Back to the Future: Upgrading to a Dell Studio XPS


It's 2009, which means my trusty Dell Dimension 8300 desktop is now well over 5 years old (putting it somewhere along the lines of 70 in terms of computer years - think dog years times 2). As such, I've recently decided it was time to upgrade.

Without further ado, it's time to introduce my new rig - Dell Studio XPS 435MT.  This new beast features Intel's latest and (supposedly) greatest Core i7 processor, 6GB of DDR3 SDRAM, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB video card, 750GB hard drive, and a 23" HD+ (2048 x 1152) Dell SP2309W LCD monitor.  Needless to say, this is quite an upgrade, going from a 5.5 year old Pentium 4 with 2GB of RAM to this powerhouse.

While the new hardware was sure to impress, it was the OS that I was most concerned about - Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit). Windows machines running 4 or more GB of RAM require a 64-bit operating system (be it WinXP x64 or Vista 64-bit), thus the Studio XPS shipped with Vista 64-bit.

It's now 48 hours since I first got the new kicks up and running.  In general, I've had no problems whatsoever with Vista (only some slight annoyances like the inability to run Macromedia Studio 8 in 64-bit).  In fact, as I'd been forewarned about, I've quickly grown accustom to the Aero interface and the overall UI updates.  Vista 64, while not the quickest to boot or least resource intensive version of Windows, has been far less disappointing than the seemingly infinite negative reviews floating across the Cloud have suggested. There is a definite learning curve (as always) in transitioning from XP Pro to V64, but nothing terribly surprising or too difficult. Sometimes holding off on an upgrade (at least until some of the kinks are worked out) is the best thing to do.

The one and only major annoyance, thus far, comes from the hardware itself. Although not airplane engine (or MUNI) loud, due to the "high performance" nature of this particular rig (and the somewhat cramped quarters inside the 435 chassis) the case fan is constantly spinning. [Dell tech support admitted that "in all honesty" their higher-end machines, a la XPS, are louder than their "consumer" products; regardless they are sending me a replacement fan to see if it helps reduce the noise.] It emits a low-frequency drone that is admittedly easy to mask with music, movies, tv, or any other moderate sound/noise.  Nonetheless, it is noticeable enough (see: annoying) that I have yet to decide if I will end up keeping the machine once Dell's 21 grace period ends.

All in all, the Studio XPS with Core i7, etc is an incredibly powerful, fast, and capable desktop.  The 23" display is sharp and bright, and when combined with the Radeon HD 4850, video playback looks incredible.  I'll check back in once I get a chance to put this beast through some more thorough testing...