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Dell XPS 8940 SE review: A powerful but minimalist desktop PC with NVIDIA RTX graphics

Dell's premium creator's desktop fits nicely into a well-packaged 19-liter case, but it also delivers a punch thanks to its RTX 3070 graphics and Intel processor.

Dell Xps 8940 Front
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Dell's famous XPS line of laptops is well known, but the company also has an excellent range of desktop offerings to match that pro-level, creator genre where power is combined with a minimalist design.

The XPS 8940 Special Edition (SE) in white and regular XPS 8940 bring plenty of modern configuration options, ports, and the ability to run NVIDIA's latest RTX 3060 or 3070 GPUs. While the inside of the XPS 8940 doesn't look pretty, the exterior and value for performance make up for it.

Plenty of ports, nice looks

Dell XPS 8940 SE: What I like

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The XPS 8940 SE is a mostly straightforward desktop PC in a modern 19-liter case. Configuration options run from 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700 up to a mighty i9-10900K for an extra $392. There are only two GPU options, but both are very good with the RTX 3060 Ti and the much more powerful RTX 3070 for an extra $196. Considering RTX cards are tough to find these days, these are excellent choices.

Dell breaks storage up with a primary 512GB SSD with decent read and write speeds and a slower but more substantial 2TB SATA HDD for long-term storage. RAM starts at a modest 16GB of DDR4 but can be configured up to an appealing 128GB of DDR4 for an extra $931.

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Dell Xps 8940 Back

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Dell Xps 8940 Back Profile

The case is exceptionally clean and minimalist, which is Dell's goal here. It is a "mineral white" box with only modest flair in the front with its cleverly designed grilled intake. Seeing as the XPS 8940 can pack a punch in performance, that grill, along with the ample airflow, ensure this PC can perform for more than short bursts.

CategoryDell XPS 8940 SE
Operating SystemWindows 10
ProcessorIntel 10th Gen
Core i7-10700K
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
Memory32GB DDR4 (2933Mhz)
Storage512GB SSD
2TB SATA HDD (7200 RPM)
ConnectivityKiller Wi-Fi 6 AX1650i
Bluetooth 5.1
RJ-45
Disk driveTray-load Blu-Ray Drive (Reads and Writes to BD/DVD/CD)
ExpansionUp to 3 storage devices
Slots1 PCIe x16
1 PCIe x1
1 PCIe x4
Ports (rear)2x USB 2.0
4x USB 3.1
Ports (front)3x USB 3.1
1 USB Type-C
SD slot
Headphone
Power supplyUp to 500W
Case size19L (toolless thumbscrews)
ColorsMineral White

The front is also home to a nice variety of front-facing ports, including three USB 3.1 Type-A, one USB Type-C, a full SD slot, and a headphone jack — this is something I wish we would see on more desktop PCs as it is so much easier than reaching behind to find a port.

Dell includes a matching white keyboard and mouse in the box. Both are wired and relatively cheap, but the keyboard is quite lovely for typing on, and I would not mind using it for long writing sessions. Of course, you could spruce this setup by going wireless with a 60 percent keyboard, but at least Dell includes these accessories to hold you over.

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Dell Xps 8940 Se Pcmark10

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Dell Xps 8940 Se Geekbench5

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Dell Xps 8940 Se Time Spy

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Dell Xps 8940 Se Cinebenchr23

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Dell Xps 8940 Se Cdm

It's also worth calling out that the XPS 8940 SE has a standard DVD read/write drive with an option for a Blue-ray one that can also read and write. It's a feature that is increasingly rare but nice to have if you still rely on physical media.

Overall performance is excellent. While not meant to game, the XPS 8940 can play any AAA titles you throw at it, thanks to that RTX 3070 GPU. Sure, the fans will run a bit hot, and you won't get as much performance as a gaming rig, but the XPS 8940 SE can have some fun when work is over. Keep in mind, cooling here is done with a traditional, albeit significant, heatsink and not more advanced water-cooling, which is needed for long, high-performance runs for gaming.

Case finishing is eh

Dell XPS 8940 SE: What I don't like

Dell Xps 8940 Heatsink

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

From a distance (and front-facing), the XPS 8940 is a sharp-looking, clean, and minimalist design that would be perfect in any home or office. But once you get up close, take it apart, or even turn it around, you can see where Dell made some savings. The case feels low cost compared to more premium options. There are many thin plastic and metal parts with barely organized cabling. It's what any off-the-shelf PC would look like ten years ago with none of the pizzaz or high-end refinements available from other OEMs.

One example: the metal heatsink had fingerprints on the top plate, evidently from the factory install process. It's no big deal but it is a reminder this is a mass-produced PC meant to deliver peak performance while offering financial savings in exchange. This critique is purely cosmetic, and most people who buy the XPS 8940 are unlikely to ogle its hardware and design anyway.

