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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  • aoskunk - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure what you meant your dissapointed about? it turned out i had done nothing wrong, seeing as how once i got working parts everything was perfect. bios was far from complicated to setup. just select the proper xmp profile which it explained right in the directions that came with both the ram and motherboard. slecting right boot config. in fact i dont think there was really anything else to change other than the timing to skip Asus' own quick access OS. Aside from core multipliers etc. (I am now perfectly stable at 4GHz!)
    Unfortunatley at least where I live the cost of going to a repair shop would likely end up costing as much as say, my videocard. But like I said there was no error on my part, just some bad luck. I paid extra for good shipping from a carrier that doesn't subject your packages to falls from as high as 12 feet. I agree that there is a lot of misinformation posted in the reviews on newegg. They do often have some of the best pricing and pretty good RMA service though.
  • BernardP - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    Each time I look at the possibility of configuring a Dell system, I run into a couple of things that keep me from proceeding. One is the limited possibilities for adding hard drives. No experienced user wants to run a single 1 TB HD with everything on it. My preferred combination is one system drive and 2 data drives, one mirroring the other. No can do here.

    The other thing is that Dells no longer ship with a true Windows install DVD. There is a basic configuration already on the HD and you have to burn your own disc image of this in case of an eventual reinstall. It's not possible to format the drive and do a clean Windows install from an OEM windows DVD.

    Don't try to partition the drive either, as the partinioning software will wreac havoc with the hidden Restore Partition.

    However, a basic pre-built is certainly a great option for the casual user (like my parents) who are happy to just surt the web and send email.
  • seapeople - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    Did this just change? My Dell Inspiron from April shipped with a Windows install disk. It was simple to do a reformat and fresh Windows install. Partitioning is fine to do as well. Of course, the partitioning does kill the Factory Restore functionality, but why would I want to go back to the factory state anyway when I have a Windows install disk?
  • DominionSeraph - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    With Dell it's always questionable what you're going to get. I've gotten disks that restore it to factory state, ones with OS + applications so you can just install the OS, and straight Windows disks.
  • BernardP - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Yes, it's a new policy effective April 1 2010:
  • seapeople - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Wow, I was lucky it seems!
  • harbingerkts - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Long story short - with their windows 7 systems Dell's using a recovery partition and telling users to create recovery disks. I had to request the OS and Application disks through a form on their site.
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    "The dock offers sets of shortcuts at the top of the screen not totally dissimilar to the dock in Mac OS X."

    I'm sure that I had a Windows 95 machine way back in the past that had various menus at the top of the screen from oems and other etc.

    I don't think we'll ever have any article that doesn't mention apple now. People want to know about the damn machine and most won't even know or BOTHER to realise that shortcut icons look like the ones in OSX.
  • cknobman - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    That coupled with the gimped chipset ruin a otherwise decent build for the price (from a cookie cutter manufacturer anyways).

    With only 460 Watts say goodbye to overclocking or expansion.
  • Powerlurker - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    Overclocking is probably the last thing on the mind of someone who is buying a computer from Dell.

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