capsule review

Dell Dimension XPS 600

At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension XPS 600 Desktop

    PCWorld Rating

Dell Dimension XPS 600
Photograph: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

At first glance the $5024 Dimension XPS 600 appears to be Dell's answer to the souped-up, superexpensive gaming PCs made by boutique manufacturers like Alienware and Voodoo. The XPS 600 is packed with high-powered hardware and provides very good performance, and its silver tower case with corrugated metallic plate and blue backlighting is reminiscent of Alienware's stylish, distinctive case designs. But the XPS 600 isn't really for the dedicated hard-core gamer so much as it is suited to the gamer or multimedia enthusiast who rarely opens a computer's case and wants both a fast gaming system and a Media Center PC.

Any good gaming system needs lots of processing power, and the XPS 600 doesn't disappoint. A 3.8-GHz Pentium 4 670 processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and two 500GB hard drives striped for speed in a RAID 0 array delivered a WorldBench 5 score of 104, the second-fastest score we've seen from an Intel-equipped system. Notably, the CPU isn't a dual-core processor, which you might expect to find on a $5000 PC. Though this isn't a big disadvantage now, it could limit multitasking performance in the future as more dual-core-supported software titles reach the market.

Thanks to two nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards configured in an SLI arrangement, the XPS 600 will meet the processing needs of anyone who plays games or works with digital video or other large graphics files. Our graphics tests--like most of today's software programs--can't fully exploit the capabilities of SLI-equipped PCs, but the XPS 600 still scored very well on our frame-rate tests using the games Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament. The XPS 600's score of 162 frames per second on Return to Castle Wolfenstein at 1280 by 1024 resolution is the second highest we've seen. Not surprisingly, game play on Return to Castle Wolfenstein was very smooth on the 20-inch Dell UltraSharp 2005FP wide-screen monitor that accompanied the system.

Compared with other top-tier gaming systems, such as those in Alienware's Aurora series, the XPS 600 lacks easy expandability: The system has two open RAM slots but no usable expansion slots, as the graphics cards block access to an open PCI slot and an open x1 PCI Express slot. The PC has no open external drive bays, and offers room for only one additional hard drive. (That's the least of your worries, though; the two 500GB hard drives will store a lot of music, graphics, and recorded TV-show files.)

Opening the case can be problematic, too. Instead of one side simply popping off, the back edge of a side panel swings open about 60 degrees--taking the front of the case and all the optical and hard drives with it. This permits easy access to the drives, but it also makes the panel hard to open and close due to its weight. The panel's mass is supported by a plastic foot that scrapes along the floor or desk. If the foot has nothing beneath it--say, if the case is sitting on the edge of a desk--the weight of the panel and drives actually warps the entire case, and shutting the panel becomes difficult.

The cleverly designed door covering the optical drives on the front of the case, on the other hand, uses two hinges to lie flush against the side of the case while it is open. Now that's a feature we love to see.

The XPS 600 sports dual TV tuners, the usual Media Center remote control, an S-Video input and output, and a Creative X-Fi sound card that supports 7.1-channel surround sound. There are no composite or component video connectors--and, surprisingly, no digital audio connectors. A well-written and well-illustrated user manual and setup poster do a good job of covering troubleshooting and upgrades, but they could include more detail on how to set up a Media Center PC.

The keyboard is small and light but still feels sturdy. It has eight small shortcut buttons; big, easy-to-reach multimedia control keys; and, best of all, a large volume control knob that you can easily find without looking at the keyboard.

The XPS 600 is a fast and expensive gaming system and Media Center PC for the well-heeled gamer who wants TV and doesn't need to open the case or add new hardware frequently.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This fast, expensive gaming system and Media Center PC suits the well-heeled gamer who rarely opens the case.

    Pros

    • Clever case design for front door

    Cons

    • Lacks easy expandability
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