Dell XPS 600


Dell can recognize a hot market when it sees it. With its sixth-generation supreme gaming box, Dell is out to prove that it’s damned serious about gamers. Don’t believe it? Check out the hardware in this rig.

Dell’s XPS is the first review system we’ve tested that sports two x16 PCI Express graphics lanes, which is impressive, in spite of the fact that the Dream Machine had dual x16 slots months ago. We’re not surprised Dell adopted SLI for this version of the XPS—the XPS Gen 5 and its single Radeon X850 XT were smacked around by the SLI rigs in our July roundup—but the XPS delivers SLI with surprising panache.
The secret sauce in this XPS is the dual nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX cards. The cards are full-length for added stability, and feature custom, double-wide heat pipes to keep them cool even on hot summer days. Thanks to the new nForce4 SLI Intel Edition X16 chipset, both cards can run in a full x16 PCI Express configuration. Previous iterations of SLI (on Intel and AMD) allowed only x8/x8 or x16/x4 channel configurations.

Although dual x16 PCI Express makes sense, it means little for today’s gamers. Current games don’t use the 8GB/s of bandwidth provided by an x8 PCI-E slot. That doesn’t mean tomorrow’s games and cards won’t take advantage of the bandwidth, but for gaming today, we’re more excited by the custom-designed 7800 GTX boards. The XPS also includes a P4 670 with 2MB of cache, 1GB of DDR2/667 RAM, a pair of 500GB Hitachi Deskstar drives in a RAID 0 array, a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum card, and a dual TV tuner card. Dell loaded our XPS with Windows Media Center 2005. Why MCE? Dell says the machine is a multi-purpose box, not just a gaming machine.

While it didn’t blow the competition out of the water, the XPS did manage to hold its own in benchmarks. We weren’t sure where the XPS would fall in the applications test, SYSmark 2004, but it chimed in with a score of 231. That’s the fourth highest score this year and about 15 percent faster than our zero-point FX-55 box—not too shabby! In Premiere Pro, the P4-equipped XPS sailed past all the Athlon boxes, including the FX-57 machines. And in our Divx compression benchmark, the XPS is the fastest stock-clocked machine we’ve ever tested—if you discount the Falcon Northwest Mach V and its downright illegal overclock of 4.25GHz.

Overall, the Dell is sitting pretty in applications. But what about games? Even though the Monarch and Hypersonic systems we reviewed this fall featured the same 7800 GTX cards, the XPS turned in scores about 10 percent slower. Why? We blame the Pentium CPU. The Athlon FX-57 is a monster in gaming and the 3.8GHz P4 is no match. The scores aren’t bad—in fact, the XPS nudged past our Dream Machine 2005 in Doom 3—but they’re certainly not the fastest we’ve seen.

The XPS 600 marks the first time Dell has used a non-Intel chipset in a consumer PC, which is significant, but the company will have to boot the Pentium 4 for an Athlon 64 if it wants to truly get really serious about gamers.
Claude McIver

Month Reviewed: November 2005

+ NEXT GEN: nForce4 X16 chipset, fast single-core processor, and super quiet.
- GEN X: A plastic case doesn't keep this rig from being heavy.
Verdict: 9

CPU Inel Pentium 4 670 (3.8GHz, 2MB L2)
MOBO Custom Dell nForce4 SLI Intel Edition X16)
RAM 1GB DDR2/667
LAN Gigabit Ethernet
HARD DRIVES Two 500GB Hitachi 7K500 Deskstar in RAID 0
VIDEOCARD Two GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB in SLI (430MHz core, 600MHz GDDR3)
SOUNDCARD Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS
CASE Custom clamshell case

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