6/12/08 - Dell's XPS gaming platform has undergone a number of revisions over time. The latest is the XPS 730 H2C that brings a new set of technologies to their performance lineup that looks to boost performance and the flexiblity of what users wish to configure the system with. It retains the H2C liquid cooling system of its predecessor to offer high performance and low operating temperatures. Let's see what else it has to offer ...
Dell offers a bit more in terms of options for users than most for performance systems. Most tend to only use the Core 2 Extreme models. Dell does offer both the QX9650 and QX9770 quad core models for high performance, but they also offer the standard Core 2 Quad Q9450 and Q9550 models for those on a tighter budget but still wanting some strong performance. Overclocking is not standard on the base system but is available on higher end versions. Those wanting to overclock will be more interested in the Extreme models for their greater range due to unlocked multipliers.
All of the Dell XPS 730 H2C systems come equipped with 4GB of Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory. The reason for this has to do with the 32-bit memory limitations of Vista. It would be nice to see an 8GB memory option for those wishing it. It is possible to get 2GB to save on money, but this will reduce performance. The Corsair memory is also overclocked to run at 1600MHz speed rather than the default 1333MHz.
Dell offers a large range of hard drive options on the Dell XPS 730 H2C system. Drives are available in RAID 0 or RAID 1 arrays for either performance or security. Drive options include teh 10,000rpm Raptor 150GB drives or 7200rpm 500GB, 750GB or 1TB drives giving capacity ranges from 150 to 2TB or drive space. An additional drive can be added to the system for extra storage beyond the RAID array.
The standard configuration of the Dell XPS 730 H2C is to come with a 16x dual layer DVD burner. This is pretty much all that anyone needs right now for a PC. Of course, if you want to handle high definition movies on the Blu-ray format or record more data to an optical drive, Dell does offer either a Blu-ray burner or a Blu-ray reader/DVD burner combo drive. Two drive configurations are also available.
Graphics and Display:
Dell's selection for graphics cards is a bit odd on the XPS 730 H2C. The system is based on the NVIDIA 790i SLI chipset, but the primary graphics are mostly the ATI Radeon cards. Users can get the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Gt series graphics cards in single or dual slow conifigurations, but Dell's performance option is dual Radeon HD 3870 X2 cards for a quad processor CrossFire configuration. This does provide strong 3D graphics for gaming but the NVIDIA GeForce SLI configurations especially with the 9800 series do offer faster performance.
Even though the Dell XPS 730 H2C has a strogn integrated audio processor, all of the configurations come standard with a Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer audio card. This is advantageous to gamers because it supports the EAX HD audio extensions but it would be nice to see more audio card options. Dell doesn't equip the system with speakers standard but users can purchase several Dell or Bose speaker setups to supplement the system.
Users can choose to have either the Vista Home Premium or Ultimate Editions installed with their XPS 730 H2C. They only offer the 32-bit versions of the OS which is a bit disappointing as driver and software support has improved plus it allows for greater than 4GB memory support. Unlike Dell's standard systems, the XPS series comes free of much of the trialware and applications. Users can still order a variety of security, productivity and entertainment software to be installed on the system at the time of order.
Dell's XPS 730 H2C has had a number of cosmetic changes. First off, there are now three colors of cases that users can receive depending upon the level of system they purchase and options they pick. There is a clearcoat aluminum case, red or blue case. They have also added an side panel that features clear acrylic cutouts to see the interior of the system.
The main feature of the H2C versions of the XPS lineup have been the self-contained liquid cooling system. This system requires no maintenance from the user as it is completely sealed. The system does work well at helping to reduce the heat output from the processor, but the system only cools the processor and is not tied to the graphics cards at all. This will hold back its graphics performance somewhat compared to other performance systems with liquid cooled overclocked graphics.
The graphics of the XPS 730H2X are held back more by what Dell has to offer customers in graphics cards. ATI has made significant strides in catching up to NVIDIA in the performance department, but the latest Radeon HD 3870 cards still fall behind the GeForce 8800 and 9800 series cards for raw performance. The mystery is why Dell doesn't offer the higher end 9800 GTX and 9800 GX2 cards currently. This of course could change but until it does, there are some higher performance platforms available.
The big question that will come to mind here though is how the XPS 730 H2C competes directly with the Area-51 desktop models from Alienware. Those wanting to save a good amount of money can elect to go with a non-ALX version of the Area-51 for some strong performance but at a lower cost than the 730 H2C. The ALX offers similarly performance, but the XPS has a bit more flexibility in what components can be selected.