Dell's XPS 630 is a stylish and competitively priced mainstream gaming PC that can be souped up with extras such as an Ageia PhysX accelerator, a Blu-ray Disc drive, and up to 4GB of DDR2-800 Corsair Dominator memory.

And though Dell recently integrated its XPS and Alienware development teams for future products, a spokesperson confirmed that the company will fully support current XPS notebooks and desktops (such as the high-end 730 H2C, the multimedia-themed XPS 420, and the iMac-rival One) for the remainder of what is typically a 12-month life-cycle for these products. The company declined to confirm when the first Alienware/Dell hybrid systems are likely to appear.

Our Dell XPS 630 system (the price drops without the bundled 22in Dell SP2208WFP monitor packed 3GB of RAM and Intel's 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor - an older quad-core chip that continues to deliver strong performance. Two speedy 160GB, 10,000rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives configured in a RAID 0 array provide a modest 320GB storage. The system also carried dual 512MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics boards bridged as one via SLI (nVidia's Scalable Link Interface).

Dell lets you choose either Windows XP or Windows Vista as the operating system for your Dell XPS 630. Our unit, equipped with Vista Premium, earned a score of 123 on the WorldBench 6 test suite - on a par with results we've recorded for most competing desktops that use the same QX6850 CPU. To put that into perspective, consider that our current top-performing desktops posted WorldBench scores edging into the low 130s. Though Dell doesn't recommend or ship the Dell XPS 630 overclocked, you can bump up the CPU and memory speeds yourself if you know what you're doing.

The Dell XPS 630's SLI-rigged 8800 GT graphics support smooth performance by any graphically intensive PC game. For instance, the system averaged a frame rate of 162 frames per second while running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution with antialiasing turned on.

SLI configurations tend to provide their greatest benefit when powering games at higher resolutions--say, 1600 by 1200 and above. If high-resolution gaming is your thing, you might want to upgrade from the bundled 22in widescreen LCD (supporting 1680 by 1050 resolution) to a larger, more-capable monitor such as Dell's 24in E248WFP, which can natively display 1920 by 1200 pixels on screen.

The Dell XPS 630's industrial design is reminiscent of - but scaled back from - that of Dell's XPS 720 desktop. The 630's ATX case bares brushed aluminum sides and top, with a choice of black or red plastic front and back panels that feature large grilles.

The side panel easily unlatches to reveal the Dell XPS 630's well-organised interior with neat cable management, 750W power supply, and a tool-less hard-drive tray. For a case of its size, the Dell XPS 630 offers respectable expansion room, with one 5.25in drive bay available at the front (a DVD±RW drive occupies the other one). Meanwhile, several internal slots are open: two regular PCI, one PCI Express x8, and one PCI Express x1.

NEXT PAGE: chipset issues, LightFX and our expert verdict > >

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Dell's XPS 630 is a stylish and competitively priced mainstream gaming PC that can be souped up with extras such as an Ageia PhysX accelerator, a Blu-ray Disc drive, and up to 4GB of DDR2-800 Corsair Dominator memory.

The motherboard for the Dell XPS 630 uses nVidia's 650i SLI chipset. Unfortunately, this chipset limits each of the system's two PCI Express x16 slots (used for the dual graphics cards) to 8X speed in SLI mode, raising the possibility of an old-school bandwidth bottleneck that is less common today than it used to be.

Another issue: Dell's own LightFX software, which controls the colors of the Dell XPS 630's case exterior's four LED lighting zones, has problems with this chipset; this conflict forces users to resort to nVidia's ESA light effects software instead. An open standard created by nVidia, ESA (which stands for Enthusiast System Architecture) promotes two-way communication between PC components. The XPS 630 is among the first ready-made PCs to support it.

The Dell XPS 630 ships with Dell's standard wired optical mouse and multimedia keyboard combo. You also get a 15-month subscription to PC-cillin's internet security suite.

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Dell XPS 630: Specs

  • Intel Core2 Quad and Core2 Extreme processors
  • NVIDIA nForce 650i SLI chipset
  • Windows Vista
  • up to 4GB 800MHz Dual-Channel DDR2 SDRAM Memory
  • up to 1TB SATA storage
  • DVD/CD drive (Blu-ray drive available)
  • 199x491x560mm
  • 17.69kg
  • Intel Core2 Quad and Core2 Extreme processors
  • NVIDIA nForce 650i SLI chipset
  • Windows Vista
  • up to 4GB 800MHz Dual-Channel DDR2 SDRAM Memory
  • up to 1TB SATA storage
  • DVD/CD drive (Blu-ray drive available)
  • 199x491x560mm
  • 17.69kg

OUR VERDICT

Chipset concerns aside, the XPS 630 is a well-built, highly customisable midrange gaming system that delivers good performance for the price.

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