Dell XPS 8940 SE Desktop Evaluation: The Do-It-All Residence PC

"Dell's midrange GPU still delivers over 80% of the performance of the flagship GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card, saving customers a ton of money."

  • Chic aesthetics

  • Good balance between performance and price

  • 4K games in a compact design

  • Easy way to get an RTX 3070 despite a GPU shortage

  • No Ryzen configurations

  • Limited expandability

If you need a work-from-home desktop, you've probably considered the Dell XPS desktop at some point. It's neither for hardcore gamers nor as boring as a normal office tower. Don't forget, however, that this is XPS, a premium brand that is highly regarded in the laptop space. So the question is whether the XPS desktop strikes the same balance between excellent design and impressive performance.

To find out, I looked at the latest iteration, the XPS 8940 SE desktop, which is the white version of the standard black model. Prices start at $ 649, but my updated configuration rose to $ 2,136 because of the Intel Core i7-10700K, Nvidia RTX 3070, and 32GB of RAM.

Aside from problems with GPU supply, Dell offers numerous upgrade options to get a system that does as much as you need it to be. This makes the XPS Desktop a versatile champion for homes, dorms, and even games and moderated creative endeavors when it has top notch chores. the-line specifications.

design

The XPS 8940 is available either in a subtle night sky black or in the chic mineral white color of our Special Edition configuration. It's a new look for the line and definitely an improvement overall. It's a simplified and modernized design as long as you know what you're getting into. Compared to the Alienware Aurora gaming desktop from Dell, the XPS foregoes the pronounced curves and strong contours of its premium sibling in favor of a traditional and decidedly box-shaped design.

Although the sharp lines and angular design of the XPS desktop create boring images of a corporate desktop, it looks less conservative than it appears in the mineral white color. The top half of the front is surrounded by a slightly curved, smooth plastic plate that houses the optional optical drive – a rarity even for desktops these days – as well as a power switch and vertically oriented ports, one of which is a USB-C port for a little future security.

Immediately below the curved plate is a flat and slightly recessed perforated grill in the lower half of the front panel of the XPS Desktop. This lower panel adds not only a bit of texture to an otherwise muted design, but also a bit of visual interest. The special edition white shade enhances the overall aesthetics of the desktop. The perforated plate can resemble a car panel and give the desktop a modern and contemporary look in a minimalist structure. However, you can also feel equally comfortable in a summer house, as the grille can also be seen as a modern reinterpretation of sugar cane or rattan furniture in this setting. I wish the plastic plate on the front was a bit higher quality as it feels hollow and light to the touch.

The sides of the XPS Desktop consist of color-coordinated metal plates, which are connected at the top with an off-center seam. The left cover can be easily removed with a couple of thumbscrews on the back, making upgrades and repairs relatively easy. The solid metal sides – instead of a clear tempered glass side window – help ensure that the XPS Desktop's design is conservative enough to be used in a more professional office setting, as there is no attention-grabbing RGB lighting coming from inside the tower.

And without the distraction of clear panels, Dell was able to focus its engineering efforts on function rather than form. Cable management is still tidy despite the lack of a window design, but the layout of the interior is rather sparse without many details or RGB lighting. The nice thing about it is that Dell did an excellent job with cooling and airflow. While the XPS isn't as whisper-quiet as a fanless laptop – like Apple's MacBook Air – the fan noise is very quiet and not distracting. The Dell desktop has a single fan in the case and two fans to cool the GPU. The CPU, meanwhile, uses a twin-tower style air cooler. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it does the job.

Ports and Connectivity

I really appreciated that the ports are split between the front and back, which is both easy to access and easy to manage cables.

On the front, you'll find a full-size memory card reader, headset jack, and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, including three Type-A ports and a single Type-C port. It's nice that Dell has a Type-C port on the front that can be used to quickly connect or charge modern smartphones. The optical drive can also write to Blu-ray discs.

On the back you will find four more USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, all of type A, as well as two additional USB 2.0 ports. There is a Gigabit Ethernet socket as well as sockets for headphones, microphone and audio output.

The motherboard has its own HDMI and DisplayPort. However, since the desktop comes with its own GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, you should use either the line HDMI or three DisplayPort video outputs to connect an external display.

Expandability

Dell's use of proprietary components can make this rig less attractive to enthusiasts. The tower's compact size of 19 liters also means that Dell used a dedicated motherboard, so upgrades (aside from RAM and storage) could become more difficult as the system ages.

However, if you're a data hunter, the good news is there are two empty 2.5-inch drive bays to add more storage space. Installing more space should be fairly easy, even for a novice PC.

Chuong Nguyen / Digital Trends

Despite its small size, Dell was able to put a full-length GPU under pressure in our test unit. The graphics card occupies both the PCIe x16 slot and the expansion slot for graphics cards with double width. However, upgrading to an RTX 3070 can be pointless. The desktop can also accommodate additional PCIe x1 and PCIe x4 cards.