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Dell Xps 8940 Ports

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Dell Xps 8940 Rear Macro

The lack of an AMD processor option is always going to be a sticking point for OEMs who often strike deals with Intel versus customers who prefer some of the advantages from AMD. The XPS 8940 SE is no exception as customers only have options for Intel Core i5-10400 up to the mighty i9-10900K and everything in between. Those are good processors, no doubt, but people prefer choice. At least for the non-SE edition, you can choose AMD Radeon for graphics.

Dell XPS 8940 SE: The competition

HP ENVY 32 AIO

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

There is a lot of competition in the desktop PC space, ranging from DIY kits, prefabbed systems, expensive gaming rigs, all-in-ones (AIOs), and offerings from the major OEMs.

For the latter category, the HP ENVY Desktop compares more to the entry-level XPS 8940 SE, which is reflected in its lower starting price ($500) and lack of higher-end options like Core i9 and RTX 3070 (it maxes out at RTX 2060 Super).

If you want more performance while leaning more towards gaming, the Alienware Aurora R11 is an excellent choice if you can stomach the arguably bold case design.

An option for those who also need a quality display and keyboard with a mouse there is the outstanding HP ENVY 32 AiO. It features a massive 32-inch 4K display, loud audio, and a powerful RTX 2070 GPU. It's an impressive machine that solves many problems (except you can't upgrade components).

If you like the XPS 8940 SE, but don't prefer a white colorway, you can opt for the regular 8940, which comes in black and has some other spec options that don't reach the heights of the SE model, but it is slightly cheaper.

See our best desktop PCs for more recommendations.

Dell XPS 8940 SE: Should you buy?

Dell Xps 8940 Inside

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

You should buy this if ...

  • You want a powerful desktop with no frills
  • Need an RTX 3070 GPU
  • Prefer Intel-based systems
  • Need plenty of front-accessible ports
  • You need a Blue-ray drive

You should not buy this if ...

  • You want to game a lot
  • You want a more dynamic case design
  • AMD is your preferred processor

The XPS 8940 SE does well when it comes to the fundamentals of a prosumer-level desktop PC. The CPU, GPU, and RAM all reach heights that any full-time video editor would be happy to use for work. Simultaneously, regular consumers can also benefit from the no-frills, easy to understand lower configurations.

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Dell Xps 8940 Keyboard

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Dell Xps 8940 Mouse

The case and accessories feel on the cheap side, but you certainly don't notice these things when you are using the computer. The only interaction most people will have post-setup is plugging in peripherals, and there the XPS 8940 SE is fantastic. There is no reason to reach behind the computer anymore as everything needed is right in front.

There's not a ton of options for upgradeability due to the case and wiring and 500-watt power supply, but swapping out cards, the CPU, adding RAM, and even a third drive are all possible – again, it is the basics, but that is who Dell is targeting here.

Overall, the XPS 8940 SE is a sweet, no-frills, but well-crafted desktop PC. If you are not interested in building your own, don't care about fancy see-through case doors, lighting effects, or pretentious wiring, this desktop from Dell can still handle whatever you throw at it, which is what matters in the end.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

