Dell XPS 730 reviews: A Ferrari stuck in traffic

Summary:Dell has released a new version of its top-of-the-line gaming desktop, and it is a major update. The XPS 730 series is the company's first gaming rig to come--in some configurations--factory over-clocked, and Dell says it is capable of playing Crysis, a notoriously demanding first-person shooter, at a resolution of 1,920x1,200 at 30 frames per second.

A Ferrari stuck in traffic
Dell has released a new version of its top-of-the-line gaming desktop, and it is a major update. The XPS 730 series is the company's first gaming rig to come--in some configurations--factory over-clocked, and Dell says it is capable of playing Crysis, a notoriously demanding first-person shooter, at a resolution of 1,920x1,200 at 30 frames per second.

The XPS 730 is essentially a test of whether the gaming world is ready for all of the latest hardware technology--quad core processors, quad GPUs (either CrossFire or SLI) built on the latest Nvidia nForce chipset, and DDR3 memory--crammed in a single, pricey box.

Based on the first reviews (honors go to CNET.com's Rich Brown and PC Magazine's Joel Santo Domingo), it would seem the answer is: not quite yet. Sure, the XPS 730 H2C has loads of raw power--as its 3DMark06 scores attest--but the latest DX10 games don't seem take advantage of quad graphics yet, and you can get similar performance on older titles, and other applications, with less expensive hardware.

The XPS 730 base model starts at $4,000 with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450; 4GB of DDR3 memory over-clocked to 1,600MHz; a 7,200rpm 500GB hard drive; dual ATI Radeon HD3870s with 512MB; dual-layer DVD burner; Sound Blaster XtremeGamer sound card; and Windows Vista Home Premium.

Throw in another grand and you can step up to the XPS 730 H2C with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 over-clocked to 3.67GHz; 2GB of DDR3 memory over-clocked to 1,600MHz; a 7,200rpm 500GB hard drive; a single ATI Radeon HD3870 with 1GB of memory; 22-inch widescreen display; dual-layer DVD burner; Sound Blaster XtremeGamer sound card; and Windows Vista Home Premium. And if money's no object, the $6,000 model gets you dual ATI Radeon 3870X2s--a total of four GPUs-- with a gig of memory, among other options.

H2C refers to a ceramic cooling unit designed by Dell, Intel, Delphi, and CoolIT. Though previous XPS systems have offered this feature, Dell reworked the H2C cooling in this model for the new ATX motherboard (the XPS 720 uses a BTX motherboard). If you're interested, here's a Dell video on how the new cooling works.

CNET.com: Dell's brand-new XPS 730 H2C high-end gaming PC ticks off all the right boxes and even manages to pull off a few new tricks, at least for Dell . . . but the problem is that Dell loses out on price and performance to its boutique vendor competition.

PC Magazine: So far, the promise of quad graphics is elusive. . . The XPS 730 holds a lot of promise, yet at this point in time there aren't many arguments for getting the latest hardware to play the latest games at the highest resolutions.

Hot Hardware: Our XPS 730 H2C with its 3.8GHz, factory overclocked processor and dual Radeon 3870 X2's in Crossfire X was able to score nearly 20,000 3DMarks right out of the box . . . So far, the XPS 730 H2C is shaping up to be a very impressive machine. However, we've barely just started to explore this system.

Topics: Dell, Hardware, Mobility

About

John Morris is a former executive editor at CNET Networks and senior editor at PC Magazine. He now works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are... Full Bio

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