Dell XPS 8950 Desktop Review: Lots to Love, Inside and Out - CNET

3 months ago 39

Every year the gap between desktop and laptop performance gets smaller. A laptop will always have the portability advantage, and with more workers splitting time between home and the office, being able to easily pick up and work anywhere is a plus. Then again, more people are working from home full-time, and a desktop such as Dell's XPS 8950 might be the best move now. 

Like

A lot of configuration choicesAmple room for expansion, upgradesPower supply, liquid-cooling options

Don't Like

Base configuration not worth consideringDesign still doesn't live up to XPS laptops

Dell revamped its premium XPS desktop for 2022 with a larger chassis that accommodates a greater variety of components. That means this midsize tower gives you room to expand and increase performance down the road -- the biggest benefit of a desktop over a laptop. With a generous port assortment front and back, there's no need for a dock or hub. Plus, with new power supply and liquid-cooling options, the XPS 8950 can be a discreet gaming PC, a productivity machine and a content-creation system all in one box. 

Dell XPS 8950 Desktop

Price as reviewed CPU Memory Graphics Storage Networking Connections Operating system
$1,713
3.7GHz Intel Core i5-12600K
16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR5 4,800MHz
8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
512GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD (boot) + 2TB 7,200rpm SATA 6Gb/s (storage)
Killer Wi-Fi 6 1675 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.2
USB 3.2 Type-A Gen 1 (x2 rear, x3 front), USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (x1 rear, x1 front), USB 2.0 Type-A (x2), 3.5mm combo jack, 7.1 audio stack, gigabit Ethernet, SD card slot
Windows 11 Home

The Dell XPS 8950 Desktop starts under $735 but at that price, you're paying extra for the case and future upgrade opportunities. (A similarly configured desktop from Dell's Inspiron line is just $588.) Even spending a little more for an XPS configuration around $1,000 will get you a much better PC experience. The configuration I tested, which is far from fully loaded, is available for around $1,700. Component options vary by region but a similar configuration is AU$3,599 in Australia and £1,666 in the UK. But, unlike in the US, the XPS 8950 configurations in the UK and Australia are not as configurable before they ship.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

Room to work. Room to grow.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Get more power

Dell offers a lot of component options for the XPS 8950. A lot. You can choose from 12th-gen Intel Core i5, i7 or i9 processors including unlocked K-series versions of each. There are three Nividia GeForce GTX graphics cards, seven RTX cards up to the RTX 3090 and four AMD Radeon options including the RX 6900 XT. It supports up to 128GB of memory. And there are four single-drive and eight dual-drive selections for storage. There are even two case color choices, night sky and platinum silver, although only the latter comes with little metal feet; the night sky case gets rubber feet.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

Liquid cooling can be added to the K-series Intel CPUs for $50.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Regardless of what components you go with, if you plan to upgrade the processor or graphics card post-purchase, strongly consider maxing out the power supply. Dell offers a 460-, 750- and 1,000-watt PSU and since it's not a standard size, it's best to spend $50 or $100 extra and get more power up front. Also, if you go with a K-series processor, you can add liquid cooling for $50. 

Well connected 

Along with the case being overall larger with more room inside than its predecessor, the XPS 8950 has a redesigned exterior. The silver version I tested has an aluminum front panel, a resin grill and aluminum feet and sides. It definitely looks nicer than the plastic front of the XPS 8940  but it still falls short of the clean, streamlined bodies of the XPS laptop line. The front bezel and interior layout is designed to pull air from the front to back across the graphics, power supply and M.2 SSD storage. The cooling system is quiet, too.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 computer on an orange background

A full complement of audio, video and data connections are on the back. 

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Dell markets the XPS 8950 toward content creators and the port assortment backs that up. The front panel has you covered for quick connections with a headphone jack, SD card slot and USB-C and USB-A ports. That continues on the back with 7.1 audio jacks as well as Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C for fast data transfers.

It might be tempting to go with a gaming laptop or one made for content creators instead of a desktop. You can certainly get models that can rival desktop performance. But if you honestly don't need portability you really are better off with a desktop such as the XPS 8950. You can get it configured for your performance needs, even if that includes video and photo editing and gaming. It's also a solid pick if you're looking for something somewhat compact and attractive that can start out with a more modest configuration and be built out as your needs change. It's the flexibility you won't get with a smaller Mac Mini-type computer or an all-in-one, but not so big you'll lose a bunch of floor or desk space to it.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Gigabyte Aero 16

13124

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H

12862

Dell XPS 8950

10765

Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition

8956

HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34

6638

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H

18033

Dell XPS 8950

17355

Gigabyte Aero 16

13949

Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition

11789

HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34

9698

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme

Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition

25501

Dell XPS 8950

24145

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H

23866

Gigabyte Aero 16

19269

HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34

9388

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Highest 1,920x1,080)

Dell XPS 8950

159

Gigabyte Aero 16

113

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H

95

Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition

60

HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34

30

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

System Configurations Dell XPS 8950 Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition HP ENVY All-in-One Desktop 34 Gigabyte Aero 16 Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16IAH7H

Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-12600K; 16GB DDR5 RAM 4,800MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 Ti; 2TB HDD
Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 RAM 2,933MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-11700; 16GB DDR4 RAM 3,200MHz; 6GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 1TB SSD + 512GB SSD
Microsoft Windows 11 Pro; 2.9GHz Intel Core i9-12900K; 32GB DDR4 RAM 4,800MHz; 16GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 Ti; 1TB +2TB SSD
Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-12700H; 16GB DD4 RAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070 Ti; 512GB SSD
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