(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|1,600 x 1,200 (high quality)||1,280 x 1,024 (medium quality)|
The software in question comes thanks to Nvidia's new Enthusiast System Architecture program, ESA for short. Basically, ESA involves bringing all of your PC components under the control of a unified Windows software package that lets you monitor settings, make changes to the BIOS, and overclock your CPU and other hardware. You make the settings changes through a dedicated menu item in Nvidia's Control Panel (where you currently tweak the video settings), and you can monitor the health of various components through the Nvidia System Monitor, an Apple Front Row-style icon carousel that displays CPU temperature and other important info, depending on the component. The XPS 630 is the first desktop we've seen with the full ESA implementation, and we love the way it makes overclocking and other tweaks much more accessible. Just be sure to take it easy with those settings, so you don't cook your CPU.
There's more to the Dell XPS 630 than its configuration, of course, which brings us to its case. The silver-and-black, aluminum-and-plastic chassis (also available in silver and red) is basically a scaled-down version of the XPS 720 case, itself an attractive, if large, enclosure that debuted in 2006. The XPS 630 comes in at a smaller 19.5 inches high, 7.5 inches wide, and 21.5 inches deep. That's more in keeping with the average full-size desktop, although it's still larger than any of the other systems in this comparison. Like the XPS 700 case, the XPS 630 has LEDs on the rear side and the front that illuminate the external ports, but despite this enthusiast tweak, the XPS 630 is not overly garish. It's imposing, but we always like gaming PCs whose looks you don't have to apologize for.
Dell took almost as much care inside as it did with the XPS 630's exterior. The cables could be better organized here and there, but for the most part, they're wrapped and bound well. The removable hard drive cages face outward, and Dell even went so far as to add Serial ATA cables and dangle the free cable ends in front of the empty drive bays. We take for granted little touches like that in Velocity Micro or Falcon Northwest systems, but it still feels fresh when Dell does it. Between those little signs of polish and larger ones like the Nvidia ESA compliance, Dell makes a convincing argument that it really does get what it is that gamers look for in their PCs. For further proof, the XPS 630 Windows desktop is blessedly free of icon clutter and trialware. The only addition to the standard Vista icons is a shortcut to a Roxio DVD authoring program. That's it.
Unlike Gateway, which no longer customizes desktop options, Dell offers an array of options for the XPS 630. You can't configure with the same highest-end CPU and 3D cards as you can the Dell XPS 720, but you do get options for extra hard drive storage, more memory, and upgraded mice and keyboards among the usual peripheral and software add-ons. The 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive in our review unit is on a par with that of other systems in this price range, although we're starting to see 3GB of RAM in more systems lately, compared to the 2GB here. Look back up at the Gateway FX7020's Crysis scores and you'll see where that extra memory can have a big impact. We'd rather have the second video card in the Dell over an extra 1GB of RAM, but if we were to make an upgrade, either before purchase or after, we'd look to boost the memory first thing.
Because it's an XPS system, the XPS 630 links you in to Dell's specialized XPS service program, which gets you faster call response on the toll-free 24-7 hotline, staffed by a heartier breed of customer service representative. Results may vary. The standard warranty includes one year of parts and labor coverage, as well as a year of in-home service, a relic of the past that we're glad to see hanging on somewhere. You also get the now-typical array of online support tools, including support chat and other resources, e-mail notification of driver updates, and other features.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell XPS 630
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Q6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom 9600; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium (tested); Windows XP Professional SP2 (second partition); 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3850 graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive