The Dell XPS 625 is an AMD Phenom II gaming PC is at the high end of our value PC category in both performance and price - starting at £799 without a monitor.

But if you're willing to consider systems priced just a few hundred dollars more, which throws Intel Core 2 Quad-based systems into the mix, the Dell XPS 625 loses its mojo.

The Dell XPS 625 sports a brand-spankin'-new AMD Phenom II X4 940 processor. Although the chip used here is the multiplier-unlocked Black Edition of the processor, Dell has chosen not to overclock the CPU one iota past its 3GHz stock speed.

That hurt the Dell XPS 625 in a few benchmarks, which we'll address in a bit.

Four gigabytes of DDR2-800 RAM run on a motherboard that sports AMD's 790x chipset. That isn't the highest memory clock the processor can support; it could support DDR2-1066, too, but we rarely see that on machines at this price point.

A single Seagate 500GB hard drive provides above-adequate storage for the system, upon which Windows Home Premium 64-bit comes preinstalled.

The Dell XPS 625 completes the requirements for an AMD Dragon platform machine by sporting an ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; and in graphics, at least, the XPS 625's benchmarks crushed those of most of the best value PCs we've tested. Its average frames-per-second rate of 167 in Doom 3 (1280 by 1024, with antialiasing turned on) is pretty fast.

Although we reviewed the MicroFlex before we officially adopted Unreal Tournament 3 as a new graphical benchmark, we wouldn't expect its 8800GT video card to be able to surpass the Dell XPS 625's score of 51fps on that title at 2560 by 2100 resolution with high quality settings turned on.

The Dell XPS 625's WorldBench 6 score of 108 is in the upper region of value PC performance (rightly so for the XPS 625, as its price is at the top end of the category).

This Dell XPS 625 has plenty of room for you to tinker and upgrade all you want - a rarity for a Dell system. We're so used to seeing proprietary internal architecture, clunky plastic bits, and cables going every which way that we almost assumed we had incorrectly labeled the machine when we first opened it up.

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The motherboard comes with a single free PCI Express x16 slot, as well as one x8 slot, one x1 slot, and two PCI slots. You can install up to three additional hard drives using easy-to-operate drive rails, and the case also has room for one more 5.25in device.

The Dell XPS 625's rear connectivity selection is good but not stunning. You can connect up to six USB devices, one FireWire 400 device, and a single eSATA device to the motherboard's rear. Only one ethernet connection exists, although you get connection outputs for 5.1 surround sound and optical S/PDIF. The front of the case sports a single FireWire 400 port and two USB ports.

The proprietary chassis that Dell uses as the framework for its Dell XPS 625 PC is one of the best parts of the system, hands down. Its beautiful, imposing exterior has a pleasing industrial look. And we absolutely love the little lights that Dell has placed on the front and rear of the machine: they glow right over the motherboard connection area in a style reminiscent of HP's Blackbird 002 systems.

Not only does the lighting add a touch of elegance to the design, but it also forever eliminates the need to carry a flashlight as you crawl under your desk to make modifications to the system. We can't praise this chassis design enough.

The two-button mouse that comes with the Dell XPS 625 is as plain as a two-button mouse could be. Dell throws in one of its typical function-button keyboards as well; it feels a bit small to operate, but it offers more customization and usability than most keyboards we see, feature-laden or plain.

We've thrown a bunch of numbers at you in this review. But it's important to get a fair representation of this Phenom II-based machine, as AMD sees its newest processor as a viable alternative to Intel's quad-core lineup. "Alternative" might be too strong a word, as the XPS 625 failed to outright beat Intel Core 2 Quad-based machines in our benchmarks. The XPS 625 comes very close, however.

Dell XPS 625: Specs

  • (Basic specs - all upgradeable) AMD Phenom X3 8750+ Black Edition (2.4GHz, 95W)
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium SP1
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD4670 graphics card
  • from 2048MB 800MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
  • Hard Drive 500GB Serial ATA non Raid (7200rpm)
  • 16X DVD+/- RW Optical Drive (DVD & CD read and write)
  • 1-year warranty
  • (Basic specs - all upgradeable) AMD Phenom X3 8750+ Black Edition (2.4GHz, 95W)
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium SP1
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD4670 graphics card
  • from 2048MB 800MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
  • Hard Drive 500GB Serial ATA non Raid (7200rpm)
  • 16X DVD+/- RW Optical Drive (DVD & CD read and write)
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The Dell XPS 625 is a strong desktop-PC contender, but if you're willing to spend an extra hundred bucks or so, you can get even more for your money.

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