The mystery of the 590 chipset
Dell's explanations with regard to parts availability have tended to shed a light in the general direction of Intel, which has led many to wonder whether the problem could actually lie in the direction of Nvidia. One of the key features in early XPS 700 advertising, which Dell has been playing down, is that its motherboard features the Nvidia 590 chipset. "The NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP core logic enables two graphics cards to work together rendering a single image," states a passage from the XPS 700 technical overview on Dell's Web site.
UPDATE: Nvidia spokesperson Bryan Del Rizzo told TG Daily late today that nForce 590 chipsets will not be made available "through the channel" - meaning, on OEM motherboards - for at least another few weeks. But Dell, Del Rizzo reminded us, makes its own motherboards, and therefore doesn't have to wait in the same queue along with smaller OEMs. So availability for 590 chipsets is not a problem for Dell, he added.
Del Rizzo also said he believed he had learned from Dell that the company has begun shipping XPS 700 systems to customers during the past few days, and that any news that shipments were being delayed until October was anomalous.
Tom's Hardware Guide managing editor Patrick Schmid told us today that Nvidia had informed him about a setback for nForce 590 chipset release dates some time ago, but did not disclose the reason. Motherboards with nForce 590 chipsets for AMD Socket AM2 have been available generally since early June. Existing Intel motherboards with LGA 775 sockets are not automatically capable of running Core 2 Duos - they need Intel's 975X chipset, or something else that's compatible. Some curious testers learned this the hard way. This has led some Dell customers - who apparently read everything that's published - to wonder openly whether Dell learned this the hard way as well, after having already promised their customers a Core 2 Duo or Extreme upgrade from Pentium D 9xx series.
Last week, an Nvidia press release quoted an Alienware representative as being proud to use one of the new era Nvidia chipsets in its Area-51 ALX system. Alienware was among the many companies praised by Nvidia for their endorsement of the 590, 570, and nForce SLI X16 chipsets. Though curiously, during our configuration of the Area-51 system, we noted that the only option available was an "Alienware Approved Nvidia nForce 4 SLI motherboard" - an earlier edition, unless the configuration page is in error. This may serve as the only credible indication outside of Dell that a manufacturer may have had reason not to pair the 590 chipset with Conroe processors.
Last month, Dell showed us a working XPS 700 during its gala unveiling in Grapevine, Texas. Although we were free to take photographs of the system, we noted that heatsinks covered up its chipset, preventing us from revealing the precise model used. Although the system seemed fully functional, it was running an automatic game demo, and was not geared for personal use. Also - perhaps quite conveniently - the left hatch was left open, exposing the components, of course, but also providing it with what could be termed a natural cooling ecosystem.
These facts have led some to speculate that perhaps the XPS 700 has an overheating problem with its current configuration. But Tom's Hardware Guide's Schmid does not suspect the case to be an issue, saying he himself has seen a prototype system running with the case closed. He also discounted rumors that the 1 kW power supply was causing overheating trouble, saying such power supplies are in wide use today without reports of problems.
A senior Dell spokesperson has promised TG Daily that the company would make available at least a comment on the matter. We'll present that comment, plus whatever other material Dell provides, the moment it becomes available.