Dell is jumping aboard the Core 2 Duo bandwagon, sticking Intel's new Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU inside its XPS 410, a sequel to the company's midrange XPS 400. While our XPS 410 review unit's $2,405 price, which includes a 20-inch wide-screen LCD, may seem a bit high, especially compared to a budget Core 2 Duo system, such as the $999 Velocity Micro Vector GC Campus Edition, the Dell XPS 410's powerful processor and entertainment-friendly feature set provide everything you'll need to watch and record TV programs, create DVDs, and manage multimedia files. The XPS 410 provides brand-name shoppers with a reasonable way to get into the next generation of CPUs without jumping all the way up to Dell's $4,000 XPS 700 gaming monster.
The Dell XPS 410 is housed in the same glossy white BTX case as the XPS 400. It features a silver front bezel and black drive-bay covers. The midtower design is inoffensive enough to fit in with home office or den decor, but it will look out of place mixed in with your home-entertainment components. A DVD burner and a DVD-ROM drive occupy the full-size external drive bays, and one of the two 3.5-inch bays contains a multiformat card reader. Two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and headphone and microphone jacks are mounted below the drive bays. Six additional USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and 5.1 audio jacks are located at the rear of the system. The XPS 410 can be configured with a high-end Creative Audigy 2 or X-Fi audio card; our test system included neither, relying instead on an integrated audio solution. For most users, even home-theater users, the integrated audio will be fine.
The system's chassis is completely tool-free, making it easy to install and remove drives and expansion cards. The XPS 410 relies on two system fans and a BTX airflow scheme to keep components from overheating. We slid off the side panel of our review unit to find a tightly packed interior. The single x16 PCI Express slot holds a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS graphics card. Two PCI slots hold a dual TV tuner card and a dual-port FireWire card, leaving two x1 PCI Express slots and one PCI slot available for future expansion. The two hard drive bays mounted at the bottom of the case hold dual 320GB Serial ATA (SATA) drives in a DataSafe (RAID 1) configuration for added data protection. If you'd rather skip the redundant protection, you can have Dell configure the drives for RAID 0 and reclaim the extra drive space for storing recorded TV programs and other hefty multimedia files.
Powered by Intel's Core 2 Duo E6600 processor running at 2.4GHz, the Dell XPS 410 performed as expected. Compared to the other Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme systems we've looked at, it falls right in the middle. We expected it to run significantly slower than the tricked-out XPS 700, which has the high-end Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU, but it was easily faster than the bargain-price Velocity Micro Vector GC Campus Edition, which has a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo E6300. Despite the performance boost, bear in mind the Velocity is literally half the cost and is still our best bang-for-the-buck Core 2 Duo system.
While it can't hold a candle to the gamer-centric XPS 700, the XPS 410's included 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS is a good choice for casual gamers who don't want to invest a lot in a video card. It churned out a very playable framerate of 111.1fps in Quake 4 at 1,024x768, and it will perform even better with high-end options, such as antialiasing, turned off. Stepping up to the $3,900 Falcon Northwest Mach V, which uses an overclocked 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 and an overclocked GeForce 7950 GX2, gave us 114.2fps in the same game, although at higher resolutions the differences would have been more pronounced.
Our XPS 410 shipped with a solidly built, Dell-branded, wireless Bluetooth multimedia keyboard and mouse. It also shipped with Dell's 5650 100-watt 5.1 speakers, which are a decent choice and retail separately for $80. The monitor that came with our review unit was an UltraSharp 2007WFP 20.1-inch wide-screen LCD. Dropping the monitor will cut $400 from the total system price.
Along with Windows Media Center Edition, the XPS 410 comes with Corel's WordPerfect Office 12 and CyberLink's PowerDVD. Dell's Media Center IR receiver and remote are also part of the bundle.
Dell provides a one-year warranty with the XPS 410, which includes next-business-day onsite service and 24/7 rapid-response telephone support by a team of XPS-certified technicians, which is a different level of service than Dell's non-XPS systems--a.k.a. Dimensions--receive. Also included is DellConnect, which allows Dell tech support to remotely take over your system to solve problems. Selecting the three-year plan will cost $189, and for $49 per year, you can upgrade to an even higher level of service, called XPS Plus Solutions. This gives you 30 days of access to Dell On Call, which provides assistance with general how-to questions.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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