Dell Studio XPS 7100: Good from the Factory?

The tricked-out Studio XPS 7100 desktop Dell asked us to review is an interesting beast. A review of a factory desktop machine that isn't some powerhouse gaming beast with liquid cooling, factory overclock and optional sunroof might seem a little unusual here on a site with a readership full of people who like to roll their own. Yet machines like the Studio XPS 7100 have a reason for being and are worthy of any enthusiast's attention.

For some of us, building a machine can be a lot of fun and very rewarding; for others, it can be an exercise in hair-pulling frustration as parts that “should work” don't. Bad RAM, faulty motherboards, and other potential problems can mar the DIY experience. Other potential users may just be lapsed enthusiasts looking for a decent machine without having to read up on new tech, or enthusiasts that know what parts they want but don't feel inclined to spend the time assembling and tweaking a system. Perhaps you're after a powerful desktop for editing home video, doing photo work, and maybe enjoying an occasional game and you want to keep things as easy as possible.

The Studio XPS 7100 fills a profoundly useful niche by offering some of the latest technology available on the market in an attractive package. With it, Dell seeks to serve all of the aforementioned users and more.

Dell XPS 7100 Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II X6 1055T
(6x2.8GHz, 45nm, 3MB L2, 6MB L3, Turbo Core up to 3.3GHz, 125W)
Chipset AMD 785G Northbridge, AMD SB750 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB and 2x1GB DDR3-1066 (Total 6GB, Max 4x4GB)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5
(1600 Stream Processors, 850MHz Core, 4.8GHz Memory, 256-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) 1.5TB 7200 RPM (Seagate Barracuda 7200.11)
Optical Drive(s) Blu-ray reader/DVD+-RW combo drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Dell DW1525 802.11n PCIe wireless
Audio Realtek ALC887 HD Audio
5.1 audio jacks, mic and line-in
Front Side MMC/SD/CF/MS reader
Optical Drive
Open 5.25” Bay
Open 3.25” Bay
2x USB 2.0
Top 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jack
Power button
Back Side AC Power
Optical out
4x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet jack
Surround sound jacks and mic and line-in jacks
2x DVI-D
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.02" x 17.9" x 7.31" (WxDxH)
Weight 22.4 lbs
Extras 460W Power Supply
Wired keyboard and mouse
Flash reader (MMC/MS/CF/SD)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing Starting at $499.99
Priced as configured: $1,149.99

Our review unit is Dell's top-end factory configuration for the Studio XPS 7100 line, and a couple of things on the spec sheet immediately jump out. The first is the brand new AMD Phenom II X6 1055T beating at the heart of it, a native six-core, 2.8GHz beast with 6MB of L3 cache and featuring AMD's Turbo Core technology. Turbo Core is a similar but arguably less efficient version of the Turbo Boost feature found in modern Intel Core processors, but it's capable of bumping core speed up to 3.3GHz on the 1055T under the right conditions. Still, even six 2.8GHz Phenom II cores pack enough muscle to get some serious computing done.

The other eyebrow-raiser in the Studio XPS 7100 is the ATI Radeon HD 5870, ATI's top-of-the-line single-GPU card. Ours is a bone-stock reference version with 1GB of GDDR5. You're undoubtedly familiar with the specs of the 5870, but for the sake of completeness, ATI's monster uses TSMC's 40nm fabrication process and is equipped with 1600 of ATI's stream processors running at a core clock of 850MHz. A 256-bit memory bus is connected to 1GB of GDDR5 running at an effective 4.8GHz. Finally, the card is DirectX 11-class hardware, and is capable of supporting up to three monitors simultaneously or even presenting all three transparently as a single screen in their Eyefinity configuration. While one of these monitors must be connected through DisplayPort (or an active DisplayPort adapter), our review unit was sent to us along with one of Dell's new and remarkably affordable E-IPS panel monitors, and those monitors include native DisplayPort connectivity. (We'll have a separate review of the display in the near future.)

Rounding out the core of the Studio XPS 7100 is 6GB of DDR3-1333 in the form of a pair of 2GB DIMMs and a pair of 1GB DIMMs. The 6GB is an odd choice; we would have liked to see Dell go whole hog and just include 8GB standard, since in order to make the upgrade later on you'll have to remove the two 1GB sticks. When you order off the site, it may be prudent to save yourself the trouble and pony up the $60 for the upgrade to 8GB.

Unfortunately, the chipset the memory and processor are plugged into is a bit antiquated these days. The MicroATX board in the guts of the XPS 7100 uses the 785G chipset with the SB750 Southbridge. The 785G's DVI and HDMI ports are actually blocked off by covers on the back of the tower, and a visit to the BIOS yielded no way to enable ATI's SurroundView. That's not a major loss given the three display outputs on the Radeon HD 5870, but the inclusion of the SB750 Southbridge alongside the shiny new Phenom II X6 is disappointing. The more modern SB850 with 6Gbps SATA ports and generally improved SATA performance over its predecessor would have been much appreciated.

