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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  • LaughingTarget - Friday, July 9, 2010 - link

    I just buy the thing with the expectation that I'll hold onto it for about 4 years. The only time I bothered to upgrade anything was putting an extra 2 gigs of RAM into my Conroe machine when I picked up a copy of Win7.
  • freeturkeys - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    That was a standard ATI video card, the connector is for a dongle that splits to dual VGA or dual DVI. Just noticed the age of this though, so you probably already know this by now!
  • HangFire - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Its been how long since Dell stopped using non-standard P/S pinouts... 6 years? 7? Unforgivable, perhaps, but hardly relevant anymore.

    I've got news for you, most OEM PC's stay stock for their entire lifetime, save for RAM and maybe a new hard disk. After 3 years they get reformatted and the kids flog it for a while playing Flash and Web games and then it dies and gets thrown away. If it lasts 5 years total people get their money's worth and are satisfied.

    If this does not describe your desired experience, skip the article, because if you read it, you'd find the article already says that these systems exist for people who don't want to even think about upgrades and mods. The fact that it doesn't come stuffed with crapware and McAfee is the only s/w you have to uninstall is a near miracle, plus the fact it comes with a decent CPU and video card for a reasonable price, means that you can recommend this system to a family knowing that Mom and Dad will find it fast enough for 3 years and the kids will play games on it OK and it won't become a tech support nightmare for you, their computer guy friend.
  • wilmarkj - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    What you state is not news - you hardly have a choice. I Hardly think that a 6 Core Phenom with 6 GB RAM and HD 5870 maketh a computer for Mom and Dad. If you read the article you will see its the writer of this article that made the comparison to a built from parts system. My post was merely putting this in what i thought was a more accurate perspective. I still dont buy that crap about Dell and using standard parts - ive see too many recent dells had had so much non standard crap (see my post about the video card). A decent video card and CPU is about all here though and seems unmatched by the motherboard, and as far as i recall the segate XXX.11 has a history of issues. This system looks a little ridiculous, and then its justified based on its parts. Afterall this is anandtech, not pcmagazine.
  • LokutusofBorg - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    We just bought XPS 8100s at work, which look to be the Intel twin (i7-860) to this model.

    We added an SSD and it was a PITA. The hard drives mount sideways and only use the screw holes on the bottom of the drive. The mounting bracket that came with the SSD only had side screws. So my SSD is just loose in the HD slot.

    And the power cables from the PSU are *maddeningly* short. Like, I-want-to-hit-somebody-in-the-face-for-making-them-that-short short.
  • HangFire - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    If you can't locate HDD/SSD adapters with bottom screws, power cable extenders, can't drill and tap a hole, or get out a soldering iron, wire and shrink tubing and just fix it, you are hardly in a position to promote upgrades.

    Grow up and deal with it, these are all trivial things that don't even approach the level of case modding. If you have built a few dozen custom systems you've dealt with worse, or maybe you haven't...
  • wilmarkj - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    Rubbish! You say elsewhere - "most OEM PC's stay stock for their entire lifetime", and now you're telling this guy to pull out his soldering iron. Dell computers are crap. This guy started with a dell - you expect him to pull out his soldering iron?? I have built over 500 systems from parts, several servers and workstations, and special applications computers - all from off the shelf parts - NEVER DELL - they short change you and utilize horrid practices/cut corners, like the way they mount drives, cable specs, etc. While i like a challenge - i never go out of my way to encounter unnecessary trouble.
  • HangFire - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    Or don't use a soldering iron, just buy the adapter, but he is so hot about his mad moddin' skillz I had to point out he was ranting about the trivial.

    The whole point of the matter is OEM PC's are not made for massive upgradability, if that is what you need deal with it and don't buy a Dell, that doesn't make them horrid. It just makes them what they are, OEM PC's, the solution for 80% of the market, including factory available upgrade parts that fit right in for 80% of upgrade needs. If you and yours don't fit into this percentage of the market, good on you, buy custom or build your own.

    Once you catch up to the number of systems I've built, modded, and repaired, you might realize that there are lots of people happy with OEM PC's out there, and don't mind buying an all-new one every 3 years. There are advantages either way.
  • seapeople - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    That sounds dangerous. We all know how susceptible SSD's are to any bit of vibration. If it's not mounted properly and your dog bumps your system you could lose all your data!
  • chucko6166 - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    I purchased a Studio XPS 7100 a few weeks ago for my use as his primary gaming machine. It works as advertised and it's been rock solid stable. I've built plenty of systems over the last 30 years and my selection criteria for this PC heavily favored bang for the buck, performance, and stability. I'm willing to give up a bit of performance to insure stability, and in my case overclocking is not something that I'm interested in, as I really don't need the extra few percent of performance that overclocking would provide.

    Before I ordered I put together a build list on NewEgg and discovered that I could not build the same system for the price that I paid for the Dell. The choice was a simple one, and I commend Dell for building a quality PC and selling it at a reasonable price.

    It's cool, quiet, stable, and provides good bang for the buck and excellent performance for a PC in the $1000-$1250 price range. I configured it with 8GB of RAM and the HD 5870, and frame rates are superb at 1920x1080.

    Life is good.

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