12/12/06 Dell's XPS line of performance systems took a major blow with the XPS 700 series systems. Dell missed their launch date by many months, pushing back customer ordered systems such that by the time they came out they were not cutting edge. They have managed to correct most of these issues, but in addition they began offering a new XPS 710. Let's see what Dell has to offer with this new performance system ...
Unlike many of the other Dell systems that offer a wide choice of processors to choose from, the Dell XPS 710 uses a single processor option. To get the highest level of performance, Dell has chosen to use the new quad core Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU. This certainly provides a large amount of performance especially when multitasking, but its performance gains are not as tremendous as the marketing would lead us to believe especially for those looking at PC gaming.
For a high performance system, Dell chose to use some fairly standard RAM. The base system comes with one gigabyte of PC2-5300 DDR2 memory. Most performance systems tend to use at least PC2-6400 DDR2 for the faster interface with the processor. The one gigabyte is fairly small amount when it comes to the programs people tend to run on a high end machine such as this, so Dell does offer two and four gigabyte memory configurations as well, but once again with the PC2-5300 DDR2 memory.
For hard drive storage, Dell offers a wide variety of configurations. Drive sizes include the smaller 10,000rpm drives at around 150GB up to the new 750GB capacity drives. In addition to the drives, Dell offers configurations with two of the drives in either RAID 0 for performance or RAID 1 for data security. A third drive is also offered for additional storage that lets the system have roughly 2 and a quarter terabytes of storage with the 750GB drives.
Now that DVD burners are a standard feature even for the least expensive budget desktops on the market, it is no surprise to find Dell including a 16x DVD+/-RW dual layer burner with the XPS 710. Each system comes with a two drive configuration with one DVD burner and either a 16x DVD-ROM drive or a 48x CD-RW/DVD combo drive.
Graphics and Display:
Graphics are probably the one area that Dell needs to offer more to truly compete with other high end systems. While the company offers a wide range of graphic card options from NVIDIA and a CrossFire ATI configuration, they fail to offer the latest GeForce 8800 Direct X 10 compatible cards from NVIDIA. This is a fairly major oversight. Still, users trying to save some cash can go for a dual GeForce 7900GS SLI setup all the way up to a dual GeForce 7950GX2 setup for a total of four graphics cores in a single system.
With such a wide range of selections for other components, its almost surprising for Dell to only offer a single audio solution with the XPS 710. The system comes with the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic audio card, so at least the default selection overall is quite strong. Users who want a little more from the Platinum or Elite models are out of luck though. The default configuration for speakers includes some that would attach to a Dell flat panel monitor, but users can elect to upgrade to several Creative and Logitech speaker setups or for no speakers at all.
Users have the choice between the Windows XP Media Center or Professional operating systems. In addition to this, they are currently offering a free upgrade to the Vista Home Premium or Vista Business editions depending upon the OS selected. In terms of application software, Dell does include a minimal bundle of MS Works and Norton Internet Security with the XPS 710 and the option for versions of Office and other multimedia applications bundles.
Externally, the Dell XPS 700 and 710 models look pretty much the same. In fact, many of the internal components are the same. The major difference really comes in terms of what components Dell offers with the systems. The XPS 700 has a much wider price range because it offers the Intel Core 2 Duo processors and the Core 2 Extreme X6800 rather than just the new quad core Core 2 Extreme model of the X710. So if you don't need the quad core processor it might be better to go with the XPS 700 model instead.
The other major difference between the XPS 700 and 710 models is with the graphics cards offered. It primarily is a choice between several GeForce 7900 series cards and an ATI CrossFire X1950 XTX configuration. The problem is that they don't offer the latest Direct X 10 GeForce 8800 cards from NVIDIA. This puts the XPS 710 (and 700) at a disadvantage when it comes to 3D gaming performance to many competing systems. In addition, this puts the Vista upgrade a bit less appealing as the cards they offer do not natively support the Direct X 10 interface.
The case design of the XPS series is very different from Dell's other desktop systems. It is a fairly open design to allow a large amount of air to flow through the case and over the various components for cooling. This is a bit of a drawback though as it also allows a lot of fan noise to leak out of the case an into the environment. Even with the temperature controlled fans, the system can get quite noisy.
On the plus side of all of this with the XPS 710 system is the cost. In general the XPS 710 is below the cost of many other performance desktop systems. While it may not reach the pinnacles of performance like the prestige systems that cost thousands more, users can take that savings and invest it into one of the many different large widescreen LCD monitors produced by Dell.