Rounding out the machine are a single 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard disk spinning at 7200 RPM with 32MB of cache and a combination Blu-ray reader/DVD burner. Connectivity comes from an onboard Broadcom gigabit Ethernet port and Dell's own 1525 model PCIe wireless-n card. The wireless card is awesomely adorable, fitting into the PCIe x1 slot without extending at all beyond it and keeping a low profile, and it sits in the slot just above the Radeon HD 5870. Finally, audio duties are handled by a Realtek ALC887 HD audio controller.

Dell Studio XPS 7100 Closer Look
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  • harbingerkts - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    My situation was fairly similar, except with the deal that Dell was running at the time I purchased, I could match the price on Newegg if I bought the cheapest component in each class on Newegg... but the Dell came with a 2 year warranty with accidental damage coverage.

    If you haven't already, throw even a cheap 64GB SSD in there as a OS/Game drive. The difference in speed vs the HD they put in is night and day. Just make sure to request the full OS / Application disks from Dell if you do.
  • adonn78 - Thursday, July 8, 2010 - link

    I am a bit afraid oft he 460 watt budget generic Power supply unit used int hsi system. On top of that I would be afraid of the system overheating int he summer months with the standard air cooling heatsinl/fan. Other than that it seems like a powerful system for the price. but I'd rather get a system from ibuypower or cyberpower off of newegg for about the same but with liquid cooling, better PSU, and a nicer case with better cooling.
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I've had to switch to a notebook so haven't been paying as much attention to Dell's desktops anymore, but skimming over the Studio XPS 7100 and 8100, it's looking like they still offer a nicely put together system at a reasonable price. Back in the day I bought about half my systems from Dell, and half built myself, and never had complaints with Dell...I think they use standard power supplies on most systems too, so it's probably fine even if you need more power down the line. (Plus my Dells were always quieter than my systems I intentionally bought to be quiet using Sonata cases and the like.)
  • lapasta - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    nice system
    but for that config $1,149.99 damneddddddddddddd

    im dutch and i know im a little paying to much attention on what is the cheapest LOL

    but cmon

    550W stille power supply
    Processor AMD Phenom II X6 1055T SIX-Core (AM3, 8MB, 6 x 2.8 Ghz, boxed)
    Mainbord Asus M4N68T-M AM3 (support 8GB ram)
    Video nVidia GeForce GTX 460 768mb gddr5 Directx 11 HDMI out
    HDD 500GB S-ata2 7200RPM
    memory KINGSTON 4GB DDR3 1333MHZ PC10600
    sound 7.1 High-Definition Audio
    networking LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
    USB 2.0 connections 4x Usb 2.0 at the back, 2x USB 2.0 at the front
    Microfoon connection 1x at front
    headphone 1x at front
    DVD dr5ive Samsung Dual Layer DVD-R +/- 22x
    garanty 2 year inclusief with support

    and the best part now in stores for only 500 EUR thats 692,85USD

    god i love holland lol

    peace out greetings pasta
  • Bruce20 - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    I bet this thing would be great for a home <a href="">music recording</a>. I need to get me some better supplies than i have.
  • qzyxya - Thursday, January 17, 2013 - link

    I have this computer and i'm wondering what speed of ram to get, I know it has 4 ram slots and can accept 16gb (i assume), but idk what speed.

    Also what is the name of this motherboard?
  • DocWoo - Friday, April 21, 2017 - link

    It's 2017 and my Dell XPS 7100 still is running, Twice I had to vacuum dust out of the CPU when the fans got noisy. Last time, the heat sink stuck to the CPU and removing it pulled the AMD chip out of the socket. Pins bent, but I re-straightened them, put it back in the ZIF and it booted, LOL. $200 for an obsolete CPU if I had to replace it.

    But I will be updating.
  • DocWoo - Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - link

    Still running the XPS 7100 on Win 7 after 6 years. This summer, I put in a GeoForce graphics card, a 650W power supply, and a solid state C: drive. FWIW, windows experience at 7.5. No gaming. Just Lightroom and video edits.
  • DocWu - Sunday, December 15, 2019 - link

    Nine years after I bought it. Still running. Upgrade to Corsair 450W PSU and Geoforce GT1030. 12GB RAM. 256GB boot SSD and several HD's. Windows 10.

    AMD CPU fell out and I had to spend several hours straightening the pins. If that hadn't worked, I would have bought a new box.

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