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Dell XPS 600 Desktop Computer for Business review: Dell XPS 600 Desktop Computer for Business

It's not the fastest PC, but the Dell XPS 600 is as fully featured a computer as we've seen. With a new chipset (non-Intel, no less), it even breaks new ground. We still wish Dell would adopt the extreme system-building tricks of its competition, but the $5,000 XPS 600 is as complete as it is expensive.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
7 min read
Dell's high-end XPS 600

The Dell XPS 600 can't claim to be the very fastest PC when judged against its admittedly high-octane brethren, but its feature set rivals that of any would-be challenger. With its 64-bit, 3.8GHz Intel 670 processor and two SLI graphics cards (a first for a Dell system), the XPS 600 can plow through any 3D game or consumer-level content-creation task. Because it also runs Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Dell's new high-end box can also function as a powerful home-theater PC. On top of all of that, the XPS 600 introduces new technology by way of its Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI x16 motherboard. And while we acknowledge the significance of a Dell computer with a non-Intel chipset (another Dell first), we're more impressed by the sheer capability of this $4,999 PC.


Dell XPS 600 Desktop Computer for Business

The Good

Versatile feature set and elite-level performance accommodate nearly any consumer or hobbyist; future-resistant 3D graphics capability; massive 1TB of hard drive space; outstanding speakers and a giant LCD turn the $5,000 price tag into a good deal.

The Bad

AMD CPUs and in-house overclocking aren't offered; the bundled LCD doesn't handle SLI 3D cards smoothly; covering a $5,000 computer with only a one-year standard warranty is inexcusable.

The Bottom Line

If you can live with knowing that a handful of PCs out there are still faster than yours, we recommend Dell's versatile XPS 600 for the extensive features and the good value it provides.

The Dell XPS 600 is not one of the "white glove" premium PCs Dell previously announced for a fall release. Instead, the XPS 600 is the sixth incarnation of the XPS line, formerly known as Dimension XPS. Our problems with the cumbersome XPS case are well documented and apply here as well; the clamshell case remains unchanged. We're happy to report, though, that Dell took its time with the interior cabling of the XPS 600. We hope the tidy interior is not a "reviewer's special" and that for the sake of optimal airflow, the neatly tucked and tied cables extend to all XPS 600 systems.

Dell's loyalty to Intel hurt the XPS 600 in our benchmarks, but the system could at least hold its head up as a serious contender. Our test system came with a single-core 3.8GHz Pentium 4 670, the second-best chip from Intel if your goal is gaming. For an extra $200, you can also get the XPS 600 with a Pentium Extreme Edition 840 CPU, a multithreaded, dual-core CPU that would serve the XPS 600 well in both games and multimedia content creation.

The Dell XPS 600 turned in outstanding--but not the best--application and gaming performance on our tests. On CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 benchmark, the XPS 600 placed last out of five high-end machines. Three of the four faster PCs used AMD processors, two of which were also overclocked. The Pentium 4 670 can be pushed past its stock speed, but Dell won't do it in-house like other vendors will (not that the 670 is the easiest CPU to overclock with its locked multiplier, but it can be done). And while the XPS might not be the fastest PC out there, its performance, bolstered by 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, is faster than that of most PCs on the market and is sufficient or overkill for every consumer- and prosumer-level task.

In terms of gaming, the results are a little better. Like the other top-end systems, the Dell XPS 600 uses two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards, currently the fastest gaming setup available. By pairing them together using Nvidia's SLI technology, the XPS 600 will conquer any current game and likely any that will be released over the next 12 months.

Unlike the other high-end PCs, though, the XPS 600 uses Nvidia's Nforce 4 SLI x16 chipset. Other systems that use Nvidia's SLI technology have chipsets that allow each graphics card to run at only half its potential bandwidth (x8). This new chipset won't affect performance now; indeed, the XPS 600 achieved a virtual tie on all of our 3D tests with the Alienware Aurora 7500, which uses the older, half-bandwidth SLI chipset. Once games start using larger texture files for their 3D models, however, full, dual-x16 PCI Express SLI graphics could let you play them faster. With no current games to tax the 3D bandwidth appropriately, it's impossible to say for sure what kind of improvement to expect.

