Dell, HP, and iBuyPower Back-to-School PC Roundup

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Dell XPS 8300 Design and Layout

The XPS 8300 arrived in a compact box similar in size and stature to HP's system, and while you can tuck it out of sight, you'll deprive others of a gorgeous case that's clearly influenced by Apple. It's a white system, which isn't unique to PC cases in general, but certainly a departure from what you would expect from a bulk OEM. The result is a clean looking system flanked by subtle curves and a glossy front facade.

A multi-format memory card reader sits on top of the front bezel, and below that are a pair of drive bays hidden behind stealth covers. One of these houses the XPS 8300's Blu-ray reader, and other other one is empty. Right below the empty optical bay is a door that manually slides down to reveal a pair of USB 2.0 ports and solitary SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port.

Like HP's system, there's isn't a handle on the XPS 8300, though there are hand grips on the front and back that make it easier to transport.

Up on top are a pair of front-facing USB 2.0 ports and mic/headphone inputs situated in the center, a power button towards the front, and a recessed area to plop your keys, USB thumb drives, loose change, receipts, and anything else you dig out of your pockets. It's also an ideal spot to plop your mobile gear while they charge, like a smartphone, handheld game system, or portable media player.

Around the back you'll find four additional USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, GbE LAN, optical SPDIF, and audio inputs. Absent are any water cooling in/outlets, though it's such a tight squeeze inside (see below), you'll quickly abandon any thoughts of trying to cram a radiator and water cooling loop inside the XPS 8300.

The side panel is held in place with two thumb screws, and once removed, the panel door pops right off. As we mentioned, it's a tight fit inside the XPS 8300, and apparently housekeeping wasn't a top priority, or even on the to-do list. You'll spot a zip tie here and there, but nothing that would qualify as a serious attempt at cable management.

We do like that Dell kept the bottom part of the case open to accommodate longer videocards, especially in a case as small as this one. But if you do plan to upgrade the GPU to something more powerful than the Radeon HD 6770, you could end up stretching the capabilities of the included 460W power supply, though our power consumption tests showed there's room to spare.

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