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 quaffing Heineken, the might of Dell has become increasingly able to turn its eye to the nooks and crannies that it previously was never able to reach.
The gaming market is a bit of an obvious one. 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 upon a time never even have crossed their minds. That's not the case anymore though. We were mightily impressed by Dell's awesome XPS Gen 2, which featured a GeForce Go 6800 Ultra, at the time, the fastest mobile chip around. Before that we looked at Dell's 5th Gen XPS gaming PC and we were pretty impressed by it, though mostly by the construction and the looks rather than the raw performance. Last time, 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 was slavishly trapped into using Intel CPUs and chipsets so didn't have access to SLI. Since then however, nVidia has produced its nForce4 motherboard SLI for Intel, and Dell has jumped straight on board. Of interest is that the motherboard features nVidia's 16x SLI, with 8x PCI Express bandwidth to each slot, which in theory, should help improve perforamance.
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 the same light behind the metal panel of the previous machine that can be changed in the BIOS. 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 a 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: the usual complement, the two USB 2.0 ports, a full-size FireWire port and headphone and microphone sockets, the latter important for Skype and the like. Also, there are numbered diagnostic lights though they obviously they only illuminate when there's a problem.