Dell Dimension XPS 400 Evaluation

Dell Dimension XPS 400 Evaluation

Dell's new "XPS Experience" includes bloatware bogging down your system and causing all sorts of gaming problems. Is Dell's support able to undo their mess and actually deliver the gaming system you bought?

Grammatical & Spelling Editor: Timothy Daniel

Introduction

We invite you to take a moment to read our editorial on how the [H] Consumer Systems Evaluation program works.

In our opinion, the best way to evaluate what a PC consumer will go through is to go through it ourselves. We evaluate not just the hardware, but the entire purchasing process from start to finish. We also evaluate the technical knowledge and the support of the vendor. And the only way to do this is to purchase a system, just like any other customer would.

We don’t get hand picked, extensively tweaked systems that are not for consumer consumption. Instead, we take a sample from a company’s everyday production queue and look at everything from a consumer’s perspective.

We’re like Santa’s little omnipresent robotic surveillance death-droids.

In this particular case, we’re taking a little detour from our normal [H] Consumer Systems evaluation process that, although it doesn’t affect the evaluation itself, we felt it was best to inform you about this situation before we proceed.

Normally, we have arrangements with computer manufacturers marketing departments that allow us to purchase systems they offer anonymously, and then RMA the computers after the review is written and published. Currently, we do not have a similar agreement in place with Dell. Nevertheless, we felt it was important to take a look at what the largest manufacturer in North America offers during the holiday season when many people decide what gifts to get their family and friends, so we purchased this computer from Dell.

Article Image

State of "Taxas"

We decided to order what Dell touts as one of its “XPS Experience” gaming systems, the Dell Dimension XPS 400. Our base configuration cost us $1,209, which entitled us to a discount for shipping, but not for handling. Because both Dell and the [H] Consumer offices are in the city of Austin, Texas, both state and local sales taxes applied, bringing our total cost up to $1,334.75 – your cost might be different, depending on where you live.

In addition to the computer itself, that sticker price also includes a 19” flat screen monitor and Dell’s A525 30 Watt 2.1 stereo speakers with subwoofer, as well as Windows Media Center Edition.

In addition to the other XPS computers, Dell offers four different types of the XPS 400 on its Web site, and the computer’s “base” price is $899. We decided to double the memory and get a full gigabyte of memory instead of the standard 512 MB, and we went with an NVIDIA GeForce 6800 instead of the standard ATI Radeon X300 SE HyperMemory card. We also added a DVD+/-RW dual-layer DVD burner and an optical mouse. These upgrades brought our computer’s price up $300 to the $1209 price point.

This price places the computer firmly in the mid level price range.

The computer is marketed expressly to gamers, listed under the gaming section of the Dell Web site. This price is right up there for a primary family or college student computer, and any computer in this price range should be able to handle most tasks without hesitation and provide an acceptable multimedia experience.

The Battle of the Bloat

A common criticism of Dell is the existence of bloatware. Most hardware enthusiasts prefer to have a clean system where they choose what programs to install. The counterargument is that much of what we call “bloatware” is actually quite useful to some users, and that the money Dell gets back from the software vendor helps offset the cost of PCs, which in turn leads to lower prices for you.

In this evaluation, we are forced look at the extra software (which we would have anyway) that Dell installs and see how much of an impact it can have on a computer system, essentially deciding if it’s bloatware or not.

What We Bought

CPU

Pentium® 4 Processor 540 w/HT Technology (3.2GHz, 800FSB)

Motherboard

BTX Motherboard

System Memory

2 x512MB 533MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM

Video Cards

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 PCI-E x16 256MB

Audio

Integrated 7.1 channel Audio

Hard Drive

80GB SATA at 7200RPM

Optical

16x DVD+RW/-RW Dual Layer, 16x DVD-ROM

Removable Media

None

Chassis

Dell Custom Case

Miscellany

120mm CPU/Chassis fan, 80mm chassis fan

Connectivity

USB 2.0: 2 Front, 5 rear

Network

1x 10/100/1000 RJ-45, 1x 56.6K Modem

PSU

375W Dell

OS

Windows XP Media Center Edition

Monitor

19” Flat Panel Analog

Speakers

2.1 Stereo Speakers with subwoofer

Warranty

1 year limited warranty

Price

Subtotal: $1233.00, After Shipping&Tax: $1334.75