Opening up the side of the case you’ll notice that it’s the right side of the case that comes away, rather than the usual left. This is because the motherboard is based on Intel’s BTX standard, designed for superior air flow and is upside down compared to ATX. Internally the Dell XPS 700 is as impressive as the exterior, though it’s not as tidy as I expected it to be, though that not really an issue. The first thing you’ll notice is a very large cowling with the XPS logo emblazoned on it. This sits on top of the very large heat sink that’s placed on the CPU. Heat is drawn into the case and over this heatsink and then directed to the rear. There’s a large fan below this that directs more cool air over the add-on card below. The fans are large 120mm types so don’t make too much noise. The northbridge and southbridge are covered by passive heatsinks. When enclosed behind the heavy metal door this ensures that the overall noise is kept to a minimum making this one of the quietest systems we’ve seen – or rather heard.
The power supply is quite quiet when running and close inspection revealed its rated at a healthy sounding 750 watts. Surprisingly, the XPS we were supplied with only featured a single graphics card – a GeForce 7900 GTX. That’s a fast card we would have liked to have seen SLI – and it made performance comparison difficult, as the previous Dell XPS 600 sported two 7800 GTX cards.
Backing the E6700 Core 2 Duo is 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM. Confusingly, at the time of writing this option was not available on the Dell web site – you could only have 2GB of 667MHz RAM if you choose four DIMMs, which would rule out any memory upgrades without itching some of the RAM. You can also specify cheaper 533MHz RAM is you wished.
The eagle eyed though will wonder why only 667MHz RAM is offered when the 590 chipset will support 800MHz RAM. Well therein lies a story. In fact there are a range of issues with the Dell, which are discussed on Dell’s official Blog site here.
In a nutshell the numb of the problem is how Dell has chosen to implement the nVdiia nForce5 590 chipset on its custom motherboard. For some reason it has chosen to only use certain features – an issue that is raging in the Dell forums in the US amongst owners of the XPS 700 who were not aware of the various limitations on purchase.
For some reason, Dell has chosen not to support 800MHz RAM in the BIOS, and this is why it’s not offered as an option. Users have also found that Dell has removed other nForce5 590 features such as SLI-Ready memory (automatic selection of optimal latency settings), Dual-Link bonding, (which let’s you use the chipsets two Gigabit Ethernet ports to deliver 2GBs of bandwidth through one port0, and FirstPacket (optimises gaming and VoIP packets over other traffic on a network).
It gets worse – there’s also no Virtualisation support or EMT64, which means that two of the Core 2 Duo’s flagship features are not available on this system. The front of the case features an official Microsoft ‘Windows Vista Capable’ sticker, but you won’t be able to get the most out of Windows Vista when it arrives next year as with no EMT64 you won’t be able to take advantage of the 64-bit nature of the OS and run more than 4GBs of memory.
The final omission, though perhaps not as serious is the lack of DTS support from the software that comes with the Creative X-Fi card. This is because Dell hasn’t paid for the DTS licence so the software that comes with the card doesn’t support it. It is available with the retail versions of the card. It can be added by purchasing different software but it’s frustrating that it’s not there in the box.
Moving on with the specifications we find that there are two 250GB hard disks included. These are set up in a RAID 0 configuration, giving one giant C drive. This is actually quite scary as now there are two points of failure instead of one, for very little performance benefit. It might make some sense if there was a third drive for data – but there isn’t. There is space for adding a further two drives and Dell has the SATA and power cables already in place. It’s a little messy but it does make it easy to add an additional drive without faffing about.