Rampant Speculation on the XPS 700

Several of you have been asking specifically about the NVIDIA 590 chipset and the XPS 700. Other recent forums entries like Tom’s Hardware and CNET contain some misinformation that needs to be cleared up.

What’s driving some of this speculation? For starters, our chipset had been identified incorrectly by two different utilities available to the public, nTune and CPU-Z. These screenshots from a Dell Community Forum user show what I’m talking about. Bottom line, we’ve fixed the error with NVIDIA and we’re working with NVIDIA to ensure future applications identify the chipset correctly. Regarding third-party utilities such as CPU-Z, we’re looking into why these applications are misreporting the chipset. Also, contributing to this speculation is that a Dell rep allegedly gave customers erroneous information about the chipset. I wasn’t able to verify that actually happened. If it did, the information shared is incorrect.

Here’s the deal: the XPS 700 utilizes the NVIDIA 590 chipset. The reports about it being a hybrid version are all wrong, period. One of the main performance enhancements of the 590 chipset is that it offers two full-bandwidth, 16-lane PCI Express links to ensure maximum graphics performance. The XPS 700 fully supports this. Is it our own implementation? Yes. What does that mean? Just like NVIDIA’s Brian Del Rizzo said in the Tom’s Hardware post, we chose not to support some of the core features NVIDIA built into the media and communications “southbridge” controller. Why? To ensure standardization across our product line, we replaced NVIDIA’s DualNet and FirstPacket communications technologies (two features of the on-chip networking solution on the chipset) with the networking solution that we use on all our products to ensure better compatibility across different product families. Another example, we chose not to implement NVIDIA’s SLI-Ready Memory feature because Extended SPD supported memory was not available when XPS 700 was in development as it is proprietary and not yet an industry standard. See NVIDIA’s nForce 590 product page for more explanation of these features and more

For folks that are concerned about future upgradeability, note that the XPS 700 is the first system we’ve introduced that was designed to support an industry-standard BTX system board down the road. This means if you want to swap out the system board down the road, to accommodate future technology, you can. Some custom cables are required for certain connections.

Several of you are also asking how the SoundBlaster X-Fi card that we sell differs from the retail version. From a hardware perspective, it doesn’t. Speculation around this varies: that we don’t offer hardware support for Dolby Digital, that we only support it via software, or that we don’t support it at all. The real answer: we do support Dolby 5.1, we don’t support DTS.

Why don’t we use the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi’s retail software package for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS? Because of compatibility issues between Creative’s retail package and Sonic’s playback software. Dell supports Dolby Digital 5.1 playback through Sonic CinePlayer. This means that customers with an appropriate speaker setup and the X-Fi card can listen to a Dolby Digital 5.1 source automatically. Dolby Digital 5.1 does not need hardware acceleration features enabled by the Sound Blaster X-Fi. Hardware acceleration for games that enable EAX, CMSS-3D, and 24-bit Crystalizer are all supported, just as they are with the retail card. DTS is not currently supported by the Sonic CinePlayer.

On that same CNET post, there was a question about our XPS Support queue. Can’t speak to the issue directly since it doesn’t share many details, but I can say that the XPS Support phone queue is available 24/7. Customers who purchase three or four year at-home service contracts with their systems can opt for night and weekend on-site support. See this link for more details.

About the Author: Lionel Menchaca