There are some limitations with this desktop. The first is that while the 500 watt power supply is sufficient for this class of graphics, upgrading the power supply for more powerful graphics is a challenge. Do-it-yourselfers are limited by the space available for the power supply at the bottom of the case. The bigger problem, however, is using a proprietary Dell 6-pin connector to power the motherboard. This means that if you want more powerful graphics, you'll have to resort to an external power supply and plug cables into the inside of the case as a clumsy workaround.

The cables inside are neatly arranged – wires generally snake across the top, down the front, and flow down to where the power supply is located. Cables are bundled with a few zip ties, but you won't find the sleek cable management systems found in premium boutique buildings. It's not a complete mess which is good.

performance

Our Special Edition XPS Desktop, priced at $ 2,136 configured, came with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700K processor, though Dell didn't overclock the CPU straight away, paired it with a mid-range Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU and 32 GB memory. Given that the XPS lineup is rounded off with an RTX 3070, customers looking for something higher – like an RTX 3080 or RTX 3090 – will have to switch to the higher end Alienware Aurora Desktop in the Dell lineup.

Although Dell recently introduced a minor performance update to its XPS desktop by offering 11th Gen Intel Core configurations, AMD gamers will have to look elsewhere as well. In particular, Dell doesn't include builds with Ryzen processors, although some limited configurations come with Radeon graphics. Wish there were more different builds, but the performance I got with the 10th Gen K-Series processor on our Special Edition test unit is more than for most gaming, creativity, and productivity tasks suitable, and even gamers will be satisfied with the agility of this desktop with a few upgrades.

The XPS scored a little more than 7,300 points in our PCMark 10 test, which is what you can expect from the Intel Core i7-10700K. The performance of the XPS desktop is expected to be lower than that of a system with a Core i9-10900K configuration, but better than a rig equipped with AMD's Ryzen 9 3950X, such as the Ryien-powered Aurora R10 AMD Edition from Alienware.

The Core i7 is more than capable of handling most of the tasks I asked it to do, and Dell's K-series variant offers strong performance at a cheaper price. Similar to PCMark 10, the Core i7-10700K achieved a single-core score of 1,355 points and a multi-core score of 9,034 points. These values ​​mean that the i7 lags behind the Core i9-10900K and i9-10900KF processors, but only to a negligible extent.

In the synthetic Geekbench 5 benchmark, the XPS desktop score shows that the 10th generation Intel processor can maintain its multi-core performance compared to the new M1 processor from Apple on the Mac mini desktop. The single-core value of the Mac Mini of 1,707 points is above the XPS desktop, but the Apple desktop was almost 1,700 points behind Dell's offer in the multi-core test.

The XPS Desktop achieved competitive single and multi-core results in the Cinebench R23 test compared to other Intel processors, scoring 1,311 and 13,586 points, respectively. As with the Geekbench 5 scores, this means that the M1-powered Mac Mini performed better on the single-core Cinebench R23 score, but Intel is maintaining its multi-core performance for now with a margin of 42% over that M1 processor.

For everyday tasks, the system can handle multiple browsers with multiple tabs open, Microsoft Office applications, and creative software such as Adobe Creative Suite without noticeable delays or delays. Some more demanding games started a little faster on the better Core i9 processors. However, this is only noticeable if you can compare both systems side by side.

The XPS Desktop comes with two drives. This strategy allows Dell to provide the largest amount of storage at a lower cost and free up space for additional drives. Inside, in addition to a 3.5-inch 2TB hard drive, is a primary 512GB NVMe solid-state drive that plugs into the only M.2 slot on the motherboard. With the solid-state drive, the speeds were very fast. You want to keep your apps and games that you need most on the 512GB drive and reserve the more spacious 2TB for less frequently used digital files.

The performance of the Core i7-10700K in our Blender test shows that it lags behind the more powerful Intel Core i9-10900K and the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and Ryzen 9 5900X CPUs in the BMW benchmark. In fact, the rendering performance of the Core i7-10700K is similar to that of the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X and Ryzen 7 3800XT.

In the classroom benchmark, the performance of the Core i7-10700K is very similar to that of the Core i9-9900K, although the rendering time was a bit longer than the AMD Ryzen 7 2800 X and XT series. Upgrading to a 10th generation Intel Core i9 would help reduce rendering time even further.

Graphics performance

Despite a build that only comes with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, the XPS desktop isn't a problem. The RTX 3070 can handle most of the 4K games you throw at it. Most players will choose this card well as it can handle modern titles with ease. Dell equipped our test device with a 500 watt power supply that is powerful enough for this GPU configuration. Hobbyists who want to upgrade to more powerful graphics, however, are limited by the power of the power supply.

In our 3D Mark benchmark, the Fire Strike score of the XPS Desktop of 61,213 points and the Time Spy score of 12,489 points are ahead of the previous generation RTX 2080 and within striking distance of the premium GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. This is in view of the The middle position of the RTX 3070 in Nvidia's RTX 3000 series is quite an achievement. For comparison: The RTX 2080 scored just over 11,500 points in the Time Spy test, while the RTX 2080 Ti scored in the mid-13,000s.

