Round Rock (TX) - Dell today upgraded its flagship desktop PC with the latest and greatest hardware to offer what the company calls one of the most advanced gaming platforms on the planet. In fact, the new XPS feels much more "premium" than the preceding 720-series, cost at least $5000 in the water-cooled edition and we have wonder : Why exactly would you choose an even pricier Dell-ienware system over this new XPS 730 ?
A lot has changed since Dell’s acquisition of Alienware. Dell always intended Alienware to remain a standalone premium performance brand while its own XPS brand was positioned as much more accessible mainstream brand for people who don’t care about the mass-market Dell label - it is a decision of choosing a Porsche rather than a Lamborghini. Hewlett-Packard had a different idea with its VoodooPC acquisition - instead of keeping the two PC teams separate, VoodooPC was integrated as the Formula 1 team into HP, which resulted in the creation of HP’s Blackbird 002 gaming system, which has been widely recognized as the most impressive gaming system available from a mass market vendor - leaving Dell’s XPS somewhat behind.
So it is no surprise that Dell is trying to catch up, visually and performance-wise, but this new PC creates an interesting question about Alienware’s future. While HP and VoodooPC span a wide range of gaming computers, ranging from a $2300 mass-market gaming PC all the way to ultra-exclusive $20,000 systems, Dell and Alienware are much closer and every upgrade of the XPS may create trouble for Alienware, since it is not perceived as much as a luxury brand as, low volume boutique PC builders such as VoodooPC (which also has remained a standalone brand for itself).
The new XPS 730 starts at $3999 for the air-cooled version and is priced from $4999 for the water-cooled PC. These base prices are substantially higher than what Dell charged for the 720-series ($1499 (720 air cooled, black), $1899 (720 air-cooled red) and $2949 (720 H2C), respectively). Detailed specification of the system were not available at the time of this writing (we will update this article as soon as they become available) and were limited to Nvidia’s 790i Ultra chipset, Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory, up to four hard drives, as well as a choice of four ATI GPUs (2x Radeon 3870 X2) or Nvidia SLI configurations. Dell will also add Intel’s 45 nm Core 2 Extreme processors.
Dell claims that it has redesigned the H2C cooling system to fit the ATX motherboard of the PC. The manufacturer said that the CPU coldplate now delivers more uniform cooling for the four processor cores, an additional coldplate cools the chipset and dynamic speed control monitors the water pump.
There are a few visual changes as well. According to Dell, the chassis made from 2.4 mm thick anodized aluminum is available in red or blue colors as well as brushed aluminum for the on the H2C version and in silver for the regular 730. All new 730s can be ordered with an optional X-view clear side panel.
If we look over to Alienware, the manufacturer offers its high-end Area 51 ALX CFX system with a 4 GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor in a price range of about $5150 to $8200 - which is just about what you should expect pay for the water-cooled 730 series. The options for both systems are very similar, with Alienware’s only exclusive currently being the availability of (128 GB) solid state disk drives.
In a way, it seems to us that if both Dell and Alienware remain on this path, the two companies may have to either change their strategies or make a tough decision. At least from today’s view, there is little that differentiates Dell’s XPS from Alienware’s desktop computers and the little added exclusivity that Alienware is bringing to the table may be not be enough for buyers to shell out extra dollars. Dell is competing with its own Alienware much more than it was one or two years ago and it almost seems that Dell could be sacrificing Alienware for the sake of being keeping the XPS brand at the top of the market.
We could be wrong, but it surely looks like that either Dell or Alienware will have to adjust their product strategy to create enough value for both brands.