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Dell XPS 210 review: Dell XPS 210

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.

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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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.

6.0

Dell XPS 210

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'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 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.

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.

The XPS 210's slim case is roughly the size of a first-generation Xbox. At 12.4 inches high, 3.7 inches wide, and 14.4 inches deep, it should be able to fit almost anywhere. Inside there's room for one hard drive and one optical drive, as well as up to four memory sticks. You only get two expansion slots, though, one x16 PCI Express slot, and one x1 PCI slot.

Even if some of the features and the design aspects of the XPS 210 are lacking, its application performance is strong. Its Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 and 1GB of memory place it just a step behind the higher-end Dell XPS 410 and its 2GB of memory, and slightly faster than the (less expensive) Velocity Micro ProMagix E2010 and its slower CPU. We suspect the Core 2 Duo chip in the XPS 210 helps the Quake 4 scores as well, such as they are. The Radeon X1300 Pro graphics card certainly isn't helping, since it's a HyperMemory card, which means it siphons off some of the system memory to boost its own onboard stash. Still 31.4 is respectable, and for many PC gamers, as long as they can play World of Warcraft, what more do they need? You should be able to play WoW, and any other game that is graphically forgiving, but with the half-height graphics-card limitation due to the slim case, your gaming options will always be limited.

Dell was uphappy with our support rating for its XPS 700, since with the release of that system Dell introduced a new commitment to service, accompanied by a feature called DellConnect. The XPS 700 has bigger problems with its warranty (mainly the duration, considering the system's price), but the XPS 210 is a more mainstream system, so its one year of parts-and-labor warranty coverage and 24/7 phone support are more acceptable. Dell's wide-ranging support Web site has a FAQ and system-specific support features. You can also add all kinds of service options to suit your specific needs for onsite service, extended warranties, and more.

We tried out DellConnect, and we came away impressed. DellConnect is a service that lets you grant a Dell technician access to your desktop remotely. You initiate contact with a standard call to Dell's customer service. You must be connected to the Web over a broadband connection, and your PC must at least be able to boot to the OS. Once you download the small software package (which you can later remove), your technician has multiple options for fixing a problem, but you also get to control how much access you want to allow. Options include football-style onscreen drawings that help you figure out how to make the changes yourself. You can let a tech change a setting for you directly; you can even grant a full system analysis. The software gives you the ability to affirm or deny each step, and you can also cancel out of a session completely at any time. We don't believe any other system vendor offers a comparable service right now, and DellConnect really sets Dell's support apart from the rest of the pack.

Mainstream performance tests
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test  
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test  
Multitasking test  
Dell XPS 410
165 
170 
161 
Dell XPS 210
165 
234 
217 
Shuttle XPC X100
278 
373 
280 
Note: In seconds

Microsoft Office productivity test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: In seconds

3D gaming performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF  
Note: In fps

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple iMac Core 2 Duo (24-inch)
OS X 10.4.7.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400; 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT graphics chip; 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive;

Dell XPS 210
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core Duo E6600; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm SATA

Dell XPS 410
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Intel 965G chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS; (2) Western Digital 300GB 10,000rpm SATA; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 1)

Shuttle XPS X100
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Core Duo T2050; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1400; 250GB Seagate 7,200rpm SATA

Velocity Micro ProMagix E2010
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600GS; Western Digital 320GB 7,200prm SATA

6.0

Dell XPS 210

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 6Performance 6Support 8
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