Dell Studio XPS 7100 Closer Look

If nothing else, the Dell Studio XPS 7100 desktop is an attractive piece of kit. The case itself utilizes a lot of features that are becoming increasingly common in enthusiast cases. For starters, the power button is on top of the machine and glows with an attractive white LED when the system is on and orange when in standby. Behind it is an indented tray perfectly sized to fit stray CDs, and lining the top edge of that tray are two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and a mic jack.

The face of the machine is kept spare, utilizing an attractive gray matte plastic with a chrome accent around it. Working down from the top, we start with a series of memory card readers. Below it are two optical drive bays hidden behind folding doors; pressing the gray button to the right ejects the drives. The folding mechanism works well, but if you manually fold down the door on the second bay you may be disappointed to see the metal placeholder of the case interior. It's an odd lack of finish, but will spend its entire life being hidden behind the second door.

Beneath the optical drives is an external 3.5” bay that's opened by sliding the faceplate downward. The bay is empty apart from two USB 2.0 drives, but has a black plastic placeholder in it. Overall it seems curiously empty and most external peripherals for the bay these days would just be card readers (rendered redundant by the card reader at the top of the face), but it's a nice inclusion that improves expandability of the tower. The remainder of the face is the chrome Dell logo and a vent at the bottom, just above the Windows 7 and AMD Vision Black branding stickers.

The sides of the XPS 7100 are as uneventful as the sides of modern cases often are, featuring unobtrusive black paneling, but there's a wrinkle here. Perfectly aligned with the Radeon HD 5870 inside is an oblong vent on the side panel. It's debatable how necessary the vent is, but it's nice without being as conspicuous as a massive window and lets you peek inside at the reference Bat-cooler used on ATI's Radeon HD 5800 series.

The back of the machine is, praise it all, clean and well laid out. The power supply is in its traditional position at the top of the tower above the motherboard's port cluster and the case's 80mm exhaust fan. The port cluster itself is fairly barren but includes the essentials: four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, an eSATA port, and the customary six jacks for 5.1 audio, line-in, and microphone. Above these are the aforementioned blocked off HDMI and DVI ports, with an optical port for audio at the top.

While a MicroATX build is great for saving space and the Studio XPS 7100 is certainly an attractive space saver, the major drawback lies in limited expandability. The included Radeon HD 5870 eats up fully half of the available slots, and the wireless-n card chews up another, leaving just a single open PCI slot. If you order down the chain and get a single slot video card it will open another PCIe x1 slot. Dell also only equips the board with four SATA ports, two of which are already in use when the machine arrives. While four are generally enough for most users, the media crowd looking at a machine like this may find themselves choosing between putting a FireWire card or SATA card in the spare PCI slot.

Finally, the included keyboard and mouse are just fine and perfectly serviceable, featuring keys that are about halfway between full-sized keys and slim laptop keys. The keyboard is comfortable enough to use and has the usual suspects as far as multimedia controls and shortcuts, but doesn't include a wrist rest, and utilizes a scrunched navigation block (three rows of two keys) that may take a little getting used to.

Dell Studio XPS 7100: Good from the Factory? Dell Studio XPS 7100 User Experience
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  • Operandi - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Delta makes very high quality PSUs, far from "generic" and better than 95% of the trash that has a "brand name" with a fancy label and LED fans.

    Normally you'll find Deltas in high-end workstations and servers, not menial desktops.
  • HOOfan 1 - Sunday, July 11, 2010 - link

    Umm...Delta usually makes excellent PSUs.

    385W on the 12V rail is more than enough for an HD5870
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    I was wondering the same thing. From the Anandtech review numbers for the CPU and GPU it seems like this PSU would be running well above 50% under load, wonder how well it would hold up to that.
  • Alexvrb - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    Probably will run fine, at least for a good while. They lose money if they have lots of failures, so they certainly wouldn't choose a PSU that can't make it past the 1 year warranty - at least not on purpose. It's not the best PSU in the world, I'll give you that, but I think it will be OK in the vast majority of cases (I wouldn't recommend overclocking)

    My dad has a lower-end XPS 7100, and it's actually been a pretty good machine so far. It's equipped with a lowly Athlon II X4 2.6Ghz, 4GB of DDR3 1333, and a 5450. He doesn't game on it, and it's plenty fast for Office, H.264 content, etc.

    Also, the mainboard may not be cutting edge, but it actually supports 16GB of DDR3 1333 and hex core processors. A lot of the cheaper OEM boxes tap out at 4GB or so. So if you opted for a more basic XPS 7100 configuration, you can toss in a better PSU yourself, and upgrade it a decent bit down the road.