The RTX 3070's performance in creative tasks is similar to its graphics performance. In our PugetBench Premiere Pro benchmark, the XPS Desktop value of 689 is again behind the performance of the RTX 2080 Ti and ahead of the RTX 2080. Compared to the almost 800 mark of the 3070, the performance is around 85% more expensive siblings. This card should be able to easily complete photo and video editing tasks for most home users.

This card should be able to handle photo and video editing tasks with ease.

Given the lower price in the Nvidia product range compared to the premium RTX 3080, it's hard to complain about Dell's decision to buy the RTX 3070, as this card can still achieve frame rates of more than 100 frames per second (fps) 4K. The RTX 3070's strong performance is reason enough for avid gamers to upgrade to the latest GeForce generation if they come from an older GPU.

In fast-paced games such as Epics Fortnite, the RTX 3070 ran at 120 fps in ultra game settings, although a reduction to high game settings increases the frame rate to a whopping 187 fps, which is a jump of 55%. In 4K, the frame rate drops to just 63 fps in Ultra and 110 fps in High settings.

This compares to the RTX 3080's 78 fps performance in Ultra at 4K and the RTX 2080 Ti's performance of around 55 fps. Here, the RTX 3070's performance is roughly 81% of the RTX 3080's, and this year's midrange card outperformed the previous generation's 2080 Ti by 8 fps.

In more graphics-intensive titles like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, the RTX 3070 had a little more problems due to the limited hardware capabilities of the GPU and the fact that this card only contains 8GB of GDDR6 RAM compared to 10GB of GDDR6X memory on the flagship RTX 3080. This one Game was played at 74 fps in 1440p and only 48 fps in 4K with the RTX 3070, with the quality of the game set to Ultra. On a system with RTX 3080, the game never dropped below 60 fps in the Ultra settings at 4K. Players who play titles with more sophisticated graphics rendering should keep the resolution of 2K 1440p or UWQHD.

The RTX 3070 manages to handle Battlefield V, a demanding title, relatively easily and to achieve over 80 fps in Ultra settings at 4K. The performance jumps to 140 fps when you zoom out to a resolution of 1440p. With Battlefield V, Nvidia's latest midrange range outperforms the flagship of the previous generation, as the RTX 2080 Ti was only able to express 76 fps in 4K, while this year's RTX 3080 ran at 97 fps.

In Civilization VI in the Ultra settings, the game clocked consistently more than 100 fps in 4K. If you're a gamer who plays less demanding titles, even the graphics capabilities of the RTX 3070 may be over the top.

Our opinion

The Dell XPS 8940 Desktop offers a good balance of performance, performance and price in a stylish and compact tower. In a sea of ​​boring, office-oriented PC towers, the XPS has just enough design finesse to make it stand out. It's an excellent work PC and, with the right configuration, a powerful slot machine. If you want a desktop that you don't have much to do with, the XPS 8940 is the best option you can buy.

Are there alternatives?

While the XPS Desktop isn't billed as a gaming rig, it's versatile enough to compete with other creative workstations as well as gaming-forward PCs. Competitors include the powerful Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i, which, like the Dell, is available for an affordable $ 499. Unlike the XPS, however, the IdeaCentre isn't as good for gaming as it doesn't offer an option for a discrete GPU. As a result, the Lenovo desktop is better suited for office work, web browsing, and light gaming. Creatives in need of more graphics power should probably turn to the company's Legion desktop line of products.

The HP Omen 25L is another big competitor to the XPS desktop. The Omen 25L offers a more compact footprint than the larger Omen 30L, a gaming-forward window design, RGB backlighting, and more configuration options. The smaller omen only comes with an RTX 2000 GPU. So if you need more modern 3000 series graphics, you'll need to upgrade to the Omen 30L. At $ 1,999, the similarly configured HP system with a slightly better Core i9 processor in a larger size is slightly cheaper than our test device.

How long it will take?

Given the power and performance of the XPS desktop, this rig will provide years of work productivity and gaming fun. The ability to update key components such as the motherboard and GPU is more limited due to Dell's use of proprietary components. So be sure to select the build you want at the time of purchase. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) applies to the ability to upgrade this system.

Dell offers a standard one-year warranty with its Premium Support and Premium Support Plus packages with the option to upgrade to packages with longer coverage, add accidental damage, and perform at-home repairs. Extended coverage starts at $ 179 for two years of service, although a four-year plan with accidental damage coverage and automated virus removal costs $ 679.

While premium coverage may seem like a decadent addition to a desktop that's less prone to damage than a laptop, those working from home amid the global health pandemic may want to turn to Dell's technicians for some IT support.

Should you buy it?

Yes. It's not for the die-hard PC enthusiast, but it's a fantastic desktop tower for the average buyer.

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