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Dell XPS 700 review: Dell XPS 700

Review Sections

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Multitasking test  

Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test  

iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test  

Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Microsoft Office productivity test  

There's not really much left to say after looking at these charts. The Dell XPS 700 blew away the competition on CNET Labs' new application tests, including the Falcon Northwest Mach V, whose Core 2 Duo E6700 chip was overclocked to 3.13GHz. If you're looking for a consumer desktop to use as a multimedia workstation, the Dell XPS 700 is the fastest we've seen so far.

The gaming picture is a little different. On all but our lower-resolution F.E.AR. test, the Dell won. Fair enough. Short of Quad SLI, its pair of 512MB GeForce 7900 GTX cards is among the fastest 3D card configurations around. But our issue lies with the margin of its victory. Any 3D card discussion right now is limited by the specter of Windows Vista and DirectX 10. Both ATI and Nvidia have DirectX 10 cards around the corner, which will render the current generation of high-end 3D cards obsolete, so this discussion will alter drastically in just a few months. This is all the more reason why it doesn't make sense to spend nearly $1,000 on a graphics card configuration such as that of today's XPS 700. Dell doesn't disclose the pricing for a single GeForce 7900 GTX card, nor does it offer a GeForce 7950 GX2. But the street price for the latter is roughly $575. This is the card that's in the Falcon Northwest Mach V on our charts, and the performance difference between that system and the XPS 700 is barely perceptible. The Falcon even beats the Dell on the low-end F.E.A.R. test, and although its high-end 1,600x1,200 F.E.A.R. test scores are lower, its 77 frames per second are still well beyond smooth.

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake 4 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF  
F.E.A.R. 1,600x1,200 SS 8xAF  
F.E.A.R. 1,024x768 SS 8xAF  
Dell XPS 700
*Falcon Northwest Mach V
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62

Yes, the Falcon's 3D card is overclocked, and no, Falcon doesn't quite offer the overall price-performance benefit of the XPS 700. That actually brings us to our final performance point. Dell doesn't overclock the CPU or the graphics card out of the box, although it makes it well known that it's possible to do. Falcon, however, will jack the clock speeds for you. We wish Dell would, too. The reason is because when a vendor does it, you pay extra, but you have confidence that the fan, the heat sink, and the rest of the thermal design can handle the added performance. When Dell invites you to do it yourself, you have to do the research into whether the parts you have will handle the added heat. We'd argue that if you're comfortable with overclocking, chances are you're building your own system. And yes, it's nice that Dell leaves you the option to do it yourself, but just because you're willing to spend a lot on a high-end PC, doesn't mean that you're interested in learning about all of its ins-and-outs. Falcon Northwest will serve the customer who wants the extra edge. Dell won't.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

Comparison systems:

AMD test bed
Windows XP Professional SP2; Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard; Nvidia Nforce 590 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX; 74GB Western Digital 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drive;

Dell XPS X700 (Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; Nvidia Nforce 590 SLI chipset; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX SLI; (2) 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drives; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Duo)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.14GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Intel 975X chipset; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950GX2 (PCIe); 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drive;

Intel test bed
Windows XP Professional SP2; Intel Desktop Board D975XBX; Intel 975X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX; 74GB Western Digital 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drive;

Our opinion of Dell's XPS support wasn't great when it was first announced. Unfortunately, as much as the XPS 700 is different, Dell's support remains the same. If Velocity Micro, a company that doesn't do half of Dell's business, can protect its Velocity Micro Raptor 64 DualX with a standard three-year plan, there's no reason Dell can't. Bumping the XPS 700's default warranty to three years costs $189, 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.

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