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Dell XPS 625 review: Dell XPS 625

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The Good Overclockable AMD quad-core CPU; handy AMD overclocking and system-monitoring software; lots of room for expansion, including a second 3D card slot; beefy power supply.

The Bad Near-identical configuration available from other vendors for less.

The Bottom Line We expect anyone who purchases the Dell XPS 625 will be pleased with its robust midrange gaming components and the software that makes it easy to overclock them. We just wish Dell had been more aggressive with its pricing and that you didn't have to spend more money to make the most of this system's standout features.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Normally we criticize gaming PCs from large vendors like Dell for failing to keep their specs as aggressively up to date as their boutique competition. But after looking for systems to compare with Dell's new $1,499 XPS 625, it seems as of this writing that the entire desktop market is behind in offering AMD's most up-to-date, DDR3 RAM-supporting chipset. This is a pity, because as Intel brings its DDR3-only Core i7 chips to the mainstream market later this year, we expect that faster memory will be common in PCs in this price range. We've seen it in a few $1,000-or-so desktops already. In the interest of faster memory and a longer upgrade path, you might want to wait a month or two before purchasing any midrange AMD gaming PC. If you're simply after the best deal today, we found Dell's XPS 625 more expensive than competing PCs. And although Dell emphasizes this system's overclockability and its room for aftermarket upgrades, we wish it provided more immediate benefits to offset this desktop's higher price.

To clarify the AMD chipset issue above, AMD has two versions of its new Phenom II CPUs. The Phenom II chips it launched at this year's CES use the Socket AM2+ motherboard design, which only supports older DDR2 DRAM. Even at launch, though, AMD made plain that it had a Socket AM3 version of the Phenom II right around the corner, which promised support for DDR3 memory at higher clock speeds. Those updated chips and motherboards came out last week.

Had Dell waited to adopt the newer AM3 motherboards, the XPS 625's upgrade problems would be gone. But with 4GB of DDR3 RAM about $125 more than the same amount of DDR2 at retail right now, Dell would be hard-pressed to offer this system for $1,499. Throw in the cost of the upgraded motherboard, and the price of a fully realized AM3 XPS 625 would undoubtedly be higher. Faced with that trade-off, we can see Dell and other vendors' reason for sticking with the older motherboard on midrange systems, for now.

Even if Dell is in lock-step with the rest of the PC industry on the motherboard, we still found the XPS 625 more expensive than similar Socket AM2 PCs from its competition. Maingear's Dash, for example, came in at $1,250 for almost the exact same specs. We also found a competitive Intel-based Gateway FX6800-01e for $1,250 that clocked in almost the same performance four months ago.

  Dell XPS 625 Gateway FX6800-01e
Price $1,499 $1,249
CPU 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition 2.67GHz Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard chipset AMD 790X Intel X58
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200 rpm 750GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Comparing the Dell and the Gateway above helps illustrate our point about DDR3 RAM already creeping its way into the mainstream. You'll notice that the Gateway uses only 3GB of DDR3 to the Dell's 4GB of slower DDR2. You could bring the Gateway up to 4GB post-purchase and still stay under the Dell's $1,499 price tag. With their performance already so close, we expect you'd see that upgrade alone push the Gateway past the Dell, and you'd still walk away with the Gateway's larger hard drive and its own fancy case. What you don't see in our chart in Dell's favor is the XPS 625's overclockability and its beefier power supply, both of which we'll get to shortly.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Predator
Dell XPS 625

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 625
Acer Aspire Predator

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 625
Acer Aspire Predator

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
Maingear X-Cube
Gateway FX 6800-01e
Acer Aspire Predator
Dell XPS 625

Unreal Tournament 3
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Dell XPS 625
Maingear X-Cube
Acer Aspire Predator
Gateway FX 6800-01e

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Dell XPS 625
Maingear X-Cube
Acer Aspire Predator

It's interesting just how closely the Dell and the Gateway compare on our performance tests. Despite the Dell's faster CPU clock speed and its larger amount of RAM, the two are effectively tied on almost every test. The Gateway's edge on our multithreaded Cinebench test is likely due to its faster memory throughput. We also suspect the Dell's 4GB of RAM contributed to its advantage on our Crysis benchmarks. You'll notice the Unreal Tournament 3 scores are basically the same, so we're reluctant to name the XPS 625 the superior gaming PC out of the box. In any case, we don't think anyone would complain about the XPS 625's performance, but it's also fair to ask why it can't consistently outperform its less expensive competition.

Were you to put that question to Dell directly, it would likely point you to the XPS 625's software, as well as inside the case. Part of the marketing push behind this system, as well as the new AMD Phenom II X4 inside it, relies on AMD's Dragon platform. Essentially this refers to a PC that uses AMD CPUs, GPUs, and chipsets. Aside of the relative quality of those individual parts, the Dragon platform also gets you two useful programs, AMD OverDrive, and AMD Fusion.

OverDrive is designed to make overclocking your PC simple, and we found that it works well. You'll need to be sure you have the "Black Edition" of AMD's Phenom II chips, which come with an unlocked clock multiplier. To Dell's credit, all of the AMD chips available with the XPS 625 fit that bill.

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