Dell XPS 8950 review

This unassuming grey box hides a solid gaming desktop

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on a desk
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Dell XPS 8950 doesn't look like a traditional gaming desktop, but it packs enough power to run even demanding PC games.

Pros

  • +

    Understated design

  • +

    Solid overall performance

  • +

    Plenty of ports

Cons

  • -

    Understated design

  • -

    Lack of storage options

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Dell XPS 8950 specs

Price: $1,647 as reviewed
CPU: Up to 12th gen Intel Core i9-12900K
RAM: Up to 64 GB
GPU: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
Storage: Up to 2 TB SSD + 2 TB HDD
Accessories: Keyboard and mouse
Ports: 7 USB-A, 2 USB-C, 3.5mm combo jack, 7.1 audio stack, gigabit Ethernet, SD card slot, optical drive
Size:  16.8 x 15.3 x 6.8 inches
Weight:  16.7 pounds

The Dell XPS 8950 (starting at $749) proves that a gaming PC doesn’t need to have an ostentatious design to be worth buying. As with its predecessor, the Dell XPS 8940, this desktop seems more suited to an office setting than one’s personal gaming den. But despite its nondescript appearance, the XPS 8950 has plenty of power to run the best PC games.

Dell offers a slew of upgradability options for this desktop, including additional RAM and storage, a liquid-cooled CPU and up to an Nvidia RTX 3090 GPU. And since this rig is so customizable, you can add whatever components you may already own. But no matter which configuration you opt for, it will pack a powerful 12th gen Intel Core CPU.

The Dell XPS 8950 is a rock-solid desktop worthy of a spot among the best computers and best gaming PCs. I’ll explain why in this review.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Price and availability

  • Starting at $749
  • Decked-out configurations get pricey 

The Dell XPS 8950 has a starting price of $749 on Dell's website (opens in new tab), though it’s sometimes discounted. This configuration packs an Intel Core i5-12400 CPU, an Intel UHD Graphics 730 integrated GPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

You can upgrade up to a liquid-cooled Core i9-12900K CPU, 64GB of RAM, 4TB of storage (2TB SSD + 2TB HDD) and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 graphics card. Fully kitted configurations cost nearly $4,000. If you want more than 4TB of storage, you're out of luck.

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on desk with optical drive open

(Image credit: Future)

Our review unit came with a 12th gen Intel Core i5-12600k processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti GPU and 16GB of RAM along with a 512GB SSD and 2TB of HDD storage. This configuration costs $1,647 (opens in new tab) at time of publication.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Design 

  • Looks like an average office desktop
  • Relatively light, doesn’t take up much space

The XPS 8950 is a gaming desktop that doesn’t look the part. Though its understated appearance could be a turn-off for those who appreciate flashy designs, I rather like the XPS 8950’s simple and elegant look.

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

Like its predecessor, the front of the PC has a crosshatch pattern that also provides ventilation. The sides have no adornments to speak of while the back offers a wide variety of ports. There are also a few ports in front for good measure.

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

This desktop isn’t all that large, measuring 16.8 x 15.3 x 6.8 inches. And with a starting weight of 16.7 pounds, it’s relatively light. It fits great on the best standing desks and best gaming desks. While ginormous rigs are eye-catching, I actually prefer smaller, understated desktops. Because of that, I appreciate the XPS 8950’s smaller footprint and weight. It’s certainly nothing like the monstrous 40-pound Alienware Aurora R11.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Ports and upgradability 

  • A slew of ports on front and back
  • Easy-to-upgrade components

The XPS 8950 packs nearly every port type you could ask for. Heck, it even has an optical drive!

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on a desk showing a close-up of front ports.

(Image credit: Future)

On the front, you’ll find a power button, the aforementioned optical drive, an SD card slot, a 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack, three USB-A ports and a USB-C port. The back has a Kensington lock, a 7.1 audio stack, a DisplayPort, four USB-A, a USB-C and an Ethernet port.

Unlike the XPS 8940, this desktop lacks HDMI ports on its motherboard. Of course, if you buy one with a discrete GPU then you should have at least one (and probably multiple, depending on the card) HDMI port on the GPU itself. 

However, if your GPU malfunctions, the fact that the 8950 doesn't have an HDMI out on the motherboard itself means you'll need to use a DisplayPort cable if you want to connect your PC to a display. If you want to plug your TV into this gaming rig, you’re out of luck unless your set has a DisplayPort. As someone who likes playing PC games on a TV, the absence of an HDMI port on the motherboard is disappointing.

(Image credit: Future)

Opening the XPS 8950 is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is remove the screw holding the Kensington lock in place and then pull the side panel away to reveal the rig’s interior.

