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, 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.
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 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 Nvidia's SLI technology, the XPS 600 will conquer any current game and likely any that will be released over the next 12 months.graphics cards, currently the fastest gaming setup available. By pairing them together using
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, 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.)