Excellent wired connectivity
Small, light, and simple
Can be noisy
Upgrade options limited by space
About the Dell XPS Desktop 8950
Here are the specs of the desktop we tested:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-12600K
- Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti
- RAM: 16GB DDR5
- Storage: 512GB SSD and 2TB HDD
- Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
- Wired connectivity: 5x USB-A Gen 3.2, 3x USB-C Gen 3.2, 3.5mm combo audio (front), 5.1 audio (rear), 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, SDcard reader
- Weight: 16.79 pounds
- Size: 15.39 x 16.8 x 6.81 inches
The Dell XPS Desktop I received to test carries an MSRP of around $1,700, making it a solid mid-range choice with plenty of bang for your buck. Entry-level configurations start at $700. Tick off all the options, however, and you’ll end up north of $4,000.
What we like
Strong performance across the board
The XPS Desktop is a reminder that small, mid-range desktop PCs deliver outstanding overall performance; The model I tested had an Intel Core i5-12600K processor, RTX 3060 Ti graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB M.2 SSD, and performed well across our usual suite of synthetic and real-life benchmarks.
Geekbench 5, a synthetic processor benchmark, turned in a single-core score of 1595 and a multi-core score of 10353. These aren’t record-setting figures (they fall behind Apple’s best MacBook Pro 16, for example), but indicate solid overall performance.
Cinebench R23, which tests a heavy 3D rendering workload, reached a multi-core score of 16554. That’s the second-highest score we have ever recorded for a desktop computer so far, with the highest being a 17690 during our initial review of the Core i5-12600K. Although keep in mind that our test PC included a top-of-the-line, all-in-one CPU cooler and 32GB of DDR5 RAM, so for a non-gaming desktop PC that doesn’t have either of those components, 16554 is still an incredible score
Blender, a 3D computer graphics toolset, also ran well. The XPS Desktop rendered the BMW test file in two minutes and 44 seconds which, again, is the best result we’ve seen this year (and only 22 seconds slower than our test PC).
The game performance was excellent thanks to an Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti graphics card. Less demanding games, like Overwatch and Far Cry 5, are playable above 120 frames per second (fps) at 1080p resolution and Ultra detail. More demanding games, like Total War: Warhammer III and Cyberpunk 2077, exceed 60 fps at these settings.
Even ray-tracing is practical. Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition averaged 69 fps at 1080p and Ultra detail with ray tracing set to High. Cyberpunk 2077 averaged 38 fps at 1080p and the ray tracing ultra preset with DLSS off.
It’s important to note these results apply to the specific configuration I tested. The base XPS Desktop lacks a discrete graphics card, so it will prove far less capable in games.
On the other extreme, Dell sells XPS Desktop variants with even quicker hardware including Intel Core i9 processors and Nvidia RTX 3090 graphics. These components will significantly boost performance, especially in 3D games and productivity apps.
There’s no shortage of ports (and even a DVD drive)
Desktop computers tend to have far more ports than any laptop, but the XPS Desktop goes above and beyond with a seemingly endless buffet of connectivity.
The front panel has three USB-A Gen 3.2 ports, one USB-C Gen 3.2, a headphone jack, and an SDcard reader. There are two more USB-A Gen 3.2 and two USB-C Gen 3.2 ports around the back, plus two USB-A 2.0. You’ll also find Ethernet and a host of audio ports for a microphone, speakers, and a subwoofer.
That’s not all— the RTX 3060 Ti video card has three DisplayPort ports and one HDMI. These ports will vary slightly depending on the video card in your particular configuration, and those without discrete graphics have a single DisplayPort output.
This XPS Desktop also has an optical read/write drive compatible with DVDs and CDs. The base model lacks this feature, but it’s included on most models and doesn’t add to the price. It’s nice to see the drive available, as some mainstream desktops have ditched it entirely.
Wireless connectivity comes standard and includes support for Wi-Fi 6 as well as Bluetooth 5.2. I’d prefer to see Wi-Fi 6E, the newest standard, but it remains uncommon. Wi-Fi performance was still strong enough to offer real-world download speeds of 50 to 60 Mbps.
The internals are easy to access
Most people will never choose to dive into their desktop, but if you do choose to crack open the XPS Desktop you’ll find it easy to repair or upgrade.
Opening the case is simple. The XPS Desktop uses conventional screws instead of thumb screws, so you will need a screwdriver. If you have that, however, you can quickly pop open the case by removing a single screw at the top. This screw secures a latch that opens the right side panel.
The interior places the power supply at the lower rear of the case, while the internal hard drive and DVD drive are at the upper front. A single dedicated case fan is located at the front and well away from other components.
This leaves a lot of space to maneuver and minimal overlap between components. The solid state drive, second hard drive, and video card can be removed without taking the entire desktop apart. Even the wireless adapter is easy to access. You’ll have to snip a few cable ties, but that’s it.
