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Dell XPS 420: Gorgeous media monster

The Dell XPS 420 is a total media darling. It packs a hardware MPEG-2 transcoder, a dinky SideShow display and some hardcore components

We've been waiting earnestly for Dell's XPS 420 desktop. It's fast, it's pretty and it's the first desktop we've seen that features an integrated SideShow screen.

SideShow -- or Dell MiniView as it's known here -- is most typically found in Vista laptops such as the Asus W5Fe. The XPS 420 is proof, however, that it can be used in a desktop to good effect. The upwards-facing 50.8mm (2-inch) display lets you play with all sorts of free, downloadable mini apps -- like those found in the Vista SideBar -- although this isn't possible while the system is switched off.

Some apps, such as Solitaire, are completely useless, while others, such as the to-do list and system performance monitor can come in handy.

Another interesting addition is the hardware MPEG-2 transcoder, aka Dell Xcelerator. This, Dell says, can convert an MPEG-2 video to the MPEG-4 format 25 per cent faster than using the CPU alone. Not that the CPU is slow -- you get a choice of Core 2 Duos, Core 2 Quads and Core 2 Extremes -- depending on how much money you have to spend.

Other media-friendly options include a Blu-ray writer, a 1TB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card for high-speed gaming. The whole thing is encased in a tasty-looking BTX chassis, which keeps everything running cool and quiet, and there's even a rubberised top section that keeps your USB devices from slipping off.

Prices for the most basic versions start from £680 direct from Dell. We like the look of it, so expect a more detailed review in the very near future. -Rory Reid