Presentation, Exterior Finish & Build Quality
The XPS 710 H2C arrived in a massive black box measuring roughly 30"x28"x17". Printed on each side of the box is an ominous caution sign, warning of it's 72+ lb weight (the delivery guy tells me it's closer to 100 lb). After hauling this monstrosity up a flight of stairs we began to loot its contents. Upon opening the box, we were greeted by a large poster of the XPS 710 H2C, depicting it in all its LED-lit glory. Set-up instructions are printed on the reverse side of the poster. Under that was a box containing all of the cables, manuals and accessories included with the XPS 710 H2C. At the bottom lays the system itself, snuggly inside a bed of foam. Attempting to pick up the XPS out of the foam makes it immediately apparent why warning labels were necessary. While the accessory box has some heft to it, the real weight is the system itself. You do not want to drop this thing on your foot or throw out your back, so grab a buddy to lend you a hand.
Once we freed the XPS from its foamy confines, we gawked at how large it is. While its dimensions aren't too far off from most other full-tower cases from the likes of Antec and Thermaltake, the XPS' case definitely has more presence. Rest assured, no one will miss the black monolith sitting on your desk; and it will sit on your desk. This case simply looks too good to be hidden in the shadows underneath, although we think it's more beast than beauty. The glossy Midnight Black paint, used exclusively on H2C systems, looks great and the case's forward taper gives it an aggressive stance.
While the standard XPS 710 comes in a couple of color schemes, the XPS 710 H2C is available exclusively in Midnight Black. Unlike the standard model, where the sides are left unpainted, the H2C edition is painted completely black. The only things that aren't black, not counting the back of the case, is the shiny Dell emblem and bright red XPS badges. No one will mistake your H2C for its more mundane and less imposing sibling. Those who are familiar with the Antec Sonata mid-tower case will know that glossy black paint jobs are often difficult to keep clean. Luckily, we found the high gloss Midnight Black paint used on the XPS to be highly resistant to fingerprints and smudges.
The case is very well ventilated, the entire bottom half of the front of the case and most of the rear is ventilated by louvered bezels, allowing air to enter and exit with ease. The louvered theme extends to the top half of the front of the case where all the exterior accessible 5.25" bays have matching drive doors. The case also has two exterior accessible 3.5" bays which are hidden behind a similarly decorated door, under the 5.25" bays. Located between the top and bottom halves of the case is the hard drive activity light, network connection light, two USB ports, a Firewire port, headphone and microphone ports.
The forward slope in the case's shape creates natural overhangs where LEDs illuminate the front bezel and the rear I/O panel. The LEDs can take on 7 colors (red, green, yellow, blue, cyan, purple, white) or they can be disabled completely. These settings can be found in the BIOS. Strangely, we could also adjust the LEDs from the NVIDIA control panel.
All four edges of the case are rounded, which creates somewhat of a stability problem, and considering its weight, you really don't want it to keel over and crush your monitor, speakers, keyboard or hands. Dell overcomes this problem by providing a detachable leg mechanism. The mechanism locks into place underneath the case and two large metal legs (which look more like wings) fold out for added stability. At the top-left of the rear of the case is a lever for unlocking the case's side panel. To remove the side panel; pull on the lever, pivot the panel down, then lift away. The lever has a hole in it for a padlock which will prevent it from opening.
Overall, the XPS 710 series case is very sturdy, functional and easy on the eyes to boot. The only drawback is that it's a bit on the large side and it weighs a ton (figuratively). Not everyone's decor can accommodate a black monolith.