capsule review

Dell XPS 420 Desktop Computer [Penryn Q9550 version]

At a Glance
  • Dell XPS 420

    PCWorld Rating

This XPS 420 multimedia computer we tested with Intel's upcoming mainstream 2.83-GHz Penryn Q9550 processor was identical to the XPS 420 with the overclockable QX9650 CPU in every other respect except in price. At $2729, this Q9550 model is exactly $1000 cheaper, and may be the better choice if you don't intend to run faster than spec. Its WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 122 is easily fast enough to handle everyday tasks, and the gaming frame rates will satisfy all but the most demanding gamers.

Keep in mind that the Q9550 model we previewed won't be available until Intel officially releases the chip (some time in the first quarter of 2008); hence, some details and specs for the system may change. Our test unit combined a Q9550 CPU with the same not-quite-state-of-the-art components as the Q96550 version we tested at the same time: 3GB of DDR2-800 memory (running at 667 MHz), an nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics board, and two Hitachi 320GB hard drives (for a smallish 640GB of storage overall) in a striped array.

The XPS 420's midsize tower case--a stylish combination of glossy black plastic and silvery metal--conceals the unit's only real drawback: It has just one free drive bay. On the bright side, our test machine came with several options we rarely see: front-mounted S-Video and RCA ports with the hardware Xcelerator option for transcoding video to your hard drive; a small, top-mounted LCD that utilizes Microsoft's Sideshow secondary display technology to give you external access to Vista sidebar gadgets; and Bluetooth to handle the included wireless GM952 keyboard and RM-RBB-DEL 4 mouse.

Unfortunately, the system's 22-inch Dell 2208WFP monitor has a resolution of only 1680 by 1050, so it has to reduce the resolution of the 1080p Blu-ray movies before playing them on the included DH4B1S Blu-ray/DVD drive. To see Blu-ray DVDs in their full glory, you'll have to step up to the 24-inch, 1920-by-1200-resolution monitor that Dell offers as an extra-cost alternative. On the positive side, Dell supplies a software bundle worth several hundred dollars, including Microsoft Works Suite 2006, Adobe Elements Studio (Premiere 4, Photoshop 6--$349 retail), Roxio's Easy Media Creator ($79), and CyberLink's PowerDVD, making this XPS 420 configuration even more of a bargain.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    A solid performer that costs considerably less than Dell's QX9650-based XPS 420 configuration.

    Pros

    • Low cost, high performance
    • Blu-ray Disc and Bluetooth

    Cons

    • Only one free bay
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