|Introduction & Specification|
In the last half year, Dell has been busy revamping their entire desktop XPS lineup. First came the XPS 420 late last year, a premium multimedia workstation. Then Dell introduced a new mid-range gaming oriented desktop, the XPS 630 early this year. The 630 is a mid-tower sized gaming desktop styled after the flagship XPS 700 series but with more affordable components and a relatively thrifty price tag. We found the XPS 630 to be an excellent machine in our evaluation.
While these new additions to Dell's desktop XPS lineup were certainly welcome, we hadn't seen a major update to the flagship 700 series in over a year and we were beginning to wonder if Dell would ever get around to it. With the launch of NVIDIA Quad-SLI and AMD Crossfire X configurations, the XPS 720 just wasn't looking as attractive as it once was, considering it is supposed to be Dell's top-end gaming machine. An update was overdue. Today, it's obvious that the folks over at Dell haven't been taking any down-time. Instead they have been busy putting together a major update to their flagship XPS 700 series in the form of the brand new XPS 730 that we have on showcase for you here today.
Externally, the XPS 730 features the same monolithic profile as its predecessors but it sports the new, more aggressive grill design first seen on the XPS 630. Internally, the XPS 730 is an entirely new beast. Gone is the proprietary BTX motherboard used in past XPS 700 series machines which impeded upgrade efforts. The XPS 730's case is ESA (Enthusiast System Architecture) compatible and its powered by a standard ATX motherboard based on NVIDIA's 790i Ultra SLI chipset. The motherboard features support for DDR3 memory, 3 PCI-E x16 slots and the system has support for NVIDIA Quad-SLI as well as ATI Crossfire X technology. That's right, the XPS 730 will support both SLI and Crossfire via custom drivers, though not at the same time, providing you the option to choose from just about every graphics card configuration currently available.
Like previous XPS 700 series machines, the XPS 730 will be available in an optional H2C configuration that adds an advanced TEC assisted watercooling system as well as warranty-supported factory processor overclocking. The standard XPS 730 will be available in plain, brushed aluminum but two additional anodized aluminum color options are available for H2C configurations; Victory Red and Stealth Blue.
We got our hot little hands on a XPS 730 H2C in Victory Red for an exclusive first look. Read on for details and pictures of the unboxing and the beast itself.
|Unboxing & Accessories|
|The XPS 730 arrives in a massive box covered in signs and labels warning the reader of the box's impressive weight. The box is double-walled on the sides and quite sturdy.
The box is designed so the entire top section can be lifted away from the bottom section once a series of plastic locks are removed. However, we decided to ignore the instructions printed on the box and cut it open the old fashioned way. Once the tape was cut away and the box flaps folded back, we are greeted by two smaller, removable boxes tucked inside a small compartment and the XPS 730 itself, packed with heavy-duty styrofoam in the main compartment.
The two removable boxes are held in a separate compartment on one side of the box. These long, flat boxes contain all of the accessories, cables and other extra goodies that you ordered with your XPS 730, like keyboards and mice.
Inside the gray colored box, we find a XPS branded metal mouse pad, Logitech G5 second revision gaming mouse and a Logitech G15 gaming keyboard. The power cable for the XPS 730 was also in this box. The contents of this box will depend on which accessories, if any, you chose to order along with your XPS 730.
The second, orange, box comes with all XPS 730 orders and contains a variety of XPS branded complimentary accessories. Included in this box is a beanie (or Toque, if you're Canadian), 2-in-1 pen & laser pointer, XPS branded Turtle Beach surround sound headphones, and a sturdy pack full of screwdrivers.
Let's take a closer look at the complimentary accessories included with the XPS 730. The mouse pad is the same one included with just about every XPS gaming system. The beanie cap and 2-in-1 pen & laser pointer feature XPS branding and are both pretty self explanatory.
The included pack of screwdrivers is a bit peculiar. The screwdrivers are contained in a tough holder that is held closed by a Velcro strip. The XPS logo is stitched to the front of the holder. This is a neat accessory to have since the XPS 730 is ESA compatible and uses a standard ATX motherboard. This means you can freely upgrade the motherboard and the included screwdrivers may come in handy for people who don't normally mess around inside their computers and therefore won't necessarily have the proper tools available.
Dell also includes a rebranded Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA2 6-channel surround sound headphones. The headphones come in a cloth draw-string bag which also holds all of the necessary cables and adapters you may need. The Ear Force HPA2 is a true surround sound headphone with four speakers per ear, eight in total. They also come with a removable microphone attachment for headset functionality.
Correction: The complimentary accessories are for H2C systems only.
|XPS 730 Unboxed & 3DMark06|
|Finally, we removed the XPS 730 H2C from its snug, styrofoam packaging.
As you can see, the XPS 730 has an aggressive, menacing design; a combination of the shape of its predecessor the XPS 720 and its peer, the XPS 630. Our XPS 730 is an H2C model with a Victory Red anodized aluminum paint color scheme.
A windowed side-panel is offered as an option. Instead of a standard "full" window, Dell has decided to go with a stylized design.
Here, we take a quick peek at the XPS 730's internals. The XPS 730 H2C features a new and improved H2C module that is larger and more powerful than before. Our XPS 730 is equipped with two Radeon 3870 X2s in a Crossfire X configuration. While Dell has moved their flagship XPS 700 series to an ATX platform with the 730, they still chose to mount it in a BTX-style, upside down orientation.
A quick look at the Windows Vista system properties reveals that our XPS 730 H2C is powered by a Intel Core 2 Extreme X9770 that's been factory overclocked to 3.8GHz, up from 3.2GHz stock. Unsurprisingly, the XPS 730 rates a 5.9 on the Windows Experience Index, the highest score currently possible.
Right out of the box, one of the first things we did was make a quick run of 3DMark06.
Our XPS 730 H2C with its 3.8GHz, factory overclocked processor and dual Radeon 3870 X2's in Crossfire X was able to score nearly 20,000 3DMarks right out of the box. This is a very impressive result. Also worthy of note is the near-complete absence of any sort of pre-installed bloatware. The system booted up for the first time to a nearly fresh install of Vista and the only thing on the desktop was the recycling bin, a shortcut for 3DMark06, Internet Explorer and Roxio Creater Home.
The XPS 730 is available for sale right now in both standard air-cooled and liquid cooled H2C models. At this time, a XPS 730 can be yours for just $3,999 while a factory overclocked XPS 730 H2C, like the one we just unboxed, can be had for $4,999.
So far, the XPS 730 H2C is shaping up to be a very impressive machine. However, we've barely just started to explore this system. Stay tuned and keep watching the front page because we'll have a full review of the XPS 730 H2C soon, complete with a full suite of benchmarks and, of course, plenty more pictures.