Unfortunately, Dell has used 1GB DDR3 sticks to achieve the Studio XPS' total 6GB capacity, meaning all of the motherboard's memory slots are filled -- but at least with this capacity you're not likely to need to upgrade the RAM anytime soon and the 64-bit edition of Windows Vista Premium installed will be able to take full advantage.
So how does this system actually run? First off it's worth mentioning an unusual acoustic issue. While the system is generally quiet, it does regularly rev up when under stress. And, though it's only for brief periods, at these times the Studio XPS gets very noisy indeed. It's not an issue if you use the PC for everyday computing, but then what's the point of getting a Core i7?
Getting onto performance, the large amount of RAM combines with twin 500GB hard drives in RAID 0 and a Core i7 920 running at 2.67GHz to make for one very fast PC, as demonstrated by how it stomps all over the competition in our PCMark Vantage results -- just remember to take the synthetic 'gaming' result with a pinch of salt.
Not that Dell's Studio XPS makes for a bad gaming machine, thanks to the addition of the ATI Radeon HD 4850. It's just that with this being the best graphics card Dell offers on these systems, it's not quite up to the power of the rest of the components. This is demonstrated by the way other gaming PCs trounce the Studio XPS in Call of Duty 4 and Crysis, despite featuring older processors. Perhaps the most interesting comparison is with Ultimo Nano, which uses the same graphics card. As you can see in the Call of Duty 4 results, though the Nano only has a Core 2 CPU and 4GB of DDR2 RAM, there is never more than six FPS (frames per second) between the two machines.
Overall, then, the Dell Studio XPS is a compact and very capable machine, with the intermittent fan noise when under stress as the only real issue. It's also excellent value for money for a Core i7 machine, especially when you consider all the extras it packs, including Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, wireless peripherals and an analogue/digital TV tuner, will set you back less than £900. And, as ever with Dell, if you don't need these options or want a different specification, the Studio XPS range starts from £750, which still gets you a powerful and competent PC. Just keep in mind that as ever with new technology, you do pay a premium for Core i7 over Core 2 and though Dell has made this premium quite small, for many users it still won't be worth it.
Another win for Dell, its Studio XPS is a stylish, compact, powerful and affordable Core i7 desktop that does everything except play Blu-ray discs -- something that can be specified. It even lets you play the latest games with few compromises, though it will occasionally get annoyingly loud when doing so.