Dell XPS 430-121B review: Dell XPS 430-121B

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.6
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Service and support: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Aggressive processor speed and DD3 memory yield impressive benchmarks; configuration includes TV tuner; innovative chassis design and open ports encourage expansion; inexpensive.

The Bad No wireless networking; budget graphics card can't compete with the competition.

The Bottom Line Dell's XPS 430-121B, sold exclusively at Best Buy, outpaces the competition and carries an impressive set of media-centric features. Heavy gamers can find a more suitable system elsewhere, but digital media enthusiasts will appreciate this Dell in their home network.

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Back in 2007, we reviewed Dell's XPS 420 that focused in on digital video with a few other light upgrades on the side. Just over a year later, Best Buy and Dell now offer the $900 Dell XPS 430-121B, a lightweight version of the Dell's customizable media-centric system. This refresh leaves out the superfluous Windows SideShow LCD that made an appearance on the 420, and it also costs significantly less. Instead, the 430-121B come stuffed with accessories like a dedicated graphics card, a TV tuner, and a blazing quad-core processor. We have no problem recommending it for media sharing across a network as well as performing light digital-editing duties.

At first glance, the XPS 430-121B's chassis looks very similar to the XPS 420. The case features a stoic glossy black finish that exudes subtle class. A dual-layer DVD burner occupies one of the three optical slots on the front panel--the other two below it remain available to accept another drive or extra storage. A small digital media card reader sits between the drives and the USB, FireWire, and audio ports, providing direct access for your SD, MemoryStick, CompactFlash, and SmartMedia cards.

Starting at the top, you'll see an Ethernet port and the standard set of audio ports including one for digital output, as well as five additional USB plugs. Dell does not include wireless networking, and while we still don't expect to see wireless come standard in traditional tower PCs, we can also understand if you miss it given Wi-Fi's ubiquity.

Although this system doesn't come with a Blu-ray player or the dedicated video transcoder that we saw in the 420, you can still plug an antenna cable into the TV tuner card and watch basic over-the-air television or unencrypted cable. With the included software from Hauppauge, you can watch and record live TV, but one initial suggestion we'll make is that you go to the Hauppauge site and update the driver, or you'll suffer from choppy onscreen video. Just underneath the TV tuner cable plug, you'll find a dual set of extra storage connectivity options by way of eSATA and FireWire ports.

Dell makes good use of the top of the tower with a textured tray for external accessories and a quick release handle that pops off the side panel sans screws. In fact, the system has barely any screws at all. The hard drive and optical bays fasten using tabbed plastic brackets that make swapping a breeze. Once inside, you'll see an open hard-drive bay for increasing storage, and two slots in the optical drive bay. In terms of card expansion, you get an extra PCI slot in addition to the one taken by the graphics card, a PCI-E x1 slot, three SATA plugs, and another PCI-E x8 slot if you pop out the 56k modem. Unfortunately, the four memory slots are already filled with two 1GB and two 2GB sticks, so you'll have to throw at least one away to upgrade to the maximum 8GB, an expensive replacement considering the current price of DDR3 memory sticks.

  Dell XPS 430-121B Gateway LX6810-01
Price $900 $779
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8200
Memory 6GB DDR3 1066MHz 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200 rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Gateway puts together a similar system in its LX6810-01 quad-core system, but for $100 less than the Dell XPS thanks to its slower processor and smaller hard drive. In the end, the Gateway makes a more compelling argument for the hard-core PC gamer, thanks to its aggressive graphics card and an extra two gigs of RAM; Dell isn't exactly sleeping on the job, though--its 6GB of DDR3 memory compared with DDR2 makes the promise to transfer data at twice the transfer speed.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 430-121B
106 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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Where to Buy

Dell XPS 430-121B

Part Number: 9156619

MSRP: $900.00

See manufacturer website for availability.