    I used to hate Dells with a passion, but that probably stemmed from my experiences with their lowest end series, that were (and probably still are) junk. This machine is not bad for a mainstream OEM box.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    FWIW, I have a Dell XPS 410, and it has been running happily (and powered on) for the better part of three years. The XPS line is a big step up from their standard Inspiron in my book, and while the Delta Electronics isn't likely to be the best PSU around, the one in my old XPS is doing fine. In fact, the GPU fan (on an old 7900 GTX) is the only part that has started to get a little louder over the years.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Sure, it might be fine, but in this class of system you are probably getting some users who actually know what is in the system. I wonder how much more a Seasonic OEM PSU would add to the cost ($10-15 maybe) and whether it would be worthwhile.
  • HOOfan 1 - Sunday, July 11, 2010 - link

    Why should they go to Seasonic? Delta makes excellent PSUs...many of Delta's PSUs are better than competing Seasonic PSUs.
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    lol, obviously some sort of spam comment that should have a trick-link in there somewhere
  • aoskunk - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    I laughed when I read this as I found it spot on. In november I built a new rig for the first time in 4 years. I had considered buying a comparable system as this however I decided to experience the fun in building my own. However since I had not been reading this site daily like I do now, it took a good amount of research to get caught up to date with all the latest tech, hardware trends and current hardware manufacturer reputations. I had a budget of about $1200 and was going to reuse my Lian Li case that had cost $300 and still listed at about $100 and my dvd-rw. So it took a lot of research to make sure I got the absolute best bang for my buck. Ended up with a Quadcore i7860, 4890, 8gig ram, modular corair 750 power supply and a 1 gig 7200 which i just upgraded to a vertex2. Beautiful system, bios take longer to load than windows. I love it. Runs WoW at make settings without a hiccup, ever.... NOW.

    HOWEVER. the
    "hair-pulling frustration as parts that “should work” don't. Bad RAM, faulty motherboards, and other potential problems can mar the DIY experience". Computer worked great for the first 3 days. Then i got a couple random BSoD. Then the dvd isnt recognized. I buy a new one and it still doesnt work. Then it freezes one time and never starts back up. Asus tech support informs me its a bad motherboard. Get that after 3 weeks and it boots up. But that first day I get a BSoD. I reboot and there doesnt seem to be any problems so I dismiss it. Fast forward 6 months and I've had prolly 6 BSoD with them becoming more frequent and I don't know why. Then one week it snowballs into everytime I start the computer and then I start up to find that its claiming my win7 pro is not authorized. I scratch my head as this was the first time I actually paid for an OS since i got it for $30 by using an .edu email account, right from microsoft. I read up, run memtest+ and get 30,000 errors on a stick. So i take it out and everything runs great. I currently have to RMA the G.Skill 2gb stick still but everything is finally stable and running mind boggling fast. This took until just recently though.
    That's 2 main system components that were defective brand new shipped from New Egg. Exactly the concerns listed in this article. The rig years ago I built i realize in retrospect likely had the same exact 2 problems based on the symptoms i had with that one. That motherboard had to be replaced after 3 months and the ram was prolly what caused the BSoDs that i got every now and then.
    Now do i regret building my own PC? no i happen not to, though if i hadn't been able to diagnose the problems and had to bring it to somebody and pay through the nose then YES i would regret it. I feel i'm a better techie now having overcame the problems. Now they really werent any big deals but its a pain having to wait for RMA hardware. Something to consider when deciding to DIY or not.
    Before you say anything, NO i did not cause the problems I'm certain it was just coincedence. I know how to handle and install the mb and ram. How often do you guys get defective new hardware when building a new rig? 2 bad components has to be sort of rare yes? I used to think that not building a rig yourself was crazy because you could save yourself money and all dell and acer and such do are fill your system up with bloatware. I know give them some credit for testing their systems to make sure they actually run. Now i don't know how well they do that but they must do it decently well. To those that build a lot of systems in the manner that I did how often do you get bad parts?
  • TGressus - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    The only real issue with DOA equipment is the trip from the distribution warehouse to your home. You have the couriers to thank for that.

    The first level tech support at the vendors would rather you RMA than return the product to the retailer. It is also rather difficult and not cost effective to diagnose via phone/email.

    BIOS configuration is more complex than ever, and most default settings are for legacy compatibility. Proper BIOS tuning seems to be taken for granted anymore, and requires continuous exposure through frequent system building or a lot of reading. The RAM probably required manual configuration just to work without error.

    Rather than slander, I'll reserve judgement on the OEM and vendors you chose. Newb Egg reviews are riddled with good intentions and epic failure like this. I applaud your effort, but I am disappoint.

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