Your guide to a better future
Dell leveled up its premium desktop in all the right ways.
Senior Editor / Reviews
Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.
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.
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.
The but at that price, you’re paying extra for the case and future upgrade opportunities. (A similarly configured desktop from .) 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 . Component options vary by region but and . But, unlike in the US, the XPS 8950 configurations in the UK and Australia are not as configurable before they ship.
Room to work. Room to grow.
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.
Liquid cooling can be added to the K-series Intel CPUs for $50.
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.
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 . 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.
A full complement of audio, video and data connections are on the back.
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.
Your guide to a better future