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Dell XPS 700

Dell's new XPS 700 shows that it's finally starting to take high-end gaming seriously. We recommend you wait for Intel's next-gen chips before making a purchase, but with a brand-spanking-new case and some other surprises, the XPS 700 brings some long-missing innovation to Dell's high-end desktop line.

The public got a glimpse of Dell's new XPS 700 back at this year's E3, but today the system's full details came to light. We actually got a preview of this system back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, then we had a more comprehensive look shortly before this year's Electronics Entertainment Expo (a.k.a. E3). It's impossible to make a complete judgment without giving a shipping model a thorough going-over, but from what we've seen in previews and the information Dell has released today, it looks like Dell is finally starting to take its gaming customers seriously.

The most obvious new feature of the XPS 700 is its brand-new aluminum tower case. During E3 Dell made a point of emphasizing that its designers paid a lot of attention to melding form with function. Illuminated front-side drive buttons and back-panel ports are meant to make it easy to swap discs and cables in a darkened gaming room, and the sloped design in back is supposed to aid cable wrangling. We're more psyched that Dell has ditched the XPS 600's clunky, plastic tower with its inconvenient pull-out door. Instead, the XPS 700 has a traditional latch-operated side panel that appears to be easy to remove.

In addition to the XPS 600's irritating case, we also dinged Dell's previous high-end desktop for its sloppy cabling job. Especially for an Intel-only desktop vendor, interior case design is even more important than the exterior, since those performance chips need all the ventilation they can get. Dell appears to have resolved those issues with the XPS 700, showing off impeccably routed and tied-down wires, hopefully to the benefit of airflow and easy upgrading.

The XPS 700 starts at $2,050 for the basic black-and-gray model, which comes with a 750-watt power supply. The XPS 700 in red begins at $2,622, and for that extra $600, you get a 1-kilowatt power supply capable of running Nvidia's Quad SLI graphics cards. Interestingly, Dell doesn't specify the cards on its site; it simply states "Nvidia's next Gen 7-series graphics, 2 dual-GPU cards, Quad SLI-enabled." Whether that means you'll get Nvidia's recently leaked GeForce 7950 GX2 cards remains to be seen, although it's a fair bet that Dell will keep up with the latest gaming from ATI and Nvidia, not to mention Intel.

To that point, with Intel's supposedly barnstorming Core 2 Duo chips out soon, we're surprised that Dell launched the XPS 700 with only the unimpressive Pentium Extreme Edition 965 chip as its highest-end option. We recommend waiting to see what Intel's next-gen chips have in store before you make a purchase, because right now, a similarly equipped PC with an AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 or FX-62 chip will likely leave the XPS 700 in the dust.

Along with complete XPS 700 systems, Dell also introduced a brand-new concept to its customers, that of the build-your-own PC. For the first time, you can go to Dell's Web site and order up an XPS 700 kit, which for $1,130 gets you the XPS 700 chassis, an Intel Pentium D 930 CPU, 512MB of system memory, the motherboard, and a power supply--no graphics cards, no optical drives, no Windows operating system, no hard drives at all for that matter. You'll need to stick with an Intel chip unless you want to swap out the motherboard, but if you really like the XPS 700 case (and perhaps the novelty of building a "Dell" with an AMD chip in it), Dell is making it easy, if not a little expensive, for the DIY crowd to get onboard. Stay tuned for our full review of the Dell XPS 700 as soon as we get our hands on a system.

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