The Dell XPS 8930 is a desktop tower PC. Regular desktop computers aren't for everyone, as they take up a lot of space and require other accessories to make the most of them - unlike laptops. However, this style of PC case does have some major advantages, making this model one of our pick of the best home computers available.
Not only is it upgradable - and manufacturers like Dell make this easy with tool-less access to the innards of your PC, but with more space inside the case there’s more airflow, which means easier cooling, which leads to faster chips and more processing power.
You’ll need an external monitor, plus mouse and keyboard, to go with your new tower computer (Dell includes its basic office mouse and keyboard, but these are begging to be upgraded) and these can easily be picked up when you buy the machine, or ordered from elsewhere. Towers can be easily hidden below desks or tucked in corners out of sight thanks to long monitor cables and wireless peripherals which mean you can still place your work area pretty much where you like. If you need to access the case, perhaps to plug in a rarely used device, front-mounted sockets and slots mean there’s no more fumbling around the back.
Dell’s XPS 8930 desktop starts out relatively cheap, but can be specced into a monster capable of the heaviest tasks and that can acquit itself well at gaming too. You don’t have to go this far, however, with even the base model capable of running office tasks, creativity applications and games at low to mid-range settings.
Dell XPS Desktop review: Design
- Simple black design
- Tons of ports, but no Thunderbolt
The rectangular tower case has been around for a long time, and has several advantages over the all-in-one PC design. There are free expansion slots, for example, so PCIe cards can be slotted in to add new functionality. There are often empty RAM sockets into which you can easily slip compatible DIMMs, increasing the memory capacity of your PC. Then there’s the space inside the case, which improves airflow and therefore cooling. You can install case fans to keep that air moving, and because of the extra cooling your components can run faster and hotter, improving performance.
Dell’s XPS Desktop case is a compact evolution of the traditional tower. Measuring just 15.2 by 7.1 by 14-inches, it’s larger than many small-form-factor PCs such as the Mac mini or Intel NUC, and Dell has been using it for a few years, adding in upgrades like the front-facing USB-C port once in a while but not taking away features like the DVD drive slot.
A Thunderbolt connection, either on the front or back, would have been a nice thing to have, especially as the XPS Desktop line uses Intel processors, which have supported the technology since 2015. That’s not a deal breaker, though, as the USB 3.1 connection provided is plenty fast enough for most uses.
All black in its latest incarnation, the XPS Desktop is cleverly designed to be accessed easily and without tools. A simple pull on a rear-mounted lever unlocks the left-hand side of the case, from where you can unlock the power supply and swing it out on a hinged arm. This allows you to get to the motherboard below, where there may be two empty memory slots depending on the configuration you order.
These, along with the empty optical drive and hard drive bays, can be populated by you, again all without needing tools. The case supports full-size graphics cards too, so if you get the gaming bug you can swap the existing card for something a little more powerful.
Dell XPS Desktop review: Performance
- i3, i5, or i7 CPU
- 8 or 16GB RAM
- NVIDIA GPU
It may be an unassuming black tower, but inside there are some monsters lurking. The four configurations available use ninth-generation Intel processors, with a choice between the i3 9100 - four cores and four threads, with a boost clock of 4.2GHz - i5 9400 - a six core, six thread chip capable of boosting to 4.1GHz - and the i7 9700, which has eight cores, eight threads, and a boost clock of 4.7GHz. The i7 is clearly the more capable chip, but the i5 is no slouch either, and is a popular CPU among gamers.
Even the i3 won’t let you down if you’re using Office applications and a web browser. The initial configuration of 8GB of RAM is a little on the low side these days, but if you’re using the PC for web browsing and office tasks, even photo editing, it should be enough. Upgrade to 16GB if you want to use the PC for gaming, video editing, or if you find it slows down when carrying out any intensive task.
It’s hard to fault the XPS for the choices that have been made in its components. Storage is initially handled by a large hard drive, but can be specced so you have a fast solid state drive and a slower, but much larger, traditional hard drive. This two-drive solution is the best choice, keeping your operating system and applications on the SSD where they can load quickly, and saving the hard drive for documents, photos and videos.
Even the lowest model in the XPS Desktop range can be specced with a discrete graphics card, and all of them come from Nvidia’s latest 16 and 20 ranges. This pushes the whole line into gaming territory, and you can expect to play the latest games at low or medium settings. The GPUs will also help with image or video editing if the application you’re using supports their use.
Dell XPS Desktop review: Value
Compared to all-in-one PCs, desktop towers tend to be cheaper because there’s less clever engineering required to fit desktop-class processors and cooling into the narrow confines of the all-in-one case, which is designed to be unobtrusive rather than spacious. The entry-level XPS Desktop, with the i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, costs less than $600.
Of course, you need to add the cost of a screen, mouse and keyboard, but it’s still good value. Adding extras isn’t too expensive either: step up to an i5, add a GPU, double the memory, and put in an SSD, and you’re still looking at around $1,050. A roughly equivalent Mac mini from Apple would cost $250 more, and wouldn’t have the GPU.
Windows 10 has matured into a fine operating system, and Dell offers the choice between the Home and Pro versions - the latter offers business-oriented (but non-essential for home use) features such as hard drive encryption and Active Directory.
Should you buy a Dell XPS Desktop?
The Dell XPS desktop looks like great value when you place it against the all-in-one form factor PCs that are currently so very popular. And they're less expensive than the best laptops too. You can spec a machine to your exacting tastes, while being sure it will be fast and powerful. If you’re looking for a PC for work, that can be quickly and easily upgraded, and that is fast and well-connected enough to last for many more years, then this might just be the range for you.