What's causing Dell XPS 700 shipments to be delayed again, to October?

The competition doesn't seem to be having troubles

If Dell’s online policy statement, and its subsequent excuses, can be interpreted accurately, their implication seems to be that the company can’t get the parts it needs to build these systems. Parts availability - which has rarely been a problem for Dell in the past - certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem for many of Dell’s competitors. TG Daily contacted high-ranking representatives from Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro, VooDoo PC, and Alienware. We gave all four representatives a list showing a typical buildout for a Dell XPS 700 system comparable to several of those which customers, including those who wrote us directly, which currently suffers from shipment delays :

  • Core 2 Extreme processor (2.93 GHz)
  • 4 GB DDR2 memory
  • 16x DVD-ROM DVD +/- RW
  • Dual Nvidia 7900 GTX cards, 512 MB apiece (1 MB in SLI)
  • 500 GB SATA II HDD
  • Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi sound
  • "cool" stereo speakers
  • Saitek backlit keyboard
  • Logitech G5 mouse
  • 20" widescreen flat-panel LCD monitor
  • "Formula Red" case

We priced this buildout on Dell.com today and were quoted $4,665, with an expected ship date of 16 October. Here’s what we learned from Dell’s competitors earlier this week :

Velocity Micro quoted us $5,473 for a Raptor DCX system based on a Core 2 Extreme CPU and an Intel-brand motherboard with 975X chipset. It includes a 550 W power supply (Dell’s uses a 1 kW power supply), and uses dual ATI Radeon X1900 XTs in CrossFire mode instead of Nvidias. Velocity supplies a ViewSonic monitor rather than the Dell brand (of course), but includes the Creative Labs X-Fi sound card with Creative Labs GigaWorks speakers. The 4 GB memory is supplied by Corsair, and the hard drive capacity is facilitated by a pair of 250 GB Western Digital WD2500JD drives. The keyboard is custom-made for Velocity by Creative Labs, and the company supplies a Razer brand mouse, not the Logitech. CPU cooling is accomplished with an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 heatsink.

Velocity Micro’s less expensive alternative is a Gamer’s Edge PCX priced at $5,253. It uses an Asus P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe motherboard rather than the Intel, and does include the dual Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX graphics cards in SLI mode. Hard drive capacity is supplied by a single 500 GB Hitachi SATA/150, and the power supply drops a little bit in power to 500 W. Other than that, it uses the same case and general buildout as the Raptor. Availability for both the Raptor and Gamer’s Edge systems if ordered today, according to Velocity’s president and CEO, Randy Copeland, would probably be the last week of this month, due in small part to the company moving into a new 34,000 square-foot factory last weekend.

Falcon Northwest quoted us $6,525 for a Mach V system using the Core 2 Extreme and the Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard. Memory is supplied by twin Corsair 2 GB modules, and the graphics are supplied by twin Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2s in Quad-SLI mode - not the 7900 in dual-SLI. Falcon president Kelt Reeves admitted that the Quad-SLI drivers for the 7950s are officially in beta until next week, which may be why some vendors - including Dell - have wavered on the 7950’s availability. (Some Dell XPS customers report having been asked to downgrade from 7950 to 7900, with representatives citing parts availability as the cause.) Hard drive capacity is supplied by dual 250 GB WD drives running in RAID 0 mode. The X-Fi sound card is included, along with the Logitech G5 mouse, the ViewSonic 20" display, Creative Labs speakers, and a 600 W power supply. Reeves also included a pair of pre-cut sound dampeners and a Zalman CPU cooler. He said customers ordering today should see availability during the third or fourth week of this month.

VooDoo PC’s president and CTO, Rahul Sood, recommended that we price an Omen PC on his company’s Web site, stating that availability of such systems is generally 35 days from date of order. The Omen comes standard with Core 2 Extreme, Asus motherboard, and 600 W power supply. To that, we added a second graphics card, for two ATI Radeon X1900XTX, brought the HGST hard drive up to 500 GB and the Corsair memory up to twin 2 GB modules. We then added a 21" Samsung display (the closest to the 20" that was available), the X-Fi sound card, Creative Labs speakers, Saitek keyboard and Logitech G5 mouse. Our price quote came up to $8,549.59, although buyers are generally aware that VooDoo’s interior and exterior craftsmanship are part of the premium.

Alienware contacted us minutes after our initial publication of this article, to tell us that it plans to ship its Area-51 7500 model, with Core 2 Extreme on-board, in "up to 21 days." Company representative Winnie Wong priced a 7500 model featuring the "Conspiracy Blue" chassis pictured here. Along with the 4 GB of DDR2 and 500 GB hard drive, it includes an Nvidia nForce 4 SLI motherboard with dual nVidia GeForce 7900 GTX cards, plus the Sound Blaster X-Fi card in a special Alienware edition. Alienware selected a 20.1" Samsung SyncMaster monitor, a pair of Logitech speakers, the Saitek keyboard, the Logitech G5 mouse, and a 650 W power supply. Excluding shipping, Alienware’s quote was for $5,180, which is nearly $2,000 less than what the company’s Web site quoted us for a similarly equipped Area-51 ALX, whose ship date was stated to be 4 September.