AMD's new Phenom II microarchitecture represents an opportunity for manufacturers to refresh their product lines, and Dell isn't skipping the opportunity. Enter the Dell XPS 625, a new gaming machine that carries Dell's signature XPS looks and AMD's new Phenom II quad core chips. Depending on the configuration, the XPS 625 is a low- to mid-level gaming system, and potentially a great value for gamers. Read on for our full review.
Our review unit of the Dell XPS 625 came with the following specifications:
XPS 625 units will carry a starting price of $999; our unit has a suggested retail price of $1499.
Build and Design
Just a few years ago, Dell went and revamped the design of their XPS line to much acclaim, and the 625 follows along with the same sleek racing-inspired lines. The case itself has the XPS slanted look, and has a shiny brushed aluminum finish. Dell has sort of gone in the opposite direction as its subsidiary Alienware when it comes to case designs. While the XPS 625 carries much of the height and depth of its more expensive cousin, the case is all metal instead of high-end plastic and overall it feels much, much sleeker than the Alienware models.
Speaking of Alienware, we're starting to see more and more of the fruits of that purchase show up in other product lines that Dell carries. In this case, Dell swipes the AlienFX customizable lighting technology and stuffs it into the XPS 625. The AlienFX lighting application lets you actually change the color of the lights shining out from inside the case. There are 12 different colors, not including white and off, and you can change each region independently; the top front can be red while the left front is orange and the right front is blue while the back is glowing purple. Usually seen only on the high-end Alienware systems, it's nice to see it on the XPS 625. It's admittedly not all that useful, but it's fun to play around with and impresses your friends.
In the front, the case feels a little cheaper than the rest of the build, but it's not a serious issue, and covering the front with more of that beautiful aluminum would just drive up the cost. As is the trend nowadays, the optical drive is covered with a shield so that it blends in with the rest of the case. Beneath that, a door opens up to reveal a 3.5" drive bay. Given the rushed nature of getting us this unit, I suspect that production units will actually have something there, like a media card reader or at lea, it a cover.
On top of the stylish case is a small handle; this activates the door release. Just give it a tug upwards and the side of the case pops open, letting you tinker around inside, as well as perform upgradeys. There's a ton of space inside of the case for modifications or upgraded components; Dell's left it so that you can do pretty much whatever you want to the XPS 625. One big plus is that Dell actually put a 750 watt power supply in this machine, so for once you don’t have to worry about upgrading the power supply if you buy the desktop now and decide you want to add an additional video card and a few fast hard drives. Granted, not all power supplies are created equal, and there’s no telling how good the quality of this power supply is, but I’m willing to give the Round Rock juggernaut the benefit of the doubt.
It feels like a lot of effort went into the design of the machine. It's sensible without being overdone, and it all meshes together really well. As anyone who reads my reviews knows, I'm a huge fan of screwdriver-free upgrades, and the XPS 625 makes it easier with the handle on top of the machine and the hard drive mounts that slide in and out of the drive bays. Overall, it's got a fair amount of heft and feels pretty solidly built -- I do wish to reiterate how much I like the aluminum case.
Inputs and Expansion
The Dell XPS 625 features an average number of ports and inputs, with the front face offering up what's become a standard complement for computers nowadays: 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 FireWire port, and microphone and headphone 3.5mm jacks. The back, however, is another story, with six more USB 2.0 ports, a second FireWire port, networking port, an eSATA slot and 7.1 as well as optical out audio jacks. Interestingly enough, Dell also left PS/2 connectors for old school keyboard and mice on the XPS 625. While I can understand this feature on business desktops for security's sake, on a consumer desktop I'd rather see more USB or eSATA ports.
Internally, it's a bit of a surprise, since most gaming desktops (and most prebuilt desktops in general) don't offer a lot of options as far as expanding the internal capabilities of the unit. Dell left a lot space open in the XPS 625, however, most likely so that they can offer upsells on individual components -- but hey, we can take advantage of those, too.
There are two PCI-e x16 slots, one of which is currently occupied by the ATI HD4850 graphics card that shipped with the unit. There's also two more PCI slots, and a PCI-e x1 slot. Our configuration shipped with a single hard drive, leaving the other three bays free. Our unit also shipped with an empty 3.5" bay, but I suspect that that spot will be filled with a memory card reader once these desktops actually start shipping.
