capsule review

Dell XPS 420 Desktop Computer [Penryn QX9650 version]

At a Glance
  • Dell XPS 420

    PCWorld Rating

This $3729 (as of January 3, 2008) configuration of Dell's XPS 420 multimedia computer featured a top-of-the-line 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme Quad QX9650 Intel CPU, but its other performance-enhancing components are strictly second-tier.

The system's 3GB of memory consists of DDR2-800 running at 667 MHz instead of DDR-3 running at 1066 MHz, and the graphics board is nVidia's 512MB GeForce 8800 GT instead of the slightly faster 768MB 8800 Ultra employed by most top-shelf machines. Everything is seated in a BTX motherboard featuring Intel's X38 chip set. Yes, that's BTX--one of the few we've seen. Though BTX is supposed to provide better thermal dissipation, the standard has never caught on, so you'll have to go to Dell for replacement parts.

Despite its not-quite-A+ components, the XPS 420 turned in an impressive WorldBench 6 Beta score of 126. Its gaming scores ranged between 20 and 40 frames per second slower than those of recently tested Power PCs equipped with 8800 Ultra cards--such as the War Machine M1 Elite and the Puget Systems Gaming Computer. But this Dell XPS 420 has plenty of speed for effective game play.

The front of the XPS 420's midsize tower case is composed of a glossy black plastic that looks great when clean, but tends to highlight fingerprints. Our test unit included several nice options: front-mounted S-Video and RCA ports with the unique Xcelerator option for hardware transcoding of video to your hard drive; a small top-mounted LCD that uses Microsoft's Sideshow secondary display technology to display Window's Vista sidebar gadgets; and Bluetooth to handle the included wireless GM952 keyboard and RM-RBB-DEL 4 mouse. The generous software bundle includes Microsoft Works Suite 2006, Adobe Elements Studio (Premiere 4, Photoshop 6--$349 retail), Roxio's Easy Media Creator Premiere ($79), and CyberLink's PowerDVD.

Like its Q9550-equipped sibling, the QX9650-based XPS 420 has only one open drive bay--and that's with the two Hitachi 7200-rpm 320GB drives running in a striped array mounted on the bottom of the case.

Because the resolution of the 22-inch Dell 2208WFP monitor is only 1680 by 1050, the display has to down-convert 1080p Blu-ray movies before the included Blu-ray/DVD drive can play them. If you want top-quality high-definition movie playback, consider upgrading to the 24-inch 1920 by 1200 monitor that Dell offers.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    A handsome PC with strong performance, but lacking the expandability of other high-end power desktops.

    Pros

    • Strong performance
    • Front panel video transcoder

    Cons

    • Only one free bay
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