Dell XPS 630
Dell's XPS 630 is a stylish and competitively priced mainstream gaming PC that can be souped up with extras such as an Ageia PhysX accelerator, a Blu-ray Disc drive, and up to 4GB of DDR2-800 Corsair Dominator memory. And though Dell recently integrated its XPS and Alienware development teams for future products,
Our $3229 XPS 630 system (the price drops to $2889 without the bundled 22-inch Dell SP2208WFP monitor, and lesser configurations start at $1199; pricing is as of June 6, 2008) packed 3GB of RAM and Intel's 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor--an older quad-core chip that continues to deliver strong performance. Two speedy 160GB, 10,000-rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives configured in a RAID 0 array provide a modest 320GB storage. The system also carried dual 512MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics boards bridged as one via SLI (nVidia's Scalable Link Interface).
The 630's SLI-rigged 8800 GT graphics support smooth performance by any graphically intensive PC game. For instance, the system averaged a frame rate of 162 frames per second while running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution with antialiasing turned on.
SLI configurations tend to provide their greatest benefit when powering games at higher resolutions--say, 1600 by 1200 and above. If high-resolution gaming is your thing, you might want to upgrade from the bundled 22-inch wide-screen LCD (supporting 1680 by 1050 resolution) to a larger, more-capable monitor like Dell's 24-inch E248WFP ($100 extra), which can natively display 1920 by 1200 pixels on screen.
The XPS 630's industrial design is reminiscent of--but scaled back from--that of Dell's XPS 720 desktop. The 630's ATX case bares brushed aluminum sides and top, with a choice of black or red plastic front and back panels that feature large grilles. The side panel easily unlatches to reveal a well-organized interior with neat cable management, 750W power supply, and a tool-less hard-drive tray. For a case of its size, it offers respectable expansion room, with one 5.25-inch drive bay available at the front (a DVD
The motherboard for this system uses nVidia's 650i SLI chip set. Unfortunately, this chip set limits each of the system's two PCI Express x16 slots (used for the dual graphics cards) to 8X speed in SLI mode, raising the possibility of an old-school bandwidth bottleneck that is less common today than it used to be. Another issue: Dell's own LightFX software, which controls the colors of the case exterior's four LED lighting zones, has problems with this chip set; this conflict forces users to resort to nVidia's ESA light effects software instead. An open standard created by nVidia, ESA (which stands for Enthusiast System Architecture) promotes two-way communication between PC components. The XPS 630 is among the first ready-made PCs to support it.
The XPS 630 ships with Dell's standard wired optical mouse and multimedia keyboard combo. You also
Dell XPS 630
Customizable system provides affordable gaming performance in a stylish package.
- Good performance
- Dual graphics cards
- A few chipset limitations