Interior Design, Layout & Construction
With the side panel off, we get our first peek at the innards of this beast of a system and it appears fittingly complex upon first inspection. For a case this size, one would expect it to be fairly spacious, and while this may be true, it sure does appear to be tight, cozy setup inside. The XPS is packed to the gills (or grills, as the case may be) and there is probably more free space inside a lesser system half its size. That is not to say the innards are a mess, in fact it is quite tidy. Dell has done a decent job of routing cables and tying them down to prevent them from clogging crucial air channels necessary to keep the system at stable temperatures.
The first thing your likely to notice is the large H2C cooling unit occupying the center of the case. The H2C system nearly stretches the entire length of the case. This allows it to reach the fresh air coming from the front intake grill and deliver warmed-up air directly to the rear exhaust grill. Located in the wind tunnel created by the H2C system's plastic shroud is the CPU and the motherboard's Northbridge and Southbridge. Cables that must extend down to the bottom of the case from the power supply are tastefully routed behind the H2C assembly.
A 120mm intake fan is located under the H2C system near the front of the case. It directs air to the pair of GeForce 8800 GTXs. This greatly helps the cooling situation since the two video cards are crammed under the large H2C shroud. Below the twin GTXs are two legacy PCI slots, one of which is occupied by a Creative X-FI card. To the left of the PCI slots is a unoccupied floppy drive connecter. Although our test unit wasn't equipped with one, floppy drive and media card readers are available as optional items during the ordering process. All of the expansion slots have a tool-less clip-on design. Simply plug the expansion card into the motherboard and secure it with the light blue clips.
The area above the H2C shroud is occupied by the external drive bays, hard drive bays and the large kilowatt capable power supply. The hard drive bay has room for four drives, separated into two groups. Sandwiched between the two paris of hard drives is a 60mm fan. The sides of the hard drive bay are perforated to allow the fan to cool all four drives simultaneously. We really liked the position and orientation of the hard drive bays, as it allows for quick and easy access. However, the same cannot be said for the externally accessible expansion bays which are much too close to the hard drive bay and the power supply. As with the expansion cards, all drive bays have a tool-less design and the usual set of screwdrivers are not necessary.
While our unit only came with three drives, those that are particularly observant might notice that there are cables for four drives routed to the hard drive bay. Dell pre-routes all the necessary hard drive power and data cables, so future upgrades are as simple as sliding the drive in and plugging it in. This will save you a lot of time and the hassle of trying to route cables through a crowded case. Power cables for each of the empty exterior accessible expansion bays have also been pre-routed.
The above three images and this paragraph almost didn't make it into this review because we almost didn't notice that LEDs were installed inside the case. We know what your thinking, how unobservant of us. But you see, we have a good excuse. As you can see in the image of the side-panel, our review unit didn't come with a window. In fact, Dell doesn't sell a XPS with a side-panel window, so unless you get out your Dremel and cut your own, you probably wouldn't have noticed the interior lighting either. So why did Dell design a slick shroud for the H2C system, complete with mini windows, then install multi-color LEDs (yes, they change color just like all the other LEDs on the chassis) inside the shroud and elsewhere within the case and then omit the side-panel window? We're not sure exactly why Dell decided to omit the side-panel window, but after closer inspection of the side-panel, it's clear that it just wasn't designed with a window in mind. The metal braces and the curve through the center of the panel make it difficult to add a window to the panel without drastically altering its design. It's too bad the XPS 710 H2C doesn't have a window, because the H2C system looks fantastic when lit-up.