The XPS Desktop I tested had space for one additional internal hard disk. It also had four RAM DIMM slots, two of which were filled. This provides a healthy room for future upgrades. However, these slots will be filled if you buy a top-shelf model with maximum RAM and two internal hard disks.
Gamers will notice the XPS Desktop has a small, single-fan RTX 3060 Ti video card. It also equips a compact power supply rated for up to 750 watts on models with discrete graphics. The base model has a 460-watt PSU, while the most extravagant has a 1000-watt PSU). A 750-watt power supply is fine for the hardware the XPS Desktop shipped with but may limit future video card upgrades.
Still, the XPS Desktop’s internals make sense for a mid-range, mainstream desktop. There are compromises, but the corners cut (such as the power supply) are only a concern to enthusiasts who likely aren’t interested in buying a pre-built desktop PC.
It’s small, light, and easy to move
The XPS Desktop measures about 15 inches tall, 17 inches deep, and 7 inches wide. This is not unusually small for a mainstream, mid-tower desktop, but it remains easy to place in a home office. The XPS Desktop can easily find a home inside or under most desks.
It’s a light desktop, as well, weighing just under 17 pounds. This is lighter than the HP Envy desktop and Lenovo Legion 5i desktop, each of which weighs about 30 pounds. Desktops aren’t frequently relocated, of course, but the XPS Desktop is easy to move when needed.
What we don’t like
The basic enclosure
Dell’s XPS line represents the very best PCs sold under the Dell brand and, in the case of XPS laptops (such as the Dell XPS 13, frequently exceed expectations. The XPS desktop is less impressive.
My complaints begin with the front panel. This is the area of a desktop that is most frequently touched, so the materials used here matter—yet the XPS desktop does little to stand out.
An aluminum panel covers two-thirds of the top. It feels solid but looks generic and, depending on the light, its sheen is too similar to plastic. It’s paired with a plastic fan grill below which feels hardly more premium than a budget desktop.
The rest of the design is even more mundane, as the bulk of the case is made from the steel panels common to most pre-built desktop PCs. It’s a modern take on the beige box computers of the 1990s: functional, cheap, and unremarkable.
The XPS Desktop’s inexpensive construction leads to another flaw: It can be noisy.
The enclosure contributes to this. Steel panels are cheap and strong but tend to rattle and reverberate as the desktop’s fans kick into high gear. This amplifies fan noise and adds the occasional tick-tick or ping as panels wobble due to vibrations.
Dell does little to combat this with internal sound deadening. On the contrary, vents on the desktop’s side and front provide ample space for sound to escape.
There are only three fans in the system, as well. A lone dedicated system fan is located up front. Another fan is connected to the CPU water block and doubles as a rear system fan. The final fan is on the RTX 3060 Ti video card.
None of the fans are large. Fewer, smaller fans have to work harder to move air, which can cause a ruckus when the XPS Desktop is used to play 3D games or encode a video.
As the price goes up, the appeal goes down
The XPS Desktop is available in a wide variety of configurations. The base model, with an Intel Core i5-12400 processor and integrated graphics, starts around $685. Top-tier configurations with a Core i9 processor and Nvidia RTX 3090 graphics can exceed $4,000.
My review desktop carried an MSRP barely north of $1,700. This, I think, is at the upper limit of what’s sensible. More expensive versions of the XPS Desktop equip quicker, more power-hungry hardware, which makes the internals more cramped and is likely to increase noise. The XPS Desktop’s mundane design also fails to justify the high pricing of more expensive configurations.
Those looking to spend more than $2,000 should consider high-end, low volume PC builders like Origin, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, or Digital Storm. These companies can’t beat Dell on bang-for-the-buck but offer a better enclosure, more fans, a better power supply, and superior build quality.
Should you buy the Dell XPS Desktop 8950?
Yes, this is a powerful mid-tower PC at a reasonable price
The Dell XPS Desktop 8950 is a fast, capable desktop for people who don't care about PC hardware.
PC fans often pick on such desktops with complaints about non-standard motherboard layouts and modest power supplies. The XPS Desktop certainly exhibits these flaws, and they have consequences. Though easy to upgrade, you’ll be restricted to mid-range components if you want to improve the desktop down the road.
Dell has surprisingly few direct competitors. Acer, Asus, and Lenovo reserve more expensive configurations for gaming desktops. They’re powerful, but not everyone wants a big desktop with flashing LEDs. HP’s Envy line is Dell’s best competition, offering similar hardware for the price. Current Envy desktops are more attractive, but rather compact, which could make upgrades more difficult.
The XPS Desktop left me impressed. It has the processing power to handle productivity tasks and plays most modern games at well above 60 frames per second. This machine can even hit a steady 38 fps in Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p and High settings with ray tracing on. That’s great to see from a small, simple desktop sold below $2,000.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is a veteran tech journalist and general-purpose PC hardware nerd. Formerly the Lead Editor of Reviews at Digital Trends, he has over a decade of experience covering PC hardware. Matt often flies the virtual skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator and is on a quest to grow the perfect heirloom tomato.
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