A handsome PC with strong performance, the Dell XPS 420 lacks the expandability that some high-end power desktops have.

This cutting edge configuration of Dell's XPS 420 multimedia computer featured a top-of-the-line 3GHz Core 2 Extreme Quad QX9650 Intel CPU, but its other performance-enhancing components are strictly second-tier.

The Dell XPS 420's 3GB of memory consists of DDR2-800 running at 667MHz instead of DDR-3 running at 1066MHz, and the graphics board is nVidia's 512MB GeForce 8800 GT instead of the slightly faster 768MB 8800 Ultra employed by most top-shelf machines.

Everything is seated in a BTX motherboard featuring Intel's X38 chip set. Yes, that's BTX - one of the few we've seen. Although BTX is supposed to provide better thermal dissipation, the standard has never caught on, so you'll have to go to Dell for replacement parts.

Despite its not-quite-A+ components, the XDell XPS 420 turned in an impressive WorldBench 6 Beta real-world speed score of 126. Its gaming scores ranged between 20 and 40 frames per second slower than those of recently tested Power PCs equipped with 8800 Ultra cards. But this Dell XPS 420 has plenty of speed for effective game play.

The front of the Dell XPS 420's midsize tower case is composed of a glossy black plastic that looks great when clean, but tends to highlight fingerprints. Our test unit included several nice options: front-mounted S-Video and RCA ports with the unique Xcelerator option for hardware transcoding of video to your hard drive; a small top-mounted LCD that uses Microsoft's Sideshow secondary display technology to display Window's Vista sidebar gadgets; and Bluetooth to handle the included wireless GM952 keyboard and RM-RBB-DEL 4 mouse.

The generous software bundle includes Microsoft Works Suite 2006, Adobe Elements Studio (Premiere 4.0, Photoshop 6.0), Roxio's Easy Media Creator Premiere, and CyberLink's PowerDVD.

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A handsome PC with strong performance, the Dell XPS 420 lacks the expandability that some high-end power desktops have.

Like its Q9550-equipped sibling, the QX9650-based Dell XPS 420 has only one open drive bay - and that's with the two Hitachi 7200rpm 320GB drives running in a striped array mounted on the bottom of the case.

Because the resolution of the 22in Dell 2208WFP monitor is only 1680 by 1050, the display has to down-convert 1080p Blu-ray movies before the included Blu-ray/DVD drive can play them. If you want top-quality high-definition movie playback, consider upgrading to the 24in 1920 by 1200 monitor that Dell offers.

iconDell XPS 420 Test Centre performance scores

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Dell XPS 420: Specs

  • 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650
  • 3GB DDR2-800 RAM running at 667MHz
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card
  • 22in Dell SP2208WFP flat-panel monitor
  • Blu-ray/DVD drive
  • 640GB hard drive
  • 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650
  • 3GB DDR2-800 RAM running at 667MHz
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card
  • 22in Dell SP2208WFP flat-panel monitor
  • Blu-ray/DVD drive
  • 640GB hard drive

OUR VERDICT

Despite a few gripes, we like the Dell XPS 420, another solid desktop PC from Dell.

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