Nestled between the gaming-oriented Alienware gaming PCs and the consumer systems of Dell’s Inspiron line is the powerful Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition. This mid-tower PC is made to handle high-end graphics and media creation as part of the day to day workload, with some gaming thrown in for good measure. While it won’t replace the HP Envy Phoenix h9-1320t as our Editors’ Choice for a mid-level gaming machine, it certainly challenges others thanks to a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4770 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 graphics processor. Combined with a spacious 2TB hard drive with a 32GB flash cache for speedy performance and the Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition is a choice machine that will meet your needs ably last for years to come.
Design and Features
The XPS 8700 Special Edition is a standard tower, with a glossy black front panel, shiny chrome accents, and a honeycomb grill for ventilation. In most respects, it looks just like last year’s model from the same line, the Dell XPS 8500. On the front of the system is a tray-loading Blu-ray drive (BD/DVD), along with two USB 3.0 ports and a multi-format card reader.
The XPS 8700 Special Edition comes with a wired keyboard and mouse. While many users will want to immediately switch these out for their preferred peripherals, the included keyboard and mouse are pretty good for a bundled set. The keyboard has chiclet-style keys that offer good key travel and a comfortable typing feel, while the mouse has an ambidextrous design that will appeal to lefties.
On top of the tower is a recessed tray for setting a smartphone, external hard drive, or other device, and two additional USB 2.0 ports (one with power for charging your gadgets), and jacks for headphones and microphone. On the back of the tower you’ll find six additional USB ports (four USB 3.0, two USB 2.0), Gigabit Ethernet, several video outputs (DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI), and outputs for audio and Digital Surround Sound. For networking and wireless connectivity, the XPS 8700 is outfitted with an Intel Centrino Advanced-N card for 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Opening up the tower requires a screwdriver, but once you’ve removed the side panel you’ll find the XPS 8700 Special Edition equipped with a 2TB, 7,200rpm hard drive and 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache for faster performance. A fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4770 processor and 16GB of RAM offer potent quad-core performance, while an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 GPU provides the muscle for gaming and graphics-intensive applications. You’ll also find some room to grow, thanks to an open optical drive bay and a vacant hard drive bay for expanded storage.
Preinstalled on the hard drive is Windows 8, along with a handful of programs, like a 30-day trial of McAfee Security Central, a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365, along with a Start Screen link to Amazon, Kindle eBook Reader, and CyberLink Media Suite. Dell covers the XPS 8700 Special Edition with a one-year warranty, which includes phone support and in-home service after remote diagnosis.
The fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4770 processor is the same one found in the HP Envy 700-030qe, but the XPS 8700 bolsters it with 16GB of RAM instead of the Envy 700′s 12GB. The XPS 8700 Special Edition completed PCMark 7 with a score of 6,116 points, ahead of the Editors’ Choice Velocity Micro Vector Z25 (5,554 points) and the HP Envy Phoenix h9-1320t (4,033 points), but falling just slightly behind the HP Envy 700-030qe (6,143 points). The fourth-generation processor also resulted in leading scores in CineBench R11.5 (7.95 points) and speedy times in multimedia tests, finishing Handbrake in 29 seconds and Photoshop CS6 in 3 minutes 13 seconds.
The XPS 8700 Special Edition also benefits from an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 graphics processor, which lends itself to gaming and other graphics-intensive applications. With 3DMark 11 scores of 9,513 points (Entry settings) and 2,177 points (Extreme settings), it offers moderate gaming prowess to rival the likes of the Acer Predator AG3620-UR12 and the HP Envy Phoenix h9-1320t. This is further borne out by actual gaming performance, where the XPS 8700 produced very high frame rates at baseline 1366 by 768 resolution settings—118 frames per second in Aliens vs. Predator, 96 fps in Heaven—and respectable frame rates at high resolution with details settings set to high (AVP 22 fps, Heaven 38fps).
As a multimedia desktop, the Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition is a prosumer system that’s perfect for the user who wants to dabble in graphics arts, video editing, and a bit of 3D gaming. The inclusion of a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4770 processor, lots of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660, and a whopping 2TB of storage space make it one of the more potent mid-tower PCs on the market, and it will continue to hold its own four or five years down the road. While the gaming oriented HP Envy Phoenix h9-1320t keeps the Editors’ Choice for its superior gaming prowess, the Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition is a smart pick for a mid-tower multimedia PC thanks to a lower sticker price, with more storage and a higher tier processor, making it a great value.
|Primary Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW DL with Blu-Ray|
|Processor Family||Intel Core i7|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8 Professional|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2 TB|
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