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Dell XPS 710 H2C Edition review: Dell XPS 710 H2C Edition

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The Good It's as fast and as fully featured as systems that cost $500 to $1,500 more; new cooling hardware makes this system nearly silent; it's Dell's first system with an overclocked (and under warranty) CPU out of the box; black case looks bad (in the good way).

The Bad Limited memory bandwidth; no Blu-ray burner option.

The Bottom Line Thanks to its market muscle, Dell's XPS 710 H2C delivers state-of-the-art gaming power for significantly less than its boutique competition--and with (basically) identical performance. That fact and the near-silent operation granted by its brand-new cooling hardware make this desktop a CNET Editors' Choice winner.

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8.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Support 7

Dell XPS 710 H2C

Editor's note: This review has been updated to correct information regarding Windows Vista and its support for 4GB of system memory. (1/24/07)

Thanks to dual-graphics-card technologies and the expensive, high-wattage power supplies required to run them, the average price tag of a best-of-the-best PC has ballooned to well over the $7,000 mark. That's why, despite running a still-ridiculous $5,759, the Dell XPS 710 H2C looks like a downright bargain. Dell remains tied to a slightly older motherboard chipset than its competitors, which limits the system's memory bandwidth and gives you a small downtick in performance. Our testing didn't show that to be a dramatic loss, though, and considering Dell's price advantage and its new cooling technology, the XPS 710 H2C is our Editors' Choice winner for high-end gaming PCs.

The main reason we're giving the XPS 710 H2C an Editors' Choice award is because of what you get for the price. For $5,759, you get an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core processor overclocked to 3.2GHz out of the box--a first for Dell. You also get 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, two 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards, and 1TB of hard drive storage between two 10,000rpm 150GB drives and a single 750GB 7,200rpm unit. Virtually every boutique vendor would charge you at least $500 more for a similar configuration.

Standardization vs. bleeding edge
We've called out Dell in the past for not moving quickly enough to the latest hardware, and that problem remains in the XPS 710 H2C, but the value Dell offers in this system makes up for it. Most current PCs with two graphics cards will have a motherboard based on Nvidia's Nforce 680i SLI for Intel chipset. Dell, however, uses its own version of Nvidia's last-gen circuitry, the Nforce 590 SLI. We say "its own version" because Dell has made some changes to it, perhaps most importantly, eliminating support for 800MHz and faster system memory (and this info is finally spelled out on Dell's Web site). Dell says it made this decision, among other reasons, to help standardize customer support calls. Whether or not you appreciate that benefit, our performance tests show that the Dell doesn't lose much because of its slower memory.

Multitasking test (simultaneous McAfee AntiVirus scan, DivX 6.1 video encode, CAB file extraction)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

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

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
Note: Note: iTunes for Windows version; iTunes for Mac version 7.0.1

CineBench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  

On all of CNET Labs' tests, the Dell XPS 710 H2C performed right alongside others in its category that had similarly overclocked Intel quad-core chips. The WidowPC IX2 SLI has a slight edge on CPU clock speed-bound tests, such as CineBench, and the Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition ekes out a win on our multitasking test, thanks to a dedicated PCI Express RAID controller for its hard drives. Those systems both cost $1,500 more than this Dell. We'd rather have a decent second computer or a 30-inch LCD than a six-second boost to Photoshop performance.

Quake 4 performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition
Dell XPS 710 H2C
Alienware Area-51 7500
Polywell Poly i680SLI (quad-core)

F.E.A.R. performance (fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition
Dell XPS 710 H2C
Alienware Area-51 7500

On our gaming tests, the task for which the XPS 710 H2C is presumably primarily intended, its Quake 4 performance lagged a bit more noticeably but not across the board; it still hit 114 frames per second at 2,048x1,536. The Dell was also a little slower on F.E.A.R. at 1,280x1,024, but its scores at the higher resolutions were on a par with those of the other gaming PCs. With all of these scores through the roof for current-generation titles, it's hard to say that the Dell's somewhat slower frame rates on Quake 4 have any real meaning today. And it's certainly possible that the other systems' faster frame rates might have an impact on future Doom 3 engine-based titles (the software Quake 4 was built with). But unless those games come with sweeping changes to the engine, we doubt they would slow down the Dell to the point it would give you a poor gaming experience.

A quiet kind of cool
There's more to the XPS 710 H2C than simply speed, though. The "H2C" in its name refers to a specially designed CPU cooling unit inside the PC that helps keep it superquiet. The H2C cooler uses a combination of liquid and Peltier cooling to chill the processor. The major benefit is that it doesn't involve any fans for CPU cooling, which in turn makes this system exceedingly quiet. Compared to the noisy Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition and the WidowPC IX2 SLI, with its annoying side-panel fans, Dell's system stands out for its low noise level.

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