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In "the very near future," an army of Dell technicians will descend upon customers who last year purchased the Dell XPS 700 gaming rig. Their mission will be to upgrade the XPS 700 systems for free with a new XPS gaming motherboard and to offer customers the choice of an even better future motherboard with a quad-core chip at a 25 per cent discount.

Dell hopes the free service and hardware upgrade will assuage its disgruntled, demanding and prized gaming customers.

"We really wanted to show that we're serious about the gaming segment," said Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden. "They are very sophisticated and enthusiastic, and we want them as customers.

"They are the people that a lot of friends and family call when they want systems. If we can't develop a top of the line product experience, how can we count on them to say, 'You should look at Dell?'"

Of course, all this goodwill arrives via a Dell gaffe.

The vendor started taking orders for the impressive XPS 700 - 3.73GHz Pentium Extreme Edition CPU and dual Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS SLI graphics cards - last May. Unfortunately, a variety of technical issues prevented Dell from actually shipping the systems for months. That shipping delay forced Dell to offer a free chip upgrade last July.

Once those systems shipped, a number of customers were disappointed by the discovery that some of the latest and greatest tools from both Intel and Nvidia were unsupported on the boxes. For example, customers griped about missing 64-bit software support, missing Intel virtualization technology and missing EPP memory support.

Dell has already fixed the first two issues via a BIOS update and will fix the remaining problems with a new BIOS update that will ship within the week, Camden said. All of the new BIOS features and the exchange program are documented here.

Customers who decide to go with the motherboard upgrade will receive the same board that slots into Dell's new 720 H2C system.

Dell used to have an online survey posted that let customers discuss the XPS 700 and then sign up to receive a notice when the XPS 700 upgrade program would start. That survey, however, closed on May 30.

It would seem that you have to fend for yourself now, although we'll help by keeping an eye out for the new boards. ®

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