capsule review

Dell XPS 720

At a Glance
  • Dell XPS 720

    PCWorld Rating

    This well-designed and overclocked PC has plenty of performance and expandability for gamers who can afford it.

The Dell XPS 720 is one powerful system. With the Core 2 Extreme QX6800, Intel's latest quad-core processor (overclocked by Dell to 3.2 GHz and supported under the computer's one-year warranty), plus 2GB of speedy Corsair 1066-MHz DDR2 memory, the PC earned a score of 124 in our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 benchmark--right in the thick of our batch of recently tested gaming PCs.

Equipped with Windows Vista Premium, the XPS 720 ($4959 as of July 11, 2007) has the oomph to satisfy heavy graphics users and gamers alike. Our test system came with a single 768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card, which generated average frame rates of 202 frames per second in Far Cry at 1280 by 1024 resolution (with antialiasing turned on)--a result significantly better than the output of the other gaming systems we've seen.

The futuristic styling of the XPS 720's massive, red, aluminum case is both attractive and practical. The large grilles on the front and the rear offer plenty of ventilation. And thanks to the big fans located inside the spacious case, cooling air can pass through the system. In our tests, even when the PC was working hard, its noise level didn't rise above a whisper.

The forward-sloping case design permits easy access to the cables at the back when the system is under a desk. Three LED lights illuminate the USB 2.0 ports at the rear while eight lights shine on the drive bays on the front of the system; Dell's QuickSet software lets you adjust the effects and lighting colors (blue, red, green, pink, and more).

The spacious case has room to hold four hard drives; our review system came with two 160GB, 10,000-rpm hard drives in a striped RAID array for a total of 320GB storage. To make adding hard drives easier, Dell prewires the PC with the necessary internal SATA and power cables for a third and a fourth hard drive. Of the four externally accessible drive bays in our test machine, only one was used (for the 2X Blu-ray drive). The system has plenty of space for additional expansion cards, too, with three unoccupied PCI slots: one PCI Express x16, one PCI Express x1, and one regular PCI.

You don't need a screwdriver to install drives or expansion cards, as an easy-release mechanism that you can open by hand holds all the cards and drives firmly in place. Unfortunately, the memory card reader slots are situated too low, and a cover that slides over the slots impedes access to them. We had to use a significant amount of force to get the 2.5mm-thick aluminum side panel loose, too.

The bundled 24-inch Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP wide-screen LCD monitor produced attractive, bright, and sharp images; though it also displayed smooth motion when playing back a movie DVD, it needed some tweaking to produce optimum image quality.

If money is no object, you may find more appeal in Dell's XPS 720 H2C (in which liquid cooling and a QX6800 CPU overclocked to 3.46 GHz are standard), but the red XPS 720 is an enviable gaming beast in its own right.

Richard Baguley and Danny Allen

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This well-designed and overclocked PC has plenty of performance and expandability for gamers who can afford it.

    Pros

    • Chassis has a sturdy design
    • Good amount of expansion room

    Cons

    • Side panel can be tricky to remove
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