As we said earlier, the speed of this system is only half of the story. In fact, with its 1TB of storage via a pair of 500GB 7,200rpm hard drives, the Dell XPS 600 takes the prize for the PC with the largest total hard drive storage to grace CNET Labs. Dell still doesn't offer fast 10,000rpm drives, and you can configure the Alienware Aurora 7500 to up to 2TB of space (the XPS 600 goes to 1.5TB max). Still, for sheer storage volume, the XPS 600 is a digital media archivist's best friend.

Thanks to its many inputs and outputs, the XPS 600 gives you plenty of ways to move digital media around. A 16X double-layer DVD burner, a 16X DVD-ROM drive, and an 8-in-1 media card reader let you copy or consume music, movies, digital photos, and other files from removable storage media. On the rear, the TV tuner card works in conjunction with Windows Media Center to turn the XPS 600 into an ad hoc home theater. Ports include eight USB 2.0 jacks (two in front, six in back), one front-panel and two rear-panel FireWire inputs, and 7.1 audio inputs (including coaxial optical for digital output) from the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card. (Dell wouldn't comment on adding Creative's upcoming X-Fi Sound Blaster card to the configuration options.)

While its versatile spec sheet helps the Dell XPS 600 stand out from the high-end competition, the included peripherals make the $5,000 price tag almost seem like a good deal. Our love of the Logitech Z-5500 Digital 5.1 speakers is already well established, given its score in our review. They do justice to everything. We're not as excited about the quality of the Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW LCD. It's an excellent display for movie watching and general computing, but LCD refresh rates aren't fast enough to hide the seam that divides each SLI 3D card's workload during 3D gaming. If you can live with this minor hitch, 24 inches is a vast and impressive amount of digital real estate. The Dell keyboard is unremarkable, but the Logitech MX518 gaming mouse is designed for kicking butt.

Dell doesn't include much in the way of software to support the XPS 600 or its Media Center OS features. You get the redundant Dell Photo Album SE Basic photo indexer, Corel WordPerfect for word processing, a six-month AOL subscription, and a 90-day subscription to either Norton or McAfee antivirus programs. At this price, the virus software should come with the full yearlong subscription.

We're similarly unimpressed with Dell's one-year warranty for the XPS 600. If Velocity Micro, a company that doesn't do half of Dell's business, can protect its Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX with a standard three-year plan, there's no reason Dell can't. Bumping the XPS 600's default warranty to three years costs $163, a borderline insult. At least Dell gives you a specialized XPS service code. With that access, you can call the toll-free tech-support line (open 24/7), bypass the usual long wait time, and speak with an XPS-trained technician. You can also try Dell's online support chat.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
** CPU and graphics are overclocked

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Doom 3 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF  
Doom 3 1,024x768, 4XAA 8XAF  
Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF  
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4XAA 8XAF  
** CPU and graphics are overclocked

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
ABS Ultimate X8
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840; Intel Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLA2 74GB SATA 10,000rpm; Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 400GB SATA 7,200rpm; integrated Nvidia Nforce 4 Intel Edition SATA RAID Controller
Alienware Aurora 7500
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe SLI); two Hitachi HDS728080PLA380 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Dell XPS 600
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 670; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe SLI); two Hitachi HDS725050KLA360 500GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce 4 Intel Edition SATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Overdrive PC Torque SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-57; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLA2 74GB 10,000rpm SATA; one Seagate ST3200826AS, 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Gamer's Edge DualX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-57; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLA2 74GB 10,000rpm SATA; one WDC WD250JD-00HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm SATA; integrated Silicon SiL3114 SoftRAID5


Dell XPS 600 Desktop Computer for Business

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 7Support 5