Dell Drops Proprietary Parts: XPS 630

Dell, long dinged for using proprietary hardware in its gaming PCs, has seen the light. The company said such annoying traits such as proprietary motherboards and power supplies is now a thing of the past.

The first XPS to shed the proprietary hardware will be the new budget XPS630 gaming machine. Based on the nForce 650 ichipset, Dell claims you can swap the board, PSU out for any other ATX-spec hardware.

The change is a long overdue. In the past, Dell has used designs that looked ATX-like but were actually not. If you tried to swap the power supply in your Pentium III Dimension XPS B 733R years ago, you would have been greeted by charred motherboard as the company actually wired its PSU’s differently than the industry but did not key them differently. For years, PC Power and Cooling has made small side business selling Dell upgrade PSUs. More recently, the company has been called out over BTX support and even using a proprietary power plug in its more recent XPS gaming rigs.

Why the use of proprietary designs? Cynical observers have said the company was just trying to lock customers into buying parts exclusively from Dell. The company has long defended the practice by saying that the variations from spec were because its engineers found the specs to be lacking. But the heat from critics and machines such as Hewlett-Packard’s Blackbird 002 going all ATX apparently have forced Dell to see the light. Company officials said the mantra in Dell engineering is that varying from the spec’s must be avoided at all costs.

The change from proprietary parts won’t be the only new trick for the XPS630 though. Dell has taken a page from Hewlett-Packard and claims the XPS 630 will support either Nvidia’s dual-card SLI or AMD’s dual-card CrossFire cards. How can Dell do this? Maximum PC spoke to AMD graphics officials who said the capability is being offered only to select OEMs who take the responsibility for making sure the drivers fully work with the BIOSes on the motherboards.

So why not just release such a driver to the public to let any nForce-user run CrossFire? The company said it is worried that a certain company could affect the performance of its cards when CrossFire is run on an SLI board so public support just isn’t going to happen. In the case of Dell and HP, AMD feels both have enough influence to keep performance problems from cropping up on their systems. For now, the CrossFire support is only through drivers obtained directly from Dell.
Dell says the XPS 630 will also be the first tier one OEM system to support Nvidia’s Enthusiast System Architecture. In the XPS 630’s case, ESA will let the user control the lights in the system. ESA support for the PSU or other components will not be initially supported.

The $1,300 version of the XPS 630 will ship with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600, GeForce 8800GT and a 750 watt power supply. Dell said the BIOS on the XPS 630 will support overclocking and is upgradeable to both dual and quad-core Intel Penryn CPUs.