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Dell XPS Desktop 8940 Special Edition review: a lot of PC in a small space

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Writer

Josh Goldman / CNET

The Dell XPS Desktop 8940 is a great little desktop for a laptop person like me. Like Dell XPS premium laptops, the XPS desktop is attractive and small, perfect for tight spaces. However, unlike laptops, there are many upgrade opportunities to help you cope with changing needs.

What

  • Compact but spacious inside
  • Many component options
  • Good assortment of front and rear ports

I do not like it

  • Basic accessories included
  • No rear USB-C ports
  • The design is not as nice as that of the XPS notebooks

From basic to fully charged

The Dell XPS desktop starts at about $ 640 and the Special Edition version with its “Mineral White” case starts around $ 980. In the United Kingdom, desk starts at £ 899 other in Australia it’s AU $ 2,399However, the Special Edition is not currently available in those regions. Aside from the color of the chassis, the differences come down to what you can get inside.

The basic configuration of the standard model, for example, starts with integrated graphics, but can be configured with up to a 12GB GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card or an 8GB Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card. The special edition, on the other hand, starts with a 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 Super and goes up to an 8GB GeForce RTX 3070, which is what I tested alongside a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor. Dell now sells it with 11th generation processors that go up to a Core i9-11900K.

Dell XPS desktop

Loosen two screws and you are done.

Josh Goldman / CNET

You can also configure it with up to 64GB of 2933MHz memory, but it supports up to 128GB. Similarly, you can get it with up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD and a 2TB 7200rpm hard drive for storage, but the open bays at the top of the case give you room to add more. Dell also offers the option of a 360 or 500 watt power supply and, if desired, you can complete everything with a Blu-ray burner; nice to have if you’re getting this for content creation or just want an easy option for backups. A DVD burner is standard. Fully loaded, it comes in at just over $ 3,000.

The exact configuration of my review system is no longer available, but it is comparable to an 11th Gen Core i7, 32GB of memory, a 1TB SSD plus a 2TB HDD, an 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 , a 500-watt power supply, and a Blu-ray Drive for $ 2,283. Considering current graphics card prices and availability issues, this price is relatively reasonable. However, at this price, it really should come with a better keyboard and mouse. Maybe it’s from my experience with XPS laptops, but pairing this system with a simple wired keyboard and mouse seems wrong. You might think it’s no big deal, but when Apple ships the iMac with a high-quality wireless keyboard and mouseIt’s hard to ignore as it is supposed to be Dell’s premium PC lineup.

Looks good too

If you want the performance of a gaming desktop but not the looks of one, this XPS is a good place to start. Although it lacks the overall style and polish of the XPS line of notebooks, the front is attractive and allows ample airflow while being easy to remove and clean. The rest of the chassis is sort of a basic beige box, but since it’s a magnesium alloy, it’s at least lightweight, weighing less than 20 pounds.

Dell XPS desktop

There is a good assortment of port out front.

Josh Goldman / CNET

There is a lot of free space around the processor and graphics card, so the airflow of its fans is not restricted. The desktop remains remarkably quiet even when processing 4K video or hitting over 150 frames per second with games like Far Cry V in Full HD at high graphics settings. My system’s 10th Gen Intel processor worked fine, but based on the newer systems we’ve tested with 11th Gen chips, you can expect it to be faster now. Also, I tested the XPS tower with Dell UltraSharp 4K PremierColor UP2720Q 27-inch Monitor, which proved to be an amazing partner for retouching raw photos and color correction videos.

The rear panel has many connection options, including four USB 3.1 (Gen 1) ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 5.1 audio jacks, and a Killer E2600 Gigabit Ethernet that is a lifesaver if you need to load large video files quickly. There is no Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port, which would also be useful for faster file transfers or running a hub on your desktop. However, there is a USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 port on the front for speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.

Dell XPS desktop

Josh Goldman / CNET

When size matters

A small laptop always made more sense to me because I spend more time traveling and working on buses and trains than working at home. Or at least I did until the pandemic hit, and then my years of traveling came to a sudden halt. Suddenly I had a small desk at home for the first time in over a decade and was working on an underpowered laptop for my needs that couldn’t be upgraded.

The XPS 8940 desktop is a great complement to an ultraportable laptop like Dell’s XPS line. You can configure it for your performance needs, even if that includes gaming and video and photo editing. It is also a solid option if you are looking for something small and attractive that can start with a more modest configuration and build as your needs change. It’s the flexibility you won’t get with a smaller Mac Mini or all-in-one, but not so large that you’ll lose a lot of floor or desk space.

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