Due to the PC’s small size, its internal components are closely packed together. But even with my big hands, I didn’t find it overly difficult to maneuver around. Replacing the GPU, hard drives and RAM shouldn’t present a problem for most people.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Gaming performance 

  • Impressive gaming performance
  • Games generally run at 60fps at 1080p

Our XPS 8950 review model didn’t disappoint when it came to gaming performance. This is due to its RTX 3060 Ti graphics card and 16 GB of RAM. The 512 GB SSD drive also delivered impressive loading speeds.

We benchmarked the XPS 8950 by measuring frame rates in a number of games, both at 1080p and 4K settings, with graphics turned up to "Ultra" presets. For this review, we’ve compared the XPS 8950 to the XPS 8940, along with the Corsair One i300 and Alienware Aurora R13.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Dell XPS 8950Alienware Aurora R13Corsair One i300
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (1080p / 4K)85/41 fps105/56123/70
Borderlands 3 (1080p / 4K)94/36140/58158/68
Grand Theft Auto V (1080p / 4K)124/37170/56179/65
Red Dead Redemption 2 (1080p / 4K)78/2863/30123/54
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1080p / 4K)108/37153/58171/65

On average, the XPS 8950 didn’t exceed the frame rates achieved by the other computers we compared it to — even its predecessor. However, it still ran titles at or above the desired 30 to 60 fps range, especially at 1080p resolution. These frame rates are quite impressive for a rig costing far less than the above competition — at least in the configuration we reviewed.

As for my own qualitative testing, I fired up my perennial favorites for gauging performance – Doom Eternal and Cyberpunk 2077. Generally, both hovered within the 40 to 45 frames per second range at 4K resolution. I wasn’t surprised by Doom Eternal’s numbers since it’s such a well-optimized game. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Cyberpunk 2077’s performance considering it’s one of the worst-optimized titles.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Overall performance 

  • Solid performance for everyday computing
  • Speedy file transfer and video transcoding 

Given its prowess as a gaming computer, the XPS 8950 is more than capable of handling productivity tasks.

On the Geekbench 5.4 benchmark, which measures a system's overall performance, the XPS 8950 scored an impressive 11,006 on the multicore portion of the test. This outstrips its predecessor’s 9,019 score but trails significantly behind the Alienware Aurora R13 (15,329) and Corsair One (17,965).

Regarding file transfer speeds, the XPS 8950 copied 25GB of files from an external drive at a rate of 1,382 Mbps, which is far beyond the XPS 8940’s 439 Mbps. As impressive as that is, it’s still behind the Aurora R13 (1,894) and Corsair One (3,006).

Dell XPS 8950 desktop on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

In our Handbrake video-editing test, which involves transcoding a 4K clip to 1080p, the XPS 8950 transcoded a video in 4 minutes and 38 seconds, whereas its predecessors achieved the same task in 6 minutes and 26 seconds. The more powerful Aurora R13 (3:52) and Corsair One (3:28) transcoded video in under four minutes each.

Despite falling behind its competition in benchmark tests, I found the XPS 3950 a more than capable everyday work computer. It never floundered, even when I had over 20 tabs open while running a YouTube video and using GIMP to edit photos. Granted, I’m not exactly a power user when it comes to productivity so I wasn’t expecting my average use to make this rig buckle. But for my purposes, it delivers the kind of performance I require.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Software 

  • My Dell app lets you customize key system features  

The My Dell app comes pre-installed with the XPS 8950. This application has several useful features such as system optimization for performance, sound and visual optimization for streaming content and a power manager. The latter is especially useful in case you need to minimize power consumption to conserve energy (and lower your energy bill).

Dell XPS 8950 review: Keyboard and mouse 

  • Included keyboard and mouse are solid peripherals 

The XPS 8950 comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. The roomy keyboard was easy to type on for long stretches of time. Similarly, I found the mouse responsive and comfortable to use.

Dell XPS 8950 keyboard and mouse sitting on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of customization, the keyboard has 12 programmable keys while the mouse has five. You can also change the latter’s DPI if you feel the cursor moves too slow or fast. Both devices feature the sleek, silver design of the XPS 8950.

Dell XPS 8950 review: Verdict 

Like I said up top, I tend to prefer PCs – gaming or otherwise – with understated and unassuming designs. I like flashy rigs as much as anyone else, but those aesthetic qualities don’t usually provide enhanced productivity. For a gaming rig specifically, I need it to run modern titles without a hitch. To that end, the Dell XPS 8950 is my kind of gaming PC.

However, if you need a gaming PC that commands attention, the Alienware Aurora R13 is an excellent choice. It’s generally pricier than the XPS 8950, but the cost may be worth it if you absolutely must have a gaming rig that looks the part. If you desire a smaller machine that still packs considerable power, the Corsair One i300 is another gaming PC worth considering.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.