Benchmarks and Performance
wPrime is a PC performance benchmarking program that forces the computer to perform recursive mathematical calculations. This program is multithreaded, meaning we can take advantage of more than one core of a processor at a time, resulting in a more realistic estimate of a computer's performance.
wPrime benchmark comparison results (lower numbers mean better performance)
|Desktop||wPrime 32 time|
|Dell Studio XPS (Core i7 920 @ 2.66GHz)||9.1s
|Dell XPS 625 (Phenom II X4 940 @ 3.0GHz)||12.777s
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz)||13.869s|
|Alienware Area-51 790i (Core 2 Quad Q9450 @ 2.66GHz)||14.625s|
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||16.301s|
|Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz)||27.65s|
|HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f (Athlon X2 5400 @ 2.8GHz)||29.733s|
PCMark05 overall system performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance)
|Dell Studio XPS (Core i7 920 @ 2.66GHz)||10,928 PCMarks
|Alienware Area-51 790i (Core 2 Quad Q9450 @ 2.66GHz)||10,616 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS 625 (Phenom II X4 940 @ 3.0GHz)||10,296 PCMarks
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850 @ 3GHz)||9,999 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio Slim (Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 @ 2.33GHz)||6,887 PCMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850 @ 2.16 GHz)||5,189 PCMarks|
|Gateway GT5670 (AMD Phenom 8400 @ 2.1GHz)||4,981 PCMarks|
3DMark06 overall gaming performance comparison results (higher scores mean better performance)
|Alienware Area-51 790i (Core 2 Quad Q9450, ATI HD4870X2)||14,705 3DMarks
|Dell Studio XPS (Core i7 920, ATI HD4850)||13,085 3DMarks
|Dell XPS 625 (Phenom II X4 940, ATI HD4850)||12,641 3DMarks
|Lenovo ThinkStation S10 (Core 2 Extreme QX6850, NVIDIA FX4600)||10,327 3DMarks|
|Dell Studio Slim (Core 2 Quad Q8200, ATI HD3450 256MB)||1,820 3DMarks|
|HP TouchSmart IQ506 (Core 2 Duo T5850, NVIDIA 9300M GS)||1,714 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq dc5850 (Athlon X2 5000B, ATI HD3100 IGP)||1,041 3DMarks|
The benchmarks are pretty damning evidence, and I don't mean against the new Phenoms. I will admit that even I was a little surprised to see how well the new Phenom II-based system could hold its own against systems that are traditionally thought to be more powerful. It's pretty clear that in CPU based tasks, the i7 system will pull ahead but in gaming, which is a mix of CPU and GPU demanding tasks, it's essentially a wash. The Studio XPS garnered just over 400 more 3DMarks than Dell's new XPS 625.
Typically, I don't mention much in the way of software when it comes to desktops -- usually, it simply doesn't make a difference. Here, it really does. Part of AMD's new strategy when it comes to selling microprocesors includes giving users new ways to use them -- much the same way Apple includes Mac-only software in order to sell more Macs. In this case, AMD has developed two very cool pieces of software: Fusion, and Overdrive. Overdrive lets users overclock and volt mod their processors right from the comfort of the Windows operating system. No need for mucking about in the BIOS here; just punch a few buttons and you're ready to go.
If even that's too much for you to handle, AMD's Overdrive utility will analyze your system and safely overclock it for you. Just set back and let it take care of everything. It goes hand-in-hand with the other cool app, Fusion. Fusion, in its basic form, consists of a button that sits on your desktop. When you're ready to game, just double-click the button and it preps your system for gameplay.
Fusion will shut down all unnecessary system processes, and close down any windows you have open: so make sure you save your work before you do it. What you get, however, is a cool way to whittle your system down to the bare essentials and eke out a couple more frames per second. More advanced modes let you customize how Fusion works its magic.
So AMD has come out with its updated microarchitecture, and it's coming out kicking. The name of the game here is definitely more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but the new Dell XPS 625 takes what it has and runs. The system itself is not amazing in any one area, but when you add up all the little details, you come up with a strong system that isn't too tough on the wallet.
Dell is also clearly learning from its purchase of Alienware. New case designs, new lighting systems, new enthusiast features, like including AMD's Overdrive and Fusion software applications right out of the box. The strong case design, supreme expandability and overclocking flexibility come together in a fun new system. If you're a fan of AMD, you could certainly do worse than this, and if you're not, well, maybe it's time you start.
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