The Good New Core 2 Duo CPU bolsters performance; Dell's DellConnect support leaves the troubleshooting to the professionals.
The Bad Innovations in design since the case's debut 14 months ago make the XPS 210 feel clunky; lazy absence of internal Wi-Fi.
The Bottom Line With so many systems on the market that have planted their home-theater flags deeply in the living room rug, Dell's noncommittal XPS 210 feels too much like it's trying to please everyone. The addition of Intel's Core 2 Duo chips helps overall performance, but in general, this small-scale desktop needs more than a new brain to keep up with the competition.
Dell XPS 210
Dell's small-form-factor (SFF) PC, newly revamped and renamed the XPS 210 ($1,844, as configured) might be better off picking a side. On the one hand, you have the likes of Apple and WinBook, whose closed boxes are tiny, feature-packed, generally sub-$1,000 powerhouses whose strengths are basic computing and serving up digital media for those not overly concerned with performance or video quality. In the other camp, you have the larger SFF cases from Falcon Northwest, Shuttle, and others, which although pricier and clunkier, can accommodate full-size desktop components and multiple hard drives, giving them the potential to become smaller powerhouses. Thus, the XPS 210 is something of a compromise PC. It won't blend in with the rest of your home-entertainment gear, but it's still smaller than a normal desktop. You can't turn it into a true performance PC, but it offers some flexibility. If you're looking for a desktop to fill this very specific niche, the XPS 210 is a decent enough performer. But plenty of other PCs on the market pick a position and stick to it, and if you'll recall the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the waffler didn't win.
Our review unit's $1,844 price tag includes the Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor, a 20-inch Dell 2007FPW wide-screen LCD, 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM, a 320GB hard drive, a TV tuner, a DVD burner, and a 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro (HyperMemory). The CPU is really the only major difference in this model compared to its previous incarnation, the XPS 200. That's a fine configuration for getting most work done, playing music and movies, creating less intensive digital content, and even PC-based digital video recording, thanks to the tuner.
Among the XPS 210's configuration options, Dell offers the full range of Intel's Core 2 Duo chips (minus the Extreme X6800), plus more memory, a larger internal hard drive and a selection of external hard drives, as well as the usual range of software, printers, cameras, and other peripherals. Our chief disappointment is that Dell still doesn't offer a built-in wireless networking option. Both Apple and WinBook include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as standard features in media PCs that are even smaller than the XPS 210. Dell sells all kinds of wireless routers but no internal wireless adapters, which would go a long way toward making the XPS 210 more living-room friendly.