The Good Quad-core CPU brings forward-looking performance; Dell's XPS 700-series chassis remains one of the most unique-looking PC cases on the market; large case means lots of expandability.
The Bad Outperformed by much cheaper competitors; Dell's long qualification periods for new graphics hardware might mean more reliability, but it also means that other PCs have next-gen hardware today that the XPS 710 doesn't offer.
The Bottom Line The XPS 710 brings quad-core processing to Dell's flagship desktop, but competing systems from others outshine this system in too many ways for us to recommend it. We still like the case and the build quality, and Dell has even beefed up its support, but among other issues, a $5,000 PC is not supposed to be slower than systems that cost nearly $2,000 less.
Dell XPS 710
When we first wrote about the Dell XPS 710 on November 1, we weren't able to give it a full review because we didn't know the price. Dell finally gave us the number: $5,344 for the configuration we tested. This revelation and some issues with the configuration we're able to talk about only now sour our opinion of this system. Similar systems from Gateway and Polywell that cost nearly $2,000 less outperformed Dell's new flagship PC, and the Polywell and systems from several other boutique PC vendors have more up-to-date graphics cards. Dell's XPS 700-series case remains one of the most visually bold on the market, and the XPS 710 review unit we received is as well built as the XPS 700 we saw a few months ago. But anyone spending even $4,000 on a gaming PC has a right to demand a cutting-edge system with the latest and greatest of everything, and while we expect Dell will offer that sooner or later, the XPS 710 doesn't have it right now.
The main update to the XPS 710 system is that it now supports Intel's new Core 2 Extreme QX6700, the first quad-core processor. You can read our review of the chip itself for a full breakdown of quad core's pros and cons, but suffice it to say that we like it. It's a forward-looking chip that's totally appropriate for a high-end gaming PC. What's interesting for a different reason is that Dell has shipped the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 at its stock 2.66GHz clock speed. You can overclock the chip yourself, but Dell still won't do that for you. We'll see when we talk about performance how that reluctance comes back to bite the XPS 710 compared to other quad-core PCs.
The pair of Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics cards (a.k.a. Quad SLI) in this system are also new to the XPS 700 series, but they're not new to the market, as they've been out since June. Although ATI cards have an advantage on image quality on a few games, the Quad SLI setup remains the most powerful current-generation 3D hardware in terms of its ability to crunch frames. The problem is that we'd much rather have a single GeForce 8800 GTX card, which costs half as much, is nearly as fast, matches ATI for current-generation image quality, and supports next-gen DirectX 10 games. Dell doesn't offer that card yet. The company says that it will but that it needs to put the GeForce 8800 GTX through Dell's rigorous reliability testing. We also imagine that Dell is looking at the XPS 710's power supply as part of that discussion. The current 750-watt unit is on the lower end of Nvidia's recommendations for powering two 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode.
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