The Dell Studio XPS 8000 (SX8000-1479UWH) ($799.98 list) is a retail version of Dell’s multimedia powerhouse desktop. It has been updated to work with Intel’s recent Core i5 processors, which makes it a lot less expensive than the Dell Studio XPS 435 we looked at last year. Sure, a less expensive graphics card has a little to do with the pricing, but many of the other stats are similar, particularly the memory and hard drive. This system would keep any multimedia maven happy, particularly if her tastes lean toward video rather than 3D gaming.
The Studio XPS 8000′s retains the Studio XPS 435′s white side panels and glossy black front panel, but the 8000 eschews the orange accents for more sedate black and silver colored sections. The top of the front panel is also curved a little more, leaning back so the media card slots are even more accessible if the system is on the floor next to you. Overall it’s an aesthetically pleasing shape, and a lot less “Buck Rogers” than last year’s model. There’s a lot of room in the chassis for upgrades, space for two PCIe x1 cards, one PCI card, one additional optical drive, and two hard drives. The 8000 has all its DIMM slots filled, as well as the PCIe x16 graphics card slot, so you’ll have to remove these components to upgrade. The system has eight USB ports, a FireWire port, and an eSATA port for external peripherals like hard drives and A/V equipment. The FireWire and eSATA port are a necessity if you’re a photo or video enthusiast, since you’ll need external storage to supplement the system’s internal hard drive.
The system comes with 6GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive. This amount of memory and hard drive space is par for the price point, and these capacities match systems like the $600 HP Pavilion p6310f. This system is certainly enough to do the sorts of tasks that multimedia enthusiasts enjoy, like editing videos together and putting audio commentary on them, or taking a stack of pictures from your camera and editing them.
Dell has also removed all the usual bloatware you find on PCs these days, which frees up hard space and can improve performance. The only nit I can pick is the system only comes with a 30-day subscription for the included Norton Internet Security program. Newer model Dell Studio XPS 8100 systems direct from Dell come with 15-months of McAfee Internet Security (the brand of the program is less important than the length of the subscription in this case). Searching the Web, it looks like this particular configuration of the Dell Studio XPS 8000 is a Staples exclusive.
Customers who buy this system from Staples can avail themselves of several services the retailer offers. This includes setting the new system up, data transfer from your old PC to your new one, software installation, and tech support and protection plans that range in price from $14.99 to $169.99.
The Studio XPS 8000 is a very nice multimedia performer. It’s able to complete our Windows Media Encoder test in 34 seconds and the PhotoShop CS4 test in 1 minute 29 seconds. That means the 8000 is faster than last year’s Studio XPS 435 on the WME test (0:36), even though it’s one third the price. Likewise, the 8000′s CS4 score beats all recent systems in its price range. The Studio XPS 8000 also beats the competition at the PCMark Vantage test (7,197 points). PCMark measures the system’s performance at everyday tasks.
Though the system is an excellent everyday performer, it’s not too good at 3D games. This is to be expected since the system’s ATI Radeon HD 4350 graphics card is better suited to playing back video rather than playing hardcore 3D games. Its Crysis and World in Conflict frame rates were unplayable (14-15 frames per second) at the medium setting, and abysmal (2 fps) at the very high setting. You can of course replace the Radeon card with something more powerful in the future, like an Nvidia GeForce GT230 or GTS240. It’s best to think of this system as a multimedia performer rather than a gamer’s PC.
Compared with the competition, it’s evenly matched to systems like the HP Pavilion p6310f feature wise, but the Dell is a slightly better performer. The HP is quite a bit cheaper at $600, but it also comes with a lot of bloatware, fewer ports, and lower powered graphics, but they’re not deal breakers at this price point. Therefore, overall the HP has a slightly better bang for the buck.
Ultimately, the Studio XPS 8000 is too much of an in-between choice. It is a lot more expensive than the HP Pavilion p6310f ($599, ) and Dell Inspiron i570-6939PBK ($599.98 list, ). And the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-140f ($1,029, ), our midrange desktop EC at just over $1,000, has so much more going for it with a better graphics card, more memory, more A/V inputs, and Wi-Fi. That is why our entry-level Editor’s Choice award stays with a another Dell model: the Dell Inspiron i570-6939PBK, ($600, ). It’s a dual-core system, so the performance is a bit less, but it makes up for it by including a 20-inch LCD monitor.