Dell XPS 600 SLI gaming PC
Review You've got to feel sorry for little guy in the PC industry. Smaller companies used to be able to survive by going after the niche areas, while big 'ol Dell took care of the masses. But like the eye of Sauron, Dell has become increasingly keen to gaze into the nooks and crannies that it previously was never able to reach.
The gaming market, for instance. Hardcore gamers tend to be very particular about what hardware they use, and the thought of buying a ready-made system from someone like Dell would once have never crossed their minds. Not any longer.
We were mightily impressed by Dell's awesome XPS Gen 2, which featured a GeForce Go 6800 Ultra, at the time the fastest mobile graphics chip around. And Dell's 5th Gen XPS gaming PC was impressive, though mostly for its construction and looks rather than raw performance. The Gen 5 was hampered by its single Radeon X800 XT PE. Fast for sure, but it couldn't keep up with SLI rigs. The problem was that Dell insisted on using Intel CPUs and chipsets so didn't have access to SLI. Since then, Nvidia has produced its nForce4 SLI chipset for Intel, and Dell has jumped straight on board. The new motherboard features 16x SLI, with 8x PCI Express bandwidth to each slot.
But let's not start with the specs - let's first enjoy the exterior of this machine. The Gen 5 was decked out in performance purple. This time Dell has gone for supersonic silver. But while it looks great in pictures it's actually less impressive in the flesh, with a plastic look and feel. It's still an impressive box though with a BIOS-changeable coloured light behind the metal panel. Above this is a flap which pulls away to reveal the two optical drives: a dual-layer DVD writer and a DVD-ROM drive. Beneath these is a card reader capable of handling pretty much every format out there. There's space for ye olde floppy disc drive at the top, but this was blocked out with a filler on our test machine. Good.
On the right-hand side of the system is a flap covering a cubby hole containing the front-mounted ports: two USB 2.0 ports, a full-size FireWire port, and headphone and microphone sockets. And there are numbered diagnostic lights, though they only illuminate when there's a problem.
Moving to the rear of the machine, you'll get sockets for seven-channel surround sound, rendered obsolete by the presence of an Audigy 2 ZS sound card - a newer X-Fi card would have been preferable. There's PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, a generous six rear USB 2.0 ports and a second FireWire with a third on the sound card. There's only one network port. Interestingly, Dell has chosen to fit a 56Kbps modem. Why? In an age of 24Mbps connections is someone going to spend over two grand on a gaming PC and hook it up to the Internet with a 56Kbps modem? Remove it from your order and you'll at least get one free PCI slot for something else. As it stands there are no free slots on the motherboard at all.