Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Dell XPS 710
- BTX/Dell cooling system, powerful graphics, CPU and 750watt PSU, Minimal noise emission, Tool-less case design, Cable management.
- Size and weight
The Dell XPS 710 may require a slightly deeper pocket than your average PC, but it's a powerful machine with an individual design that's both functional and stylish.
Price$ 8,684.50 (AUD)
Dell's cream of the crop, its high-end gaming machine - the XPS 710 - looks like no other, both inside and out. The street-machine style chassis appears as though it's been pulled straight from the engine of a jet fighter and some of the hardware Dell has used will certainly get you flying high.
Using Intel's QX6700 Quad Core CPU (2.66GHz), a GeForce 8800GTX, a SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card, a 750watt power supply, two 160GB Western Digital Raptors, each running at 10,000rpm, and 4GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM, this system is looking for a fight that no game currently on the market can give it. It also has a Dell TV-tuner and a 13-in-1 media card reader (CF I/II, MicroDrive, SM, MMC, SD, MS/Pro/Duo, xD, miniSD, RS-MMC), which are nice additions.
The 24in screen that comes as part of the package has a maximum resolution of 1920x1200, which is great for games or High Definition movies and comes with a range of inputs including component, composite, DVI, VGA and S-Video, as well as acting as a USB hub. The height and angle adjustment gives a good versatile range of movement and the image is good.
The brushed aluminium case is very heavy with all the hardware installed, so don't plan on using this as a LAN party machine. With the exception of mobility, a lot of thought and planning has gone into the case, which offers a cool and quiet experience. As we're now accustomed to, Dell has used a BTX form factor to reduce heat and noise within the case. The front and rear panels are spacious grills, which allow uninterrupted air-flow from front to rear, though they will also allow an uninterrupted intake of dust as well. The BTX design uses this layout to its maximum effect by drawing cool air from the front and passing it directly over the CPU and chipset, while also helping cool the graphics card and RAM before expelling heated air out the back.
Noise and cooling
The system is divided into two main sections. The lower section is designed as an air funnel to move heat from the hottest components immediately out of the case using two 120mm fans. The CPU is cooled by a large passive cooler (heatsink) while one of the two 120mm fans blows cool air from the front grill directly through its fins. By comparison to Intel's stock cooler for Quad Core CPUs, which can rev-up a fair racket, the BTX setup remained fairly quiet under a heavy CPU workload. The second 120mm fan is mounted just below the first, directly in line with the GeForce 8800GTX graphics card and expansion slots. As well as keeping the graphics card cool, the second fan helps move all stagnant pockets of hot air out the rear of the case. A Dell TV-tuner also sits in the direct path of this second fan. Most of the heat from the GeForce 8800GTX is spat out the top of the card and into the main funnel of air-flow where it's blown instantly out the rear grill. The hard drives are placed in the upper section of the case where a small fan helps move stagnating air between the drives. While the system is already fairly quiet (even with the side panel off), Dell has further improved noise reduction by using rubber gasket seals to help minimise acoustic vibration from the buzzing hardware.
Storage, expansion and cable management
Every socket, bracket and mount within the case is designed for tool-less operation. The upper section of the fascia comes off with the simple push of a spring loaded mechanism. This same mechanism locks the optical drives and media card reader away. All external drive bays can be quickly and easily removed without loosening a single screw. The hard drive bays are much the same with each hard drive resting in its own plastic bracket, which mounts into the hard drive bay without any need for a screw driver. Each hard drive bay faces towards the side panel for easy access. Expansion slots are no exception. The back plates still need to be removed to add new cards, but a simple clip-in system allows quick and easy insertion or removal. The motherboard supports an SLI graphics card configuration, but some blood, sweat and tears may be shed before you fit a second GeForce 8800GTX into the tight mesh of shrouds and heat sinks.
Cables have been pre-routed so there's no cable clutter impeding air flow or getting in the way during an upgrade. Some simple future proofing is in place, by routing SATA and power cables for future hard drive installations, though no extra power cables have been routed for a second graphics card.
Performance and Games
As we expected, the XPS 710 performed well in our gaming tests. We skipped the low end tests and went right for high quality gaming. In 3DMark 2006 at 1920x1200 with 8x anti-aliasing (AA) and 16x anisotropic filtering (AF) we got a score of 9140, more than enough for smooth gaming on current titles. We also ran a FEAR and Quake 4 test. In FEAR at 1600x1200, using maximum quality settings including 4xAA and 16xAF the XPS 710 averaged 80fps (frames per second), plenty for excellent game play. In Quake 4 it was even more impressive, averaging 163.4fps using High Quality settings including 16xAA and running in a resolution of 1600x1200.
Games such as Supreme Commander, which utilise the multiple cores of the CPU, will show even more impressive results on this Quad Core machine. The GeForce 8800GTX graphics card supports DirectX 10 and will play the dazzling new effects we can expect to see in games later this year.
Dell has also made an effort to make this system look pretty, albeit imposing. LED lights on the fascia and rear panel light up ports and components, but can also be programmed to different colours and can be set to light up on certain actions, like being shot in-game. The curved side panels really stand out and the XPS 710's forward slant allows the rear cables some breathing space when crammed up against a wall.
As well as the media card reader, the XPS 710 supports eight USB 2.0 ports (2 front, 6 rear) and two FireWire ports (1 front, 1 rear). PS2 ports for mouse and keyboard are also available, as is a serial port. The DVD-re-writer and DVD-ROM are both tucked away behind panels on the front as is the media card reader. A 5.1 speaker set comes with the system. Also provided are a Dell media enhanced keyboard and a mouse. Gigabit Ethernet comes onboard for any LAN connection needs.
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