Dell XPS 8300 – 2nd Generation targets digital content creators, game players, and power users who’d probably never buy a Digital Storm, Velocity Micro, or other boutique brand, but who crave more performance than generic retail PCs provide.
XPS 8500gets that performance from one of Intel’s new “Ivy Bridge” quad-core processors—the 3.4GHz Core i7-3770—and AMD’s speedy Radeon HD 7870 graphics card, along with a 256GB Samsung mSATA solid-state drive plus 3TB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive. It also fixes a couple of omissions that affected its Dell XPS 8300 (X8300-7008NBK)Best Price at Amazon ($999.99 list, 3.5 stars) predecessor (hello, USB 3.0 and Blu-ray burner!). The result is a well-built if conservatively built desktop; it’s fast, but not as fast as less-famous-name systems that cost the same or a little more with overclocked processors or dual graphics cards or both, such as our midrange gaming Editors’ Choice Cyberpower Zeus Thunder 3000SE($2,299 direct, 4 stars).
Design and Features
Dell was so proud of upgrading the XPS’s front-mounted USB ports from USB 2.0 to 3.0 that it removed the sliding door that covered them, the better to show them off. The two ports now appear in the midst of the mid-tower’s chrome-accented glossy black front panel, below the optical drive bays and the four-slot memory-card reader. A recessed tray on the system’s top serves to hold flash drives, cameras, or other knickknacks; it offers two USB 2.0 ports, one powered to recharge handheld devices, along with microphone and headphone jacks.
Connections at the rear include two more USB 3.0 and four more USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, six audio jacks, and an SPDIF audio output. The eSATA port found on the XPS 8300 has gone away. The AMD graphics card provides DVI, HDMI, and two Mini DisplayPort connectors.
Removing one thumbscrew lets you pop off one of the matte black side panels and access the tidy interior. Aside from accommodation for one additional hard drive and a secondary optical drive (there are two SATA ports free on the motherboard), there’s not a lot of room for expansion: Each of the four memory slots holds a 4GB DIMM for a total 16GB of DDR3-1600 (Dell says 32GB systems will be available later this year). The double-wide Radeon HD 7870 card leaves just two PCIe x1 slots free. Fortunately, you don’t need to add a PCIe card or USB adapter to go wireless, since a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Mini PCIe card is standard. The XPS 8500 has a 460-watt power supply, which Dell says is enough for a 225-watt graphics card. Despite its array of cooling fans, the system is pleasantly quiet.
Dell preloads the 256GB (177GB free) SSD boot drive with Windows 7 Home Premium, a trial of McAfee SecurityCenter, 2GB of DataSafe cloud storage for one year, and a handful of utilities. The speedy drive boots the system in 34 seconds, too fast for the circling “Starting Windows” lights to finish forming the Windows logo. The 3TB data drive has 2.72TB of free space. We weren’t wild about Dell’s newest wireless keyboard, which has a good typing feel but a laptop-style layout, with small Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys located above the numeric keypad instead of full-sized ones between the keypad and primary keys.
Dell backs the XPS 8500 with a one-year limited parts and labor warranty including accidental damage coverage and on-site service. At presstime, the $1,999.99-plus-wireless-keyboard Radeon 7870/3TB/Blu-ray configuration sent to PCMag for testing was hidden on Dell’s site (link here) in favor of two models with slightly tamer Radeon 7770 cards, 2TB hard drives, and DVD burners—a $1,799.99 rig with the 256GB SSD and a $1,299.99 configuration with 12GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD using Intel Smart Response Technology for OS and application caching.