They say good things come in small packages, and that's the case with Dell's XPS 8500 desktop PC. The system is only 16x6.9x17.2in, but performs almost as well as a behemoth gaming system. Group test: What's the best gaming PC?
Although it has a sleek design, the Dell XPS 8500's cover doesn't hint at anything special about this machine. However, this desktop PC must have some way to justify its price tag. When we looked a little closer and pushed it to its limit, that justification became much clearer.
Dell XPS 8500: packed interior
The Dell XPS 8500 runs an Intel Core i7-3770 Ivy Bridge processor with a stock speed of 3.4GHz. If that's not enough, it can easily push up to 3.9GHz using Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. Intel is consistently putting out strong numbers with every processor iteration, along with greater power efficiency. This combination blurs the lines between performance and casual or business machines. Still, this is no budget desktop PC.
The pleasant surprises don't stop with the CPU. Supporting the speedy processor is 16GB of DDR3 RAM and some of the best storage we’ve seen in any system. The drives are a single 256GB SSD (no messy RAID) for the OS and programs, plus a 3TB 7,200rpm hard drive to hold vast volumes of data. It is rare to find such an abundant amount of fast storage on a machine that looks like it can barely fit in the basic components. But Dell somehow manages to squeeze everything into the XPS 8500, hiding the SSD in a deep, dark cranny that’s nearly impossible to reach without disassembling the system.
Normally, in a small case such as this, you would expect a small video card and sometimes, heaven forbid, an integrated graphics setup. But in the XPS 8500, Dell has managed to fit in a full-sized ATI Radeon HD 7870 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory onboard. When put through our WorldBench 7 benchmark, it ran Crysis 2 and Dirt 3 on highest-quality settings at 2560x1600 resolution. This is enough to make most computers sweat, stutter and die, but the 8500 put up some quality numbers. It managed an average of 25.6fps on Crysis 2 and 44.1fps on Dirt 3. At 1920x1080 resolution with detail levels set to high, Crysis 2 ran at 67.5fps - well over the 60fps needed for immersive gameplay, and the game still looked great.
Dell XPS 8500: performance impresses
With all of these powerful amenities, the Dell XPS 8500 desktop PC scored a very impressive 182 on our strenuous Worldbench 7 test suite, making it 82 percent faster than our baseline system. This puts it in good standing with other performance machines, especially the ones around the same price. If you want a computer that breaks the 200 mark, expect to pay anywhere up to two or three times the price of the XPS 8500.
To make this even more of a versatile machine, the Dell XPS 8500 bundles a comprehensive card reader, a Blu-ray optical drive, and an internal Wi-Fi adaptor. These components add up to a great media machine. Transfer pictures quickly, watch your favourite HD Blu-ray movie, or stream your favorite video service wirelessly with this system that fits comfortably under any desk or entertainment centre. Plus, it has plenty of ports to connect all necessary devices: six USB 2.0 ports (four on the back, two on the top) and four USB 3.0 ports (two on the front, two on the back). Finally, the included wireless keyboard and mouse are a welcome, if basic, addition. Everything points to a great machine to hook up to the family TV.
Even with all of these great features, the system, when opened, is a bit underwhelming. The wires are bundled neatly, and everything is tightly packed in a highly organised fashion, but it still looks like a business desktop PC. The plain grey 460W power supply isn't modular, so the multicoloured wires pour out of it in one large bundle. And the Dell XPS 8500 desktop has no front- or side-panel fan to draw in air for extra cooling, something that may become necessary with a beast of a graphics card. Everything is so tightly packed that it is impossible to tinker with - you just don't have much space to add anything new. A couple of internal drive bays and PCIx1 slots are about it.
Note that the version of the Dell XPS 8500 reviewed here is not currently available on the UK Dell site. However, prices start at £999 with a 32GB SSD, 2TB HDD and 8GB of DDR3 RAM.