Dell Studio XPS 435mt review
Dell recently announced the end of the exclusively high end XPS product range. But it’s not the end of the line for XPS: from now on the moniker is set to be used in conjunction with more mainstream products to add some luxurious lustre.
This desktop machine is the first example we’ve seen. And its touch of opulence – in common with the rest of the XPS-branded Studio range – is a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 processor.
Our review sample sits towards the top end of range. The Core i7 920 chip is partnered with 6GB of RAM, and achieved a fantastic score of 1.92 in our application-based benchmarks – almost double the speed of our reference Pentium D machine. That’s faster most of the machines on our A List, and it’s a capable gamer, too. Its ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card managed a respectable score of 34fps in our high-quality Crysis test, with only very high settings proving too much for it.
The core components are augmented with some solid extras. Two 500GB hard disks combine to form a 1TB RAID0 array, and a TV tuner is something we don’t often see on desktop machines. Peripherals are decent, too – the bundled Dell wireless keyboard is comfortable for extended typing sessions and also offers a few media controls as well as a dedicated rotating volume control. There’s also a Windows Media Center remote control and the requisite wireless receiver, for use in conjunction with the built-in TV tuner.
The compenents are all housed in a compact, mini-tower chassis. This looks swish, with a glossy finish and hinged doors covering all the drives, slots and ports. But closer inspection reveals it’s not the best design. It’s extremely loud, its chassis fans roaring to life in a very intrusive manner whenever you ask it to do anything demanding. And poor design is evident elsewhere: open the optical drive and the open door blocks the eject button, forcing you to prod the front edge of the drive close it.
The interior of the case is just as badly thought out. Oddly, the two hard disks are mounted on their sides on the accessible side of the chassis, so it’s impossible to get to the spare SATA or DIMM slots or remove the graphics card without removing them first. There’s little room for expansion either, with the trio of empty DIMM slots and single free 5.25in bay the only meaningful options. The XPS 435mt obviously hasn’t been designed as a PC to be opened up and tinkered with. For this sort of money we’d expect more.
Fortunately, as mentioned above, this isn’t the only model in the range. And while it’s clear that there’s not much value to be had at the top-end, if you forget the extras and go for a stripped down machine the Studio XPS starts to look a little better value. Base systems start at £608 exc VAT (even less if you happen on one of Dell’s frequent discount deals) and still include an Intel Core i7 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 640GB hard disk. In this configuration, it’s the first machine we’ve seen to offer such an affordable route to the power offered by Core i7.
Despite this, we’re still not bowled over with the Studio XPS. The bottom-end model offers a relatively low-cost way of getting yourself a basic Core i7 setup, while the more expensive machines, such as the one on review here, aren’t bad value either. But, whichever Studio XPS you choose, you’ll come across the same problems: the chassis is too cramped and poorly designed for enthusiasts, and the fans make it far too noisy. Even if you already have a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers and only need a system box, this is not the one to choose.