Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tech Link (Platform): Dell XPS 410: Core 2 Duo for the Masses

AMDTech has an article about Dell*'s mainstream PC. While I am not sure if a price of $800 is mainstream, as far as branded PC go, I guess I am just forced to agree as I don't have any visibility of pricing among different brands. They put it thru some hoops and barrage of tests and the platform came out with flying colors (at least, that's what I understand). Give this review a go if you are pondering on whether to get branded or go DIY. Expand for more..

Final Thoughts
As we said in the introduction, Dell is a big company that a lot of people love to hate. As with any large company that has many products, Dell has certainly had their fair share of lemons, but they have also had a few standout products. Right now, we would argue that it's extremely difficult to find a better LCD than what Dell offers, for example. Similar sure, but better and/or cheaper is a lot harder to come by. So how does the XPS 410 compare to the competition?

As an overall out-of-the-box experience, the system was a real pleasure to use. It could be set up in minutes, it's fast, quiet, and it offers just about everything you could want in a modern high-end computer. It is certainly possible to surpass it in performance, features, or price. It is much more difficult to beat the XPS 410 in all of those areas while also offering high-quality customer service and support. With base models starting at under $1000, the XPS 410 is likely to be very popular. As with any computer system, there are still minor flaws, but most of these can be overlooked.

The chassis design does just about everything right, and that's one area where we have absolutely no complaints. Most of our complaints center around component selections and prices. We would like to see slightly faster memory (DDR2-800) as an upgrade option, for example. It would also be nice to have the option to upgrade to a more powerful PSU, and a few more options on the graphics card front wouldn't hurt. We would like to see Dell integrate a few more features directly onto the motherboard in order to free up some expansion slots. There's really no reason for a system in this price range not to have FireWire ports. We would rather see every system cost an extra $10 than to be faced with the decision of either spending $30 on a PCI FireWire card or going without. Not everyone is going to need FireWire support, but if the XPS 410 is truly a multimedia computer, then FireWire should not be optional. Besides, with the elimination of legacy devices, there is a large unused block on the I/O plate that could be filled with a few extras. External SATA would be another good addition, for example.

Some people have had bad experiences with Dell, especially when it comes to customer support. We can't say how well they handle all customer calls, but during our testing and evaluation period all of our interaction with the support department went very well. The system as a whole was extremely stable, and other than an outdated driver that caused periodic instability with one particular game, we didn't experience a single crash throughout weeks of stress testing and benchmarking. If you don't care about getting the fastest computer on the block but just want something that's reasonably fast, very reliable, and you would like some good customer service and support, the Dell XPS 410 looks like a real winner.

Our one minor complaint would have to be price, but we're speaking specifically about the configuration we were sent for evaluation. If you're actually interested in purchasing an XPS 410 and would like our recommendation as to the best component selection for a reasonable price, most of what we were sent for review is a good place to start. One area where you can cut performance a little without too much of an impact on subjective performance is the processor. Core 2 Duo is typically so fast that most people simply don't need anything more than the base model. If you want to pay $50 to upgrade to the E6400, that's a reasonable choice, but anything beyond that and you get greatly diminished return on your investment. Cutting the graphics card to the 7900 GS is also a good compromise, particularly for more casual gamers, and non-gamers should be fine with the default X1300 Pro.

One area where you can cut the price a lot is the LCD, but here we would advise you to go all-out and splurge on the best monitor you can afford. $800 is a lot of money to pay for just a display, but remember that the display is part of the computer you're going to see the most, and for some things bigger is better. For more casual family computer use, or perhaps for systems where the XPS 410 is going to be located near the TV and used as an HTPC, sticking with the included 19 inch monitor won't present any real problems.

So what don't you get with the XPS 410? Enthusiast level features and performance. You won't get overclocking, multiple GPUs, or the fastest CPUs and GPUs. The power supply could prove to be a limiting factor in the future if you want to upgrade to some of the upcoming graphics cards, but we will have to wait and see before we can render a definitive verdict in that regard. For the hard-core hardware junkies, you can certainly get equal to or better performance for less money than Dell is charging. On the other hand, if you simply want a prebuilt system that is easy enough for your parents or grandparents to set up, and you would rather have someone else provide technical support, the Dell XPS 410 is presently one of the best choices on the market. Not everyone needs the equivalent of a turbocharged street racer, and the XPS 410 represents a combination of style, performance, features, reliability, and support that should make a lot of more casual users happy.

Source:Dell XPS 410: Core 2 Duo for the Masses

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