Dell XPS 8960 review: Plenty of power in this unassuming package
Dell XPS 8960 specs (as reviewed)
Price: $3,149 as reviewed
CPU: Intel Core i7-13700K
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
Storage: 1TB SSD
Accessories: Keyboard and mouse
Size: 16.8 x 14.6 x 6.8 inches
Weight: 19 - 29.4 pounds
The Dell XPS 8960 ($2,749 to start, $3,149 as reviewed) looks like a nondescript office computer, but it's really a gaming PC in disguise.
This boxy beige or black tower blends right in with '90s office decor, yet beneath the unassuming exterior you'll find the latest Intel Raptor Lake 13th Gen chips and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 series GPUs. Our Dell XPS 8960 review unit showed up with some fairly powerful components packed inside, and though it's not ideal for 4K fans its more than beefy enough to play the latest and greatest PC games @ 1080p with excellent performance.
Some may balk at its pedestrian packaging, but for my money the Dell XPS 8960 delivers great value for a gaming PC, and that offers a unique selling point which sets it apart from the rest of the best gaming PCs on the market.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Price and configurations
Price starts at $2,749, can climb to nearly $5k
The Dell XPS 8960 is available for purchase right now via Dell's website and select third-party retailers. It starts at $2,749 at time of publication, and for that you get an XPS case (in white or black, aka Platinum or Graphite) with a 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, a 512GB SSD and a copy of Windows 11 Home. It also comes with an Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E wireless card (which supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth) as well as a Dell keyboard and wired mouse.
Of course, you can pay more for better parts. You can get an XPS 8960 with up to a 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900K CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, 64GB of DDR5 RAM and a pair of 2TB SSDs (so 4TB total) for storage. Such a machine would cost you roughly $4,929 before tax.
Note that you can pay an additional $50 to add a DVD +/- RW optical drive to your machine, if you like the idea of having a physical DVD drive on your PC.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Design
Simple rectangular case looks straight out of The Office
Cool under pressure
As you can see from the photos throughout this Dell XPS 8960 review, this gaming PC doesn't look the part. The simple rectangular tower case is serving '90s office park chic, and if you appreciate understated design I think you'll like how quiet and unobtrusive the XPS 8960 can be when it's sitting on your desk.
Sure, it's not as eye-catching as some of the more garish gaming PCs out there, but I like how the XPS desktop doesn't draw attention to itself. This subtlety sets it apart from just about every other gaming PC we review here at Tom's Guide, giving the XPS a unique selling point.
It's not hard to squeeze into your existing setup either, as it measures a pretty reasonable 16.8 x 14.6 x 6.8 inches (or just over a foot tall and nearly a foot and a half deep) and weighing between 19-25 pounds, depending on how you configure it. It's not too hard to move around either, as I discovered while moving it back and forth between the desk in my bedroom and the nice big 4K TV in my living room.
All units come with two fans and a 125-watt air cooling system, though you can upgrade to liquid cooling for higher-end builds. A metal grille on the lower half of the front panel pulls in air which is then used to cool the components inside the PC, causing steady waves of warm air to come out of the rear and side exhaust grilles when you're playing games or doing other demanding work.
In my experience the cooling in our review unit is good enough to keep it reasonably quiet even when gaming with all the bells and whistles cranked to max, which is nice when you have it set up on your desk next to your monitor. With a power button in the top-right corner of the front panel the design of this case tempts you to leave the XPS 8960 on the floor, but that can make accessing the front-mounted ports a little bit of a hassle.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Ports and upgradability
Plenty of ports on front and back
Case is cramped inside but easy to open
Our Dell XPS 8960 review unit comes with plenty of ports, some arrayed vertically on the front panel and the rest around back.
Up front you get an SD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, another identical port with PowerShare and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port with PowerShare.
On the back panel you find a full set of six audio ports for setting up a 7.1 surround system, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a pair of old-fashioned USB-A 2.0 ports, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 2x2 port and a Gigabit Ethernet jack.
In the top-right corner of the back panel you'll also find a single screw which, when removed, allows you to easily pop the side panel (right side when viewed from the rear) off and access the interior.
Inside the case is cramped but neatly organized. My meaty paws had a hard time working freely in the busy corners of the interior, but in general I was able to muddle through the process of swapping components out and wiring things cleanly without much issue. If you, like me, are on the large end size-wise you may have a hard time getting in there and moving things around.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Gaming performance
Great for gaming @ 1080p, solid 4K gaming
Competitive with more expensive, flashier gaming PCs
Don't let the drab exterior fool you—when quitting time rolls around and it's time to fire up some games, the Dell XPS 8960's got it where it counts.
Our review unit sports a few upgrades over the entry-level model, so it packs an Intel Core i7-13700K CPU and 32GB of RAM in addition to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU. When I set it up in a fairly small, unventilated bedroom and played Cyberpunk 2077 for several hours in a row @ 1080p with all the settings cranked to max, I had loads of fun. More importantly, the XPS 8960 managed to run the game smoothly at a steady 90+ frames per second with no noticeable performance issues or frame drops.
Now that's at 1080p and with Nvidia's better-than-ever DLSS 3 upscaling tech running, but it's still mighty impressive. I especially enjoyed the fact that the RTX 4080 in our review unit had no trouble with the new Raytracing Overdrive mode in Cyberpunk, which allows you to flip on path-traced lighting for more realistic lights, shadows and reflections. I also appreciate that even after hours of play, the XPS 8960's fan noise was barely audible and the heat from the machine was enough to warm a small, cool room, but not enough to cause discomfort.
