Round Rock (TX) - Nvidia continues to aggressively expand the reach of its dual-graphics card technology SLI - and has found a new high-volume partner: Dell offers a new high-end nForce SLI x16 chipset and two GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards in its new XPS 600 gaming system. The standard SLI chipset moves into the mainstream market.
Usually, Dell only renovates its prestigeous Dimension XPS desktop gaming PC with the arrival of major new hardware architectures. Nvidia's new nForce SLI x16 isn't exactly a new architecture, but it was reason enough for Dell to redesign the XPS case design and depart from the "Gen" nomenclature. The new XPS carries the number 600 (instead of "Gen6") and is not only Dell's first SLI-capable desktop, but also the industry's first PC to come standard with dual x16 connects that are provided by the new Nvidia chipset.
Instead of cutting one x16 port into two x8 interfaces, the nForce SLI x16 offers two full-bandwidth, PCI Express standard-compliant, connects for dual graphics cards. The arrival of the new chipset repositions Nvidia's SLI marketing: The nForce SLI chipset goes even deeper into the mainstream. SLI mainboards are hitting price points of about $80, SLI-capable PCs already are playing south of the $1000 mark. Driver-based SLI is enabled via a new driver and PCI Express and is targeting PCs below $800.
At Dell, SLI will remain a privilege for the XPS 600, according to Joe Curley, director of Dimension product marketing. "Gaming is clearly where dual graphics makes the most sense today. It's clearly for the high-end," he said. There won't be a mainstream Dell desktop with SLI in the near future. The XPS 600 offers a "no-compromise" platform that is decked out for gaming enthusiasts and will offer up to 8 GByte DDR2 memory and up to three 500 GByte harddrives for a total of 1.5 TByte storage space.
The basic XPS 600 system will come standard with dual 7800 GTX graphics cards, a Pentium 4 640, dual 16X DVD-ROM and 48X CD-RW drives and a 160 GByte harddrive for $3100.
Nvidia claims it has shipped more than 1.5 million SLI chipsets to date. The platform and dual-graphics cards have quickly become a must-have among enthusiasts. Still, Curley believes that Dell's entry into this market is right. "In terms of shipments, systems with single graphics cards still dwarf the number of dual-graphics system at this time. This new solution with two dedicated graphic slots does not require gamers to make compromises. And, we do this very strictly according to the industry standard," Curley said.
If a no-compromise in performance was the design goal of the new XPS 600, some users may wonder, whether AMD processors would have been a choice for Dell, given the current advantage of the Texans in this area. No surprises here, Dell of course sticks with Intel and offers Pentium 4 600, Pentium D 800 and Pentium Extreme Edition chips as power plants for the new desktop. But we couldn't resist asking once more about the advantage Dell sees in Intel processors and how it markets those chips to the gaming crowd.
"We have done a ton of research around gamers and actually found that there are people who prefer neither processor and some who either prefer Intel or AMD. These groups are about the same size," Curley said. "In the end we try to build a system that can meet quality thresholds and can provide the user experience we want it to. So far, the XPS has done remarkably well." He indicated that Intel will remain the firm's first choice, but AMD apparently is not off the table completely: "Obviously, Intel is our key processor technology partner and we are extremely familiar with their products. But we continue to look at the technology from AMD and if there is a unique advantage that we believe will benefit the customer, sure, we will look at it."