By Deane Barker on December 19, 2005
[H]ard|OCP – Dell Dimension XPS 400 Evaluation: This is a review of Dell’s “gaming PC” line — the XPS. The review turns into an huge rant about how much crap is installed on a Dell out of the box.
These pop-ups were so annoying, and seemed very much like a spyware infection, that we downloaded and ran Ad-Aware just to make sure that there really wasn’t any spyware on the system. It came up clean, which meant that it did little to reduce the number and frequency of the popups.
As it was, the icons on the desktop and in the Start Menu didn’t tell the whole story when it came to pre-installed software. There were also programs we had trouble recognizing, including “ESPN Motion,” “My Way Search Assistant,” “Otto,” and “Wild Tangent Webdrivers,” which we only saw by going to the Add/Remove Software control panel.
All of this pre-installed software used quite a bit of system memory. We booted it up and found that the computer was using 216MB of RAM when idle. After we uninstalled the pre-installed software and disabled the services, the computer was using only 130MB of RAM at idle.
I’ve become an expert at “de-crapping a Dell.” I can get an out-of-the-box Dell in pretty good shape in about two hours.
Annoying? Yes. But it’s like advertising — the fact that this crap is on the machine when it arrive is a big reason why you can buy a machine this powerful for $1,300.
Their final assessment is pretty telling:
The hardware is certainly there — the computer was able to perform very well and produce a gaming experience that was quite rewarding… eventually.
The major problem that we had with gaming was the pre-installed software in the system getting in the way with issues of stability and performance. Considering the performance hit we noted with our WorldBench scores, we have to wonder how much better this computer would have performed had we not had to deal with the preinstalled software.
If you’re willing to install copies of your own software and do a complete reformat on this computer, it might make a reliable gaming system. Then again, most people who buy a computer from Dell do so precisely because they don’t want to have to configure their own computer.
Everything’s a trade-off, I guess. I’ve learned to live with the “pre-installed nightmare” that comes with a Dell. I ordered a Gateway a couple of months ago, and found that it’s actually worse. (But the information on this page is downright scary. Dell’s recovery “solution” for these XPS machines is hideously bad.)
Is it enough to get me to switch to a Mac? No. But it’s almost enough to get me to buy a separate retail copy of XP with every machine so I can reinstall cleanly before I start using it.
Maybe I should consider a Mac…