We also put our review unit through a series of performance benchmarks to see how it stacks up against the competition, and the results back up my hands-on experience. As you can see from the charts in this reviews, the XPS 8960 can't quite keep up with some of the recent high-end gaming PCs we've tested, like the Alienware Aurora R15. But that's to be expected given that the R15 we tested is both more expensive than the XPS 8960 and powered by more powerful components, including a 13th Gen Core i9 CPU and a more powerful RTX 4090 GPU.
The Origin Chronos V3 gaming desktop we recently tested, by comparison, is neck-and-neck with the XPS 8960 in terms of game framerates (but not in terms of CPU muscle, as you'll see below) despite costing roughly $1k more. Of course, the Chronos V3 also has more storage and packs everything into a far smaller, more visually striking case than the XPS 8960.
But if you care more about performance than a flashy case or a unique design, the Dell XPS 8960 is capable of delivering excellent gaming power at a reasonable price.
Dell XPS 8960 review: General performance
Plenty of power for everything from office work to video editing
Speedy drives stay quiet under load
Obviously, with a 13th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 32GB of RAM under the hood our XPS 8960 review unit has no trouble handling day-to-day work tasks. I never saw a hint of performance issues during the week and change I spent using this PC as my daily driver, not even with 30+ tabs open in multiple browsers as well as multiple apps and downloads running in the background.
When we put the XPS 8960 through our battery of non-gaming performance tests we saw a similar story play out. While it still can't quite match the scores of a pricier, flashier gaming PC like the Aurora R15, the XPS 8960 is nearly as good for a lot less money.
Notably, our XPS 8960 review unit managed a solid score of 19,134 in the Geekbench 5.4 multi-core CPU benchmark, a strong score that puts it just a bit behind the Aurora R15 and Origin Chronos V3 in terms of raw CPU power.
But in our drive speed test, which measures how quickly a PC can copy 25GB of multimedia files, the XPS 8960 and its 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD managed a top speed of 2,047 MBps (megabytes per second), zipping past the Aurora R15 and the Chronos V3.
In our video editing test, which times how long it takes the PC to transcode a 4K video down to 1080p using Handbrake, the XPS 8960 managed to do it in just under 3 minutes—10 seconds slower than the Origin Chronos V3, but 14 seconds faster than the Alienware Aurora 15. Tiny differences, to be sure, but still evidence that the XPS 8960 can compete toe-to-toe with more expensive gaming PCs.
A similar story played out when we tested the machine's performance in a few benchmarks designed to measure how well it handles raytracing (3DMark), editing photos in Adobe Photoshop Elements (HDXPRT 4), or more esoteric computing tasks like facial recognition (CrossMark). As you can see from the chart of results above, the XPS 8960 consistently performed slightly worse than the Alienware Aurora R15 and the Origin Chronos V3 in all tests save the 3DMark Port Royal Ray Tracing test, in which the XPS 8960 actually scored slightly better than the Chronos V3.
That's a lot of numbers and charts to back up my assertion that if you want a high-performance PC and don't want to shell out for the extras that come with an eye-catching gaming rig like an Aurora R15 (which includes customizable LEDs and extra fans), the Dell XPS 8960 is a great choice.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Software
No major bloatware issues
Our Dell XPS 8960 review unit didn't come with much in the way of bloatware pre-installed, which is exactly what you want in a gaming PC. The more cruft running in the background without your knowledge, the worse your games are likely to run.
The pre-installed apps to pay attention to are the MyDell and SupportAssist apps, which you can use to do things like run diagnostic tests and redownload the software which comes with your PC and fiddle with system settings.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Keyboard & mouse
Dell XPS 8950 review: Keyboard and mouse
Wired keyboard & mouse included with every purchase
Functional, simple, nice to have
Our Dell XPS 8960 review unit arrived packaged with a wired Dell Multimedia Keyboard and a wired Dell mouse which appear to be the same models packed in for free with every XPS purchase.
They're both functional and uninteresting, which is fine given that they cost you nothing to receive.
What I will say about them is that they're a nice touch, one not every gaming PC vendor gives its customers. While you shouldn't use these cheap peripherals for too long (they're almost certainly not the most ergonomic accessories for you, and you'll be using them all the time when on the PC), it's nice that you can count on having a keyboard and mouse show up with your new PC—nothing worse than unboxing a new desktop and setting it up, only to realize you don't have the necessary peripherals to use it.
Dell XPS 8960 review: Verdict
The Dell XPS 8960 is the latest and greatest XPS desktop, delivering enough power to play the best PC games at rock-solid framerates in a PC that wouldn't look out of place in an attic or back office.
I've always appreciated Dell for fielding a gaming PC that looks like the XPS, and it's exciting to see how performant the XPS 8960 is thanks to the killer combo of Raptor Lake and Nvidia's 40-series GPUs (not to mention the wonder of DLSS 3). The fact that I was able to play Cyperpunk 2077 @ 1080p for hours with all the settings cranked to max on our review unit, without ever hearing much more than a whisper from the fans, really brought home how powerful modern gaming PCs can be—if you can afford the latest and greatest.
You can certainly find bigger or flashier-looking gaming PCs on the market, but if you want top-tier performance in a very unassuming package, the Dell XPS 8960 is the PC to buy.