Dell earned its reputation for building its PCs to order with a “just-in-time” philosophy, but over time it seems to be moving towards a pile-’em-high approach; we ordered this PC ourselves and were hoping to customize the memory and SSD using its online configurator. But no luck. We had to bundle the preset options or pay an extra £500 for a Core i7 version with the 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD we wanted. So should we bundle it up and love it?

There is certainly a lot to admire. The XPS Desktop 8950 (simply called New XPS Desktop on Dell’s UK website) is based on Intel’s excellent 12th Gen Core processors – the Core i5-12600K, in our case – and we were pleased to see DDR5 RAM . Beware, only one 8GB dongle, so to take advantage of a dual-channel memory configuration, you’ll need to purchase a second 8GB DDR5 RAM dongle yourself. These cost around £65 and three empty DIMM sockets await.

Having only 8GB of RAM didn’t bother the Dell in our benchmark tests, where it managed to achieve an overall score of 395, slipping just ahead of the Wired2Fire Ultima WS home desktop PC and its Ryzen 7 chip, and firmly blowing the Acer Aspire XC-1660’s score of 175 out of the water.

That’s the advantage of Intel’s new architecture model, and the processor’s six P cores and four E cores give a total of 16 threads to distribute complex workloads. The multi-core sections of the Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 tests reveal a slight Achilles’ heel – where systems based on the Ryzen 7 5700G and its powerful eight cores have an advantage – but it’s still more than enough to handle multi-threaded applications even strenuous.

Dell uses its own motherboard designs and we were surprised to see Intel’s high-end Z690 chipset in place. This supports overclocking, unlike the more common B660 chipset, and although the CPU is covered by a massive heatsink, we can’t imagine it’ll leave much headroom. Especially when there’s no fan attached, with cold air being drawn in by a front-mounted fan and exhausted out the back.

We expected the fans to drop to almost nothing when idle, where the XPS draws 30W, but they continued to run at a steady rate whether the PC was running a game or doing nothing at all. That meant there was always a faint hum, which was only irritating because we knew it wasn’t needed most of the time.

The Z690 chipset also allows for more capable USB ports, so why Dell only provides two USB-A 2 ports and five USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports – three front, two rear – is a mystery. Likewise, the USB-C port on the front is stuck at USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Mbits/sec) rather than Gen 2×2 (20 Mbits/sec). The only saving grace is the second USB-C port on the back, which takes advantage of the faster spec.

Good news: Both M.2 slots on the motherboard support PCIe 4, and you have the choice of shorter 2230 drives or the longer 2280 form factor. Choose the latter and you can have up to 4TB of super-fast storage at your fingertips. However, our humble 256GB drive was still blazingly fast, racking up sequential read and write speeds of 2,998MB/s and 1,849MB/s respectively in the AS SSD benchmark.

There’s also room for two 3.5-inch hard drives, stored in caddies at the top of the case. Exceptionally, Dell offers two other storage options: an SD card slot on the front of the case, as well as a slimline DVD burner. Both could be useful, although the DVD player might be less so.

There’s one component we haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s the graphics card. This most basic specification of the XPS Desktop 8950 includes an older GeForce GTX 1650 Super card. It doesn’t support ray tracing and DLSS, but is still a force to be reckoned with – even at 1440p, where it managed 49fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at high settings and 57fps. second in Hitman 2 with high detail and quality (but great sampling at 1x).

If you want more gaming power, your budget will have to go up by at least 50%, as the £1,449 Core i7/16GB/512GB machine we alluded to earlier also features RTX 3060 graphics, as well as a 1TB hard drive to store these. Games. It’s a decent spec for the money, but when you’re spending so much it’s hard to ignore how lackluster the XPS Desktop’s design is. The black plastic fascia and ugly steel innards hark back to PCs of the early 2000s, when we were just happy to escape beige.

So, do we like the XPS Desktop 8950? Yes: for less than a grand it’s a good way to buy a system based on the latest Intel technology, and we can’t fault any of the components. It is also easy to upgrade. But do we like the XPS Desktop 8950? It’s an emotion too far.

Dell XPS Desktop 8950 Specifications

Processor

Intel Core i5-12600K 2.8GHz/4.9GHz

RAM

8GB Dell 4400MHz DDR5

Graphics adapter

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super

Storage

256GB M.2 NVMe PCI-E 4 SSSTC CL4 Series Drive

Storage expansion

1x M.2, 2x 3.5 inch

Graphic outputs

DisplayPort, DVI-D, HDMI

Other Ports

2 x USB 2, 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2, 2.5GB Ethernet

Wireless

WiFi 6

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5.2

Dimensions, mm (LDH)

173×427×373mm

weight (kg)

7.4kg

Operating system

Windows 11 Home

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