexible configuration tool forces you to make a rather expensive commitment to the 256GB model. A more affordable version of that drive would offer similar speed benefits but at a price more befitting its vanilla performance. If fast file access is a top priority, you might be able to talk yourself into this XPS 8500 configuration. Otherwise you're better off shopping for products from other vendors that can offer more raw performance and better configuration flexibility.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell XPS 8500 (Core i7-3770, May 2012) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770; 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7870 graphics card; 256MB 3TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Digital Storm Ode Level 3 (Core i7-2600K, spring 2011) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Intel solid-state drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

Origin Chronos Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.69GHz Intel Core i5-2550K; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.28GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 560 Ti graphics card; 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7-3770K, April 2012) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770; 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7870 graphics card; 256GB mSATA solid-state drive; 3TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro Edge Z55 (Core i7-2700K, February 2012) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.9GHz Intel Core i7-2700K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards; (2) 60GB Intel solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

What you'll pay

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