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 though. There’s PS/2 keyboard and 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 56K modem. Why? In an age 24Mbps connections is someone going to spend over two grand on a gaming PC and hook it up to the Internet with a 56K modem? If so, please make this person known to me so I can slap him. Best to not order it so 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.
So far, so not that interesting. Where the Dell gets really cool is when you open it up. To do so you need to move the handle upwards and move the side door. This is impressively heavy giving it the solid feel of an expensive car. It’s not the neatest PC interior you’ll ever see, but that’s forgivable seeing how much there is going on here. It’s seriously over-engineered, which is what you’d want if you’d shelled out this much for a PC.
Firstly there’s a huge green cowling with the initials XPS moulded into the case. Underneath this is a very large finned heat pipe drawing heat from the CPU with the cowling ensuring that the heat is directed outside. There’s no fan on this heat sink with two 92mm fans at the rear drawing the heat away. Internally there’s also a fan drawing air from the front and directing it over the graphics sub-system. There’s also a fan mounted at the side of the case that takes air from the front and directs into the path of the graphics cards.
Yes, that’s cards. There are of course, two in this machine – nVidia GeForce 7800 GTXs operating in SLI configuration. As with the motherboard, nVidia has custom made the cards for Dell. Each is fitted with a large dual-slot heat pipe and fan cooler, similar to what nVidia has used on its new 512MB 7800 GTX cards. The PCBs on the Dell cards are full length with a metal bracket running down the spine. The only reason I can see for this is so that the cards can be secured in the bracket that also houses the internal fan with the advantage that there’s less chance of anything coming out of place.
Beneath the graphics cards is the Audigy 2 ZS fully wired up for the front mounted audio connectors and underneath that is the modem. Fitting is screwless, with a plastic strip that holds the cards in place. Unlike some screwless solutions this actually can be flipped down and put back easily.