Features and Price

Prices on the XPS 410 start at around $800 (not including a monitor) and go up to over $5000 once you add in a 24" monitor, high-quality speakers, printers, etc. There are numerous ways that you can choose to configure your system, focusing on increasing storage capacity, faster or slower graphics, more memory, and various other options. Here are the specifications of the XPS 410 we received for review:

Dell XPS 410 Specifications
Case: Dell custom BTX case with 375W PSU
Motherboard: Dell P965 BTX motherboard
Processor: Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40 GHz 4MB shared L2 cache)
Heatsink/Cooling: Custom BTX CPU HSF with 120mm fan
80mm bottom fan near HDDs
RAM: 2x1024MB Nanya PC-5300 5-5-5-15
4x1GB Max supported RAM

Note: A 32-bit OS will only show 3GB; a 64-bit OS is required to properly address the full 4GB.
Graphics: Dell GeForce 7900 GTX (extra long PCB)
Hard Drives: 2x320GB Western Digital 16MB 7200 RPM
Optical Drives: Toshiba TS-H553 16X DVD+RW SATA
Philips 16X DVD-ROM SATA
Expansion Slots: 1 x PCIe X16
1 x PCIe X4
1 x PCIe X1
3 x PCI
Expansion Bays: 2 x 3.5" internal bays
2 x 3.5" external
2 x 5.25" external
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
TV Tuner: Lumanate Angel II MPEG Dual-TV Tuner
Power Suply: Dell 375W
1 x 24-pin ATX; 1 x ATX12V
1 x 4-pin mini Molex
6 x SATA
Operating System: Windows Media Center Edition 2005 SP2
Front Ports: 2 X USB2.0
2 X 3.5mm Audio (Headphone and Microphone)
1 x 6-pin Firewire (optional - requires expansion card)
Rear Ports: 1 x Audio I/O Panel (six jacks)
1 x Optical S/PDIF Out Port
1 x RJ45 GbE
6 x USB2.0
2 x 6-pin Firewire (via optional expansion card)
Speakers: 2.1 Dell (no longer an option)
Monitor: Dell 24" 2407WFP Widescreen LCD Monitor

Unlike many other prebuilt systems, the Dell XPS 410 features a P965-based motherboard that is a Dell design. It is undoubtedly manufactured by one of the tier 1 motherboard companies, but it is definitely an original design and layout and not a toned down version of one of the public products. Depending on your perspective, this can be good or bad. For Dell, it means they can strip out all of the stuff that they don't want you to have, like overclocking features and advanced BIOS options. (Overclocking is supported on the Dell XPS 700, we understand, but not on other models.) For the computer enthusiasts, such omissions would be the death knell, but most other people will be more than happy with what they receive.

As we like to do with our system reviews, we priced out a similar home built system for reference to see how Dell's assembly and test costs compare to a DIY setup. Some areas are not directly comparable, but we're looking at ballpark estimates.

Comparative Price List
Case: INWIN IW-BC583.Q460L Micro-BTX Mini-Tower with 460W PSU 74
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (Note: Not a BTX board!) 144
Processor: Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40 GHz 4MB shared L2 cache) 332
Heatsink/Cooling: Stock Intel CPU HSF 0
RAM: Mushkin PC-5300 2x1024MB HP2-5300 200
Graphics: eVGA GeForce 7900GTX 512MB RoHS HDCP 400
Hard Drives: 2x320GB Western Digital 16MB 7200 RPM 196
Optical Drive: Plextor PX-716SA/SW SATA
LiteOn SHD-16S1S-05 SATA
122
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic 128
TV Tuner: Dual-TV Tuner (Estimated Cost) 125
Speakers: Generic 2.1 Speakers 20
Monitor: Dell 24" 2407WFP Widescreen LCD Monitor 800
Keyboard: Microsoft PS/2 Multimedia Keyboard + Mouse 31
Operating System: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2B 115
Sub Total: 2687

We were given a higher-end configuration that costs about $2900 with the standard 1-year warranty. The base model comes with a Radeon X1300 Pro 256MB, and the upgrade to a GeForce 7900 GS costs another $150. That's a reasonable price, and the 7900 GS is probably the best balance of price and performance. The top-end GPU offered is the GeForce 7900 GTX, which is priced at $500 over the X1300 Pro, or $350 more than the 7900 GS. If you have Dell install a GTX, you'll be paying full MSRP for the product, and that's assuming the X1300 base offering is "free". The 7900 GTX that Dell includes is slightly different from your garden-variety GTX card, however, as it includes an extension at the end of the PCB that helps hold the card in place.

