Getting onto the PC itself, it's a nice and compact minitower. Not only its dimensions, but also its look and feel, remind me very much of the Medion Akoya P36888. Not that that's necessarily a good thing, since the Medion was a 'budget' machine. On the other hand, comparatively speaking, so is the Dell given the meagre price you're paying for quite high-end components.
Similar to the Medion, the Studio XPS' chassis is a plain metal box with a plastic front, which contains two drive-bay covers and a slide-down panel. Its main casing is better than the Medion's, though, as there's no sign of flex when pressing the sides in. One thing that is lacking, however, is the ventilation. There's no fan-ventilation at the sides or top, just a 92mm fan at the rear and air intakes at the front running down both sides to provide some kind of air flow.
Meanwhile, the top of the machine is glossy black metal, which blends seamlessly with the piano-black front. Both drive bays have chromed buttons, which go well with the silver-ringed Dell logo and power button. When starting the computer up, the chrome power button's backlight changes from orange to white, both of which look attractive.
Only one optical drive is actually installed. Behind the top bay cover resides a DVD+/-RW drive, although since this is Dell it can be upgraded easily to Blu-ray for £80. Pressing the release button for the lower 5.25in bay does flex the whole plastic front, which leads to some concerns over the strength of the entire panel -- a particularly destructive child could probably have some fun with it.
As already mentioned, there's also a sliding panel similar to the Medion's, except this one simply clicks down without the smooth mechanical action of that model. Behind this you'll find four USB ports, a FireWire port, 3.5mm audio jacks for microphone and headphones, as well as memory card reader slots.
At the back is pretty much any connection you might want, headed up with S/PDIF for outputting surround sound digitally and eSATA for hooking up external storage in the fastest possible way. Below this we have another four USBs and a FireWire port, a Gigabit Ethernet port and 7.1 analogue audio outputs. You also get a Hauppauge TV tuner card that sports 3.5mm audio, composite, S-Video and antenna connectors, while the video card provides the usual complement of twin DVIs.
Opening up the case is easily achieved by removing two thumb-screws, but this reveals one of the most crowded cases arrangements you're likely to see. This impression is caused largely by the twin hard drives, which are vertically mounted with their bottom facing out against the side of the case, in effect forming a wall. The lack of hard drive cage does mean you can install full-length video cards, but there is so little clearance between the top of one of the drives and the top of the video card that you can barely slip a sheet of paper in between.
Cabling could have been a lot tidier, but then this is not the kind of system for those who either mess around inside their computers or like showing off the internals. There's nothing else too noteworthy inside, apart from a custom Dell CPU cooler tower with its own 92mm fan feeding warm air directly to the case's fan output.
Dell Studio XPS i7 Computer 18 bids$117.50 View Item