26 Comments
  • I hope you guys continue to review desktops like these. It is really hard for me to navigate through all of Dell's offerings. But this is very helpful. It is almost perfect for my next computer -- but I won't be in the market for about six months or so when I hope to retire my laptop which is doing desktop duty. Just a vote of encouragement to continue on with desktop reviews. Thank you!
  • Thanks, glad you liked it. I am trying to ramp up some desktop reviews going forward. Right now, we have a problem with too much stuff and too little time, but we'll continue to improve.
  • No Fans on the CPU Cooler?!?! They can't be serious that they expect the case fans to pull enough air across that cooler to keep a Core i7-10700K cool during long gaming sessions?
    Especially with a RTX-3070 dumping hot air into the case. or am I missing something?
  • You're missing that this is not positioned as a gaming PC (something explained in the opening paragraph) ergo it does not need a CPU cooler. It's also missing RGB. I hate to tell you this, but there are a lot of people with desktop PCs who use them for their job and don't game on them 😲 You can, though, game on it, especially for GPU-heavy games (most of them these days) where the 3070 will do the job. But critiquing this for that seems to be misunderstanding what the XPS line is (vs Alienware Aurora).
  • Well, ANYTHING with an RTX-3070 in it is a GAMING machine in my book. Business/Educational machines don't require any kind of add-in Video card, integrated video is fine for that kind of productivity usage.
    Anything as powerful as a RTX-3070 is a pretty pricey option if you DON'T game on it. It's only other use would be for Video Editing, or CAD work, in which case you will be hitting the CPU pretty hard too, which will cause the CPU to thermally throttle if not cooled better. It just seems really odd to put such a powerful gaming card in a non-gaming PC.
  • "Well, ANYTHING with an RTX-3070 in it is a GAMING machine in my book."
    That'd make you wrong and ignorant about this industry.
    "Business/Educational machines don't require any kind of add-in Video card, integrated video is fine for that kind of productivity usage."
    As the review notes, people who work in photography and video editing do need a video card and this power. You seem to be missing this rather large field of users (a field that is growing), so here are some more people who use powerful GPUs for non-gaming purposes: Engineers Architects People working in AI/deep modeling/Deep Learning (which even NVIDIA writes about) Anyone else needing CAD/CAM software 3D modeling, rendering, animation software Designers Data visualization Those working in geographic information systems (GIS) Audio engineers, artists, producers Software developers, game designers Scientists (physicists, geologists, oceanographers, statistical analysis, chemists, computational biology, mathematical neuroscience) working with large data sets and modeling Cryptocurrency But go on with "an RTX is only for gaming" nonsense. There is a whole world out there in between business drones and gamers, ya know?
    "It just seems really odd to put such a powerful gaming card in a non-gaming PC."
    You just need to talk to non-gamers and professionals to get started in understanding the rest of the world, or this market, which Dell has been servicing for decades.
  • Though I also find this interesting that the machine is indeed based on the photos, the CPU heatsink which is huge, is passively cooled. This is good for more silent machine, which I think this also aims at, while being a light-mid workstation. It looks like it has a front intake fan as well that is covered by a shroud? Exhaust fan is visible. If there is another intake fan, that will at least keep the CPU not getting too hot during workload. Even on non-gaming ones, it's still good to appropriately cool the CPU. Most productivity is tasks are CPU-bound. Thing alike Video Editing may do both if not more on GPU though, but that's already a sustain load. So I wonder if this machine may reach thermal throttle without having to push hard with benchmark. So far the graph shows its capable. But I wish there is a thermal performance with the review, or maybe I missed it. Anyways, good review. Would be nice to cover more of these kind of machines. We need more like these to be covered which more relates to more average computer users.
    Hopefully temps would be included on the review as well, considering the concerns of longevity of these machines if often put under high temps. Gaming will surely run this hot, but so does few other productivity tasks.
  • @Daniel Rubino:
    Your replies come close to being offensive. "That'd make you wrong and ignorant about this industry." There's the pro range of cards for people that use cad or, obviously, have a lot of cash to spare. A 3070 'is' a gaming card, hence why people would assume that it could be a gaming computer. Stating that it's a gaming machine is NOT wrong or ignorant. A quadro/Firepro card, with a xeon, is a workstation. A core i7 with a 3070 is a general purpose work horse for whatever you decide to use it for.
  • "Stating that it's a gaming machine is NOT wrong or ignorant."
    I disagree and stand by what I wrote with the examples I gave. Dell makes gaming desktops under its Alienware brand. None of Dell's marketing around the 8940 SE implies it is a gaming machine e.g. "Create without limits using the all-new XPS Desktop Special Edition in Mineral White color. Featuring powerful performance, a minimalist design and a highly expandable chassis." To be clear, it IS a desktop PC capable of gaming, for sure. It runs great and I had no issues, no voltage spikes, or noticeable throttling. But it's also clearly not a pure gaming rig ala Alienware Aurora. A silly car analogy is a Cadillac with a v6 vs a Mustang with a v6. Similar engine sizes, but you wouldn't race the Caddy and call it a sports car.
    "A core i7 with a 3070 is a general purpose work horse for whatever you decide to use it for."
    I'm not sure how this contradicts anything I have said nor sheds new light on the review. Yes, that is what it is. That doesn't mean it needs a water-cooled CPU or even more cooling for the GPU.
  • Did I not mention Video-Editing and CAD work? Anyway, most CAD users will not use a gaming card, they will use a certified CAD card like the Nvidia RTX Quattro or the AMD Radeon Pro series that have vendor-certified drivers for their CAD/FEA/3D Modeling/2D Drafting package (all my engineers do.)