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Given that you can find GTX cards for closer to $400, that's more than we would recommend paying, and in fact a much better use of nearly $500 would be to opt for a 7950 GX2. Dell has confirmed that the XPS 410 properly supports the GX2, and it should become available as a purchase option in the near future. Some might be concerned that the 375W PSU may prove insufficient for driving a GX2. NVIDIA recommends 425-450W for the GX2, but depending on PSU quality you may be able to get by with less. Our power draw results indicate that there should be more than enough power available for a GX2, as previous testing has shown that a GX2 card doesn't consume substantially more power than a 7900 GTX due to the difference in clock speeds.

Moving on to the CPU, we don't have the base cost Dell uses for the E6300 as that's included in the total price of the system, but the upgrade prices to the other Core 2 Duo processors are all competitive with market prices, with the exception of the top-end E6700. Dell charges $250 more than the E6600 for that upgrade compared to a market price difference of $200, so the E6600 is definitely a better value than the E6700. E6400 is probably the best balance of price and performance if you're willing to go with a smaller L2 cache and lower clock speed, but keep in mind that there are no options to overclock for better performance with Dell.

All of the prices Dell charges in their engine tend to be slightly higher than what you would pay online, but taking into account you're getting a decent preassembled PC and improved support and service, the total cost of around $200 in order to assemble and test the system isn't bad. It's not great either, considering many of the configuration choices are limited. If you're after enthusiast-level performance from Dell, you will need to move up to the XPS 700. For roughly equivalent components, that adds about $400, but you do get SLI support, overclocking support, a larger/better PSU, and a vastly different case design.

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We have a few other gripes with the component selection and overall system design. First, expansion options are somewhat limited. While you do get three usable PCI slots, the X1 PCI-E slot can be blocked if you opt for the highest end GPUs. That leaves you with the single X4 PCI-E slot just below the GPU, which might be a tight fit for any expansion cards destined for the X4 slot. FireWire should be pretty much standard on a system of this level, and while Dell does provide the option it comes via a $30 PCI expansion card upgrade, which uses up one of the PCI slots. Higher-quality audio consumes another PCI slot, and a TV tuner uses up the last slot. If you need a modem, you'll have to give up one of the above three devices as there are simply no more PCI slots available. As we will see in a moment, Dell seems to have limited expansion options in favor of the chassis design, which is a reasonable decision.

There are still other concerns. You can't for example select DDR2-800 memory, which would improve performance a bit. Some OEMs seem to feel high-end RAM is "less stable", which is one reasong they often omit such offerings; however, our testing has not shown this to be the case as BIOS support is usually the key for memory compatibility. Using cheaper/slower RAM is a compromise most large OEMs prefer, but it seems out of place on an XPS system. The motherboard is supposed to support DDR2-800 RAM, so it would be nice to see DDR2-800 added as an upgrade option to the online configurator. You will still only get conservative timings, however, regardless of which type of RAM you use.

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If there's one overwhelming bright spot with the XPS 410 configuration, it would have to be the 24" 2407WFP LCD monitor. Simply put, the display is beautiful and works great, although in some areas we still prefer the older 2405FPW. We'll discuss the display more in a separate review. However, the LCD can easily be purchased from Dell separately, and at times (Dell LCD special offers occur frequently) it is actually cheaper to do so. You can currently purchase the 2407WFP for $799 from Dell, while it is an $810 upgrade over no monitor for the XPS 410.

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Besides everything else, you of course get the standard Dell keyboard and mouse, along with a nice XPS mousepad. We also received a set of 2.1 speakers, though these are no longer listed in the configurator and you will need to go with either 5.1 speakers, cheap monitor speakers, or just leave the speakers out and buy something on your own. The keyboard and mouse are both USB devices, and the keyboard has two USB ports on the back and can serve as a mini USB hub.

If we've given the impression that the XPS 410 is a bad computer, it's not; we merely feel that it is not perfect and that the price/performance offered is more expensive than some people will be willing to pay. There are other good points about the system design, which we will cover throughout the rest of this review. The bottom line is that the price is okay, but don't expect to walk away with an amazing bargain. A large portion of the price goes towards providing improved customer service, however, and we will provide an evaluation of the XPS support shortly.

Index Externals and Appearance
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  • mino - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    Otherwise this machine is pretty solid, no question about it, ideal for making your average clueless kid an game addict.

    One thing not reasonable is the lack of RS232, LPT, PS/2 and FW, that makes it unusable as far as I'm concerned.

    Just wonder, will the ATX channel case builders ever actually LEARN how to make a proper AND cheapo case???

