Despite being the progenitor of the Studio XPS lineup, the original Studio XPS desktop was really more of a shiny Inspiron - when it came to looks, not its award-winning performance - than the rest of the lineup. The last effort Dell made to put AMD in a performance-oriented system, the XPS 625, turned out to be short-lived and overpriced. The XPS 7100 represents the first effort by the Round Rock giant to include AMD architecture in the Studio XPS brand.
Moreover, it's also the first time Dell has released a system using AMD's new marking campaign, Vision. Rather than get into what Vision means in this review, a brief summary: Vision replaces the CPU and GPU stickers consumers often see on the front of their notebooks and desktops. Instead of trying to figure out what processor and graphics card they need for their intended use, all they need to do is figure what Vision system would be right for them.
Inputs and Expansion
Like most desktops, ports are scattered around the system, with the lion's share falling along the rear. In the front is a built-in memory card reader; its placement makes getting pictures from digital cameras that much easier. Two optical drive bays sit just beneath it; the first is populated with a Blu-ray drive that can read Blu-ray discs and burn DVDs. The second is empty, but comes with one of those little buttons on the side that activates the drive.
Just beneath these bays is a sliding door that pushes down to reveal two more USB2.0 ports and an externally-accessible 3.5-inch drive bay. These sliding doors are always a bit clunky to use, and given the ports found elsewhere on the machine, it's a good bet that most consumers will never actually open it. It would be nice if Dell could find a way to include these features with an easier-to-use pocket.
On top of the Studio XPS 7100 is the aforementioned charging and storage tray. It comes with two more USB2.0 ports as well as microphone and headphone jacks for easy access. Putting the audio in and out jacks up on top is a smart move. Given that most consumers will situate the the desktop in such a manner that they'll have to reach down to use it, top-oriented ports are easier to use than those hidden down on the front.
Speaking of audio, the rear of the machine offers up a number of extra ports. In addition to the THX-certified sound integrated into the motherboard with its 7.1 analog and digital out, this review unit has a Creative X-Fi sound card installed into one of the PCI-Express slots. The sound card provides more analog audio in and out as well as two optical audio ports. Most consumers will no doubt opt for the wireless option over the sound card, since it just makes more sense.
In addition to all of the audio capability offered by this desktop, there are two more USB2.0 and two USB3.0 ports, one eSATA port and Gigabit Ethernet. Without a graphics card, buyers of these systems will have HDMI and DVI ports available. Those are covered over when configured with discrete graphics, however, since the video card will be the one to push video out to a monitor. In this case, the included graphics card gives users an additional two DVI outputs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort.
The desktop comes with a 1.5 Terabyte 7,200rpm SATA hard drive, Blu-ray player/DVD burner, and ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. My review unit also came with a pretty standard Dell multimedia keyboard and optical mouse. The XPS 7100 can be outfitted with a TV tuner, but my configuration didn't come with one.
The system is notable for what it lacks—namely, bloatware. No Office trial, no Wild Tangent games. The system comes with 15 months of McAffee Security Center included in its purchase price, which is something I would recommend. The closest thing to bloatware I could find was a copy of Skype. The system does come with the Dell Dock, an app launcher that floats at the top of the screen. Inside the dock, there's a shortcut to get more software. The shortcut launches a Dell Software Store Website, and that is how I would want users to get a hold of software to load on their systems. Instead of having bloatware forced on the users, they can use the Dell Software Store to find and download only what they need or want.
Dell Studio XPS 7100 The Studio XPS 7100's performance keeps you moving with its six-core AMD Phenom II X6 1055T processor and ATI Radeon HD 5870 gaming-class graphics card. It was able to complete the Windows Media Encoder (WME) test in a speedy 38 seconds, and the Photoshop CS4 test in 1 minute 38 seconds—that's reasonably quick. To put it in perspective, a dual-core system like the Apple iMac 21.5 inch (Core 2 Duo) ($1,199, ) is a bit slower at WME and a smidge faster at CS4 (0:49 and 1:32, respectively). Intel CPUs generally perform better at CS4 than AMD CPUs.
The Studio XPS 7100 as configured here trumps its sibling, the Dell Studio s7100-1060NBK ($899.99 list, ), at 3D benchmark tests thanks to the faster graphics card. The XPS 7100 is fully playable at three of our four game tests, including Crysis at 1,280 by 1,024: where it scored 65 frames per second (fps), World in Conflict (WiC) at 1,280 by 1,024 (82fps), and WiC at 1,920 by 1,200 (48 fps). Its score on Crysis at 1,920 by 1,200 was an unplayable 35 fps, but you could get close to playable scores at 1,920 by 1,200 if you tweak the quality settings. Contrast this with the Dell s7100-1060NBK's unplayable scores on all four 3D tests.
* Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1055T @ 2.8GHz
* Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM
* Hard drive: 1.5TB SATA @ 7200RPM
* Optical drive: Blu-ray Rom / DVD+/-RW SuperMulti
* Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
* Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5870 with 1GB GDDR5
* Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
* Wireless networking: n/a
* Dell wired keyboard and mouse
* Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
* Power supply: 460W internal
* Weight: 22.4 lbs
* Dimensions: 16.02 x 7.31 x 17.9 inches (HxWxD)
* Warranty: One year limited parts and labor