12/11/07 – Dell took some major flak with their initial release of the XPS 700 line of gaming desktop PCs. They finally ironed out many of these problems with the release of the XPS 710 that updated much of the components that were outdated once the 700 models started actually shipping. They have finally hit their stride with the XPS 720 model, but it is the XPS 720 H2C that offers the highest performance. Let's see what Dell has to offer in their latest performance desktop ...
Pretty much all of the performance desktop systems on the market use either the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 or QX6850. Each of these offer a strong amount of performance with quad core processors. Since they have unlocked multipliers they are also very popular for overclocking. Dell has one upped many of the other companies by offering to factory overclock these processors higher. For example, the QX6850 is typically overclocked to 3.4GHz but Dell takes it up to 3.7GHz. All of this is possible thanks to hybrid liquid cooling system Dell equips in the XPS 720 H2C.
There are two options for memory with the XPS 720 H2X. The lower 2GB memory capcity includes Corsair Dominator PC2-6400 DDR2 memory that is overclocked from the stock 800MHz speed up to 1066Mhz. Those wanting higher amounts of memory can elect to have 4GB of memory installed through four modules, but it will instead run at the default 800MHz speed rather than being overclocked.
Hard drives have increased in size dramatically thanks to perpendicular recording. Dell's basic drive configuration includes the tried and true Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drives with their limited 160GB hard drive space, but they also offer either the Seagate 750GB or 1 terabyte Hitachi hard drives. Users can select to either have these configured into a RAID 0 array for performance or a RAID 1 array for security. Additional smaller Seagate storage drives can also be added onto the system ranging from 160GB to 750GB but most will probably avoid doing this.
Optical storage has pretty much standardized on the DVD burner. There are HD-DVD and Bluray drives on the market, but with the format wars going many are not looking to put them in their PCs. Dell offers a standard dual 16x DVD+/-RW dual layer burner setup standard. They have offered Bluray recorders in the past and may do so in the future.
Graphics and Display:
The NVIDIA GeForce 8000 series of graphics cards were the first to offer Direct X 10 support. In addition to this, they also provided the best performance for games using the ubiquitous Direct X 9 games. Dell uses a pair of GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards in an SLI configuration to offer some spectacular performance. Those willing to spend a bit more can elect to use a pair of 8800 Ultras instead but the performance increases are not proportional with cost. Dell also offers a wide range of their critically acclaimed UltraSharp widescreen LCDs with the 720 H2C. The standard setup uses their 24” 2407WFP LCD panel.
Don't expect much in terms of choice when it comes to audio with the XPS 720 H2C. Users will get a Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic audio card installed with the PC. This is certainly a good deal better than the integrated 7.1 audio solutions but it would be nice to let users have a bit more choice for either higher end models of the X-Fi or the integrated parts. The base speaker setup for the XPS 720 H2C is a 10W speaker bar that attaches to the monitor. Users can elect to upgrade this to a Dell 5.1 with wireless rear speakers or Dell, Bose or Klipsch 2.1 speaker systems.
In a somewhat surprise move, Dell now uses the Windows XP Media Center 2005 as the base operating system for the XPS 720 H2C. This is surprising as one of the goals of the latest graphics cards is for Direct X 10 gameplay that is only supported with Vista. Users can probably get Vista with the system if they really desire it. Also included is a Trend Micro Internet Security software subscription for 15-months. Productivity and entertainment software is purely optional but has a wide range of selections.
12/11/07 – Dell's certainly has some rocky performance system launches with he XPS 700 and 710 models. Thankfully many of the issues from those systems have been cleared up with the XPS 720 and 720 H2C models. While their may not be as much flexibility in the configuration of the 720 H2C, the standard 720 has many more options for a more affordable system. The main difference between the two is the emphasis on performance with the 720 H2C thanks to its hybrid cooling.
The big surprise with the XPS 720 series is how much it directly competes with the high end performance desktop PCs offered from the Alienware division of Dell. The main reason that Dell purchased Alienware was to increase their presence in the performance market. This wasn't too much of an issue as Alienware offered the very high end. But now the XPS 720 H2C is pushing the performance boundaries beyond what Alienware offers.
The area where Dell's XPS 720 H2C surpasses the Alienware desktop systems and many of its competitors is in overclocking. This is a common practice by many of the manufacturers to push as much performance out of their systems as possible. Dell is looking to push their overclocking levels to a higher percentage over the stock processor speeds than most companies. While Alienware overclocks the processor about 20% with their ALX systems, Dell has pushed the overclock to 30% in the liquid cooled 720 H2C.
This is where the price of the XPS 720 H2C system comes into question. It is certainly the most expensive desktop system from Dell. Users purchasing the regular XPS 720 can still get high performance gaming with a wider range of options and save a lot of money. On the other hand, if they instead look at going with a similarly equipped Alienware Area-51 ALX that also features liquid cooling but a slightly slower overclocked processor, they can save a good amount of money.