    It is possible and pretty easy to do at the same time, yet they are like afraid to make a killer product...
    Reply
  • Bluestealth - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    One thing not reasonable is the lack of RS232, LPT, PS/2 and FW, that makes it unusable as far as I'm concerned.

    Really...
    Most mouses nowadays are usb
    Keyboards also come in usb(although there are still a lot of PS/2 keyboards),
    RS232... USB Serial Port?(I realize the network guys use these, but they are obsolete for the general person),
    FW... I haven't run into something that "required" this for a while,
    LPT... soon there won't be many LPT printers left surviving, and again there are USB adapters.
    I wish my new motherboard didn't have RS232/LPT/PS/2, they just waste space.
    It did however come with lots of USB and 2 FW ports, which is nice.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    PS/2 usually just works, USB works, OS loads up and USB mouse turns off.I had amny times such a situation.
    That was just a single example..

    I am OK with an no-legacy approach as along as it is meaningfull.
    However to make legacy-free boards by removing all legacy stuff and not use the place for any other usage (i.e another 4-6 USB ports) is stupid.

    Also 6 USB ports as a complete I/O ? that's a joke!
    keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner, monitor, RS232 adapter and you have not a single port left!

    6 USB is nice if you have all that legacy - the big reason we use PS/2 KB and mouses is it frees up 2 USB ports.

    As for RS232, there is s huge amount of various equipment _produced_ for RS232! Why? because it makes no sense to go (pretty complicated vs. RS232) USB for simple data-reporting tasks.
    Reply
  • Bluestealth - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Some companies use a USB to serial chip (or emulation) to allow them to easily upgrade their products, and for something that was designed with USB in mind, which is ever increasing, it will cease to be a problem.
    I currently have 1 USB Joystick, 1 Keyboard/Mouse Transceiver, 1 RF Remote. That is only 3 ports for me, I have 4 Rear USB ports, can add 4 more, a 4 port hub (plug stuff in on my desk easier), and have 2 front USB ports. For a majority of people 6 is NO PROBLEM, there are USB hubs for a reason though.
    These computers are not designed for everyone, they are designed for most people, most people nowadays will not use the LPT/serial ports, while a lot still may still use PS/2 ports dell "provided" a USB keyboard and mouse. Most people have a mouse, keyboard, printer, and "maybe" something else such as a scanner.
    It would be great if there were 8 USB ports on the back but I am assuming the last 2 went to that card reader. Intel decided on 10 USB ports, dell would have to add in card to support more, or add an additional chip to the board.
    Monitor... did you not see the 2 DVI ports? (I don't know how you even justify listing this), RS232 is not required for most people.
    Ok I did go on a rant, but this just screams of stupidly, USB is an expandable bus; it doesn’t have a fixed number of ports, only devices which is 127(?) per controller.
    Sure they are saving quite a bit of money on an I/O chip from winbond, but in the end it doesn’t affect many people, so why not?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Two USB on the front, six on back, two more to the flash reader I think. Keyboard+mouse takes one port (the keyboard has two extra ports on it). You've got printer, scanner, headphones, network, and maybe one or two other things that can go USB, but that still leaves one extra port for most people. An LPT/Serial card is an option if you want that (it will use a PCI slot). Most people don't need it, though. If they had put firewire in the extra rear space, that would have allowed the use of a PCI LPT/COM and still have the sound card and TV Tuner. Not sure about PhysX, though... need a PCI-E version I guess. Reply
  • mino - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    "even on customs" => "even in the case of a custom setup" Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    Dells Suck!


    Just kidding. When my Mom needed a new computer I had her buy a Dell. Its been trouble-free for several years.
    Reply
  • Jetster - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    i'm really impressed with the case design,especially the internal layout, excellent airflow. easily better than the most standared atx case you can buy on the market now. and AT's statement is so true: "It's almost a shame that most people that purchase an XPS 410 are unlikely to appreciate the ease with which the system can be upgraded."
    BTW did Dell use the new video card design with the chipset on the other side? casue the hsf is facing upward, which is better imo
    Reply
  • Homerboy - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    yeap. They are designed well, implemented even better and can't be beat bang for the buck. Sure higher-end and performance PCs will never be an pre-builts bread and butter, but they do it perfectly fine for the masses who don't know how to do it themsleves.

    And as far as their run-of-the-mill "workstations" and home PC are concerned. You simply can_not_beat a big-name manufacture on price and support.

    (*please note I build all my own PCs, but family, friends, and workplace all get pre-builts... Dell's actually).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 18, 2006 - link

    BTX motherboards have the slots flipped, so the case opens on the right instead of the left. That makes the GPU HSF face upward, as you can see. I didn't go into extreme detail on the BTX format, as I figure the images illustrate it well enough. :) Reply

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