    I can see Video-Editing using a gaming card (and I mentioned that) but that will bang on the CPU pretty hard too depending on the editing package.
    I just think not including a $5 fan (their price is probably about $1) on the CPU heatsink is a cheap move by Dell and will cause issues depending on what software you run on it.
  • As someone that worked in a small web company 3d rendering models, I can vouch that smaller businesses will use an RTX over a Quattro/Fire pro. We could easily outfit more PCs with RTX cards than we could Quattros and for our workflow, more people working on modelling was more important that a handful getting it done faster (the times were minimal) Now instead of arguing, can't we all agree the system is more than capable for work and play?
  • Sorry Daniel but gaming or not a 500 watt power supply is below minimum spec for that graphics card and Dell should be ashamed for selling a PC like that.
  • I should have gone into more detail on that, but tbh, I thought it was above this PC's demographic. To be clear, it runs a Lite-On with 80 Plus Platinum certification, which is a top-tier PSU. It's not some knock-off, junker PSU. According to Dell, this 8940 SE "supports 125W K CPU + 225W graphics with anticipated voltage spikes." The GeForce RTX 3070 is a 220W GPU. Moreover, I did not experience any issues when gaming or running high-performance benchmarks.
  • Not necessarily if one does not overclock it and the psu is of very good quality. Though iirc if they would have put in a slightly bigger psu it might provide slightly higher energy efficiency on heavy loads and the psu would have some buffer for when it degrades over the years. The quality/design is here more important though than a larger psu (considering Daniel currently had not issues with it).
  • A silent workstation might have been the goal here though, this can be an important feature in workplaces. The giant heatsink seems enough for most cpu heavy work (which is often done in bursts). Maybe rendering or compilation of very large projects will throttle it though.
  • Another helpful review. After nearly a year of being tied to my desk, I've been considering a desktop. It's less versatile, yes, but the amount of power that can be brought to bear might be worth it.
  • Yeah, it's night and day still between a docked laptop and what a desktop can offer. It really depends on how much you're going to use it and for what reasons, but you can build or buy a powerful desktop for not a lot these days.
  • Actually the amount of power does not really differ all that much with the desktop replacement laptops (preferably thick 15/17 inch for good cooling). The real advantage is full serviceability/upgrade-ability, possibly ports and likely a lower price tag (if you build your own or let it be build by a high rep shop).
    The main disadvantage is that you cannot of course easily transport it to another room or place (I know this is obvious but it is worth mentioning that even a heavy ~3 kg laptop is relatively easy to move around compared to a desktop).
  • Is a review video coming for this one? Please say yes!
  • Unfortunately not, sorry.
  • "Starting at 1,600 at Dell" When you're heading towards that price, you might as well up the cpu to a xeon. Maybe. This would make a GREAT gaming machine. Also for video or audio editing. General all round power house. For serious work, there's always the pro line of cpus and gpus.
  • Agreed, a Ryzen build + a Nvidia rtx 3070 might be a better idea for still good performance while being a price class lower.
  • The single biggest issue here is the 500 watt power supply. Nvidia lists on their own website that a 3070 requires a minimum 650 watt power supply. So typical Dell puts in cheap crap that does not meet spec.
    This system will struggle mightily if actually pushed at all and that power supply with most likely not last. Gaming rig or not a system builder should always put in components that meet spec and capable of doing the job.
  • I'll repeat what I wrote above: The 8940 SE runs a Lite-On PSU with 80 Plus Platinum certification, which is a top-tier PSU. It's not some knock-off, junker one. According to Dell, this 8940 SE "supports 125W K CPU + 225W graphics with anticipated voltage spikes." The GeForce RTX 3070 is a 220W GPU. Moreover, I did not experience any issues when gaming or running high-performance benchmarks. Other reviews have also not had any complaints with performance, thermal, or power regulation AFAIK. The only issue I see with the PSU is it possibly limits upgrade paths down the road.
  • Daniel, while the PSU itself may be a quality item that is platinum certified it is still below the minimum spec that Nvidia recommends. Regardless of what Dell says it does not change the official specs of the GPU.
    For some, such as yourself, this may not be an issue. But IMO it is wrong, shady, and overall paints a poor image of Dell and their business practices. Its like buying a 3/4 ton truck with a 6 cylinder gasoline engine.
    Will it run? Yes
    Will it do its job sub-par? Yep
    Will it likely fail sooner than if properly equipped? Guaranteed
  • NIVIDIA's recommendations are always way above what is required. (Seasonic infamously recommended 850W for RTX 3x, which is ridiculous). The wattage numbers for the 8940 SE work out in favor of Dell's offering esp with an 80 Plus Platinum PSU. There is head room when maxed out and you should not be OC'ing anything here. It's not a lot of headroom. We agree it's not ideal. We also agree that upgrade paths are more limited. But plenty of people are using 500W PSU with the 3070 and are just fine. I'm not sure what you mean by "fail sooner," but if that is so, it is on Dell and they will have some angry customers to deal with. Now, if this were a gaming PC, I think this would all matter much more. But even there, Dell sells the G5 Gaming Desktop with 3070 and a 500W PSU, so 🤷‍♂️. And for content creators where shorter durations (vs prolonged gaming sessions) is the norm, I don't see it as a big deal. But sure, it and the chassis quality are clearly areas where Dell has made price savings. What I'm looking for, however, is evidence that a 50OW PSU and 3070 is problematic e.g. wher are the real-world examples of issues, complaints, or failures?