Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
I've had my Dell XPS 420 six months now so I thought I'd give you an update on my impressions of the machine and changes I'm made to it since the initial purchase. In reality, it just now does everything I want correctly. Windows Vista SP1 fixed the last issue I had with the machine. So once again for all of you that want to stick with Windows XP, this machine is a really good reason to go with Windows Vista.
My XPS has been running Windows Vista Ultimate x64 since nearly day one. All of the applications I use work really well on the 64 bit platform, even though most of them aren't native 64 bit compiled apps. I am using two main video editing tools. Sony Movie Studio Vegas Platinum Edition and Expression Studio 2. Vegas is my workhorse and I am getting ready to create my first high definition DVD on Blu-ray. I don't yet have a Blu-ray disk burner, so if someone has a good recommendation, let me know.
A few weeks ago I pulled the two 512MB RAM sticks and replaced them with two 2GB sticks. I have a total of 6GB of memory now in the machine. I don't really need all of that memory but the memory at dell.com went on sale and I had a $200 gift card waiting to be burned. So I got some memory, a Zune charger for my wife, and some other stuff.
The one thing that hasn't worked correctly until recently is the machines ability to wake up from sleep and record a program. If you are buying one of these to be a DVR, then that would be a key feature that needs to work. Mine didn't. It would sleep correctly. It would wake up on time and attempt to record. But the machine wouldn't record. It had something to do with how long the tuners need to wake up before they were ready. I guess they need strong coffee like I do.
A few days ago I upgraded the firmware on my ATI TV Wonder Digital cable tuners. Here are the links to the new updates:
32 bit: http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/vista32/ocur-vista32.html 64 bit: http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/vista64/ocur-vista64.html
32 bit: http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/vista32/ocur-vista32.html
64 bit: http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/vista64/ocur-vista64.html
After I upgraded the tuners, I installed Windows Vista SP1. I was told after applying SP1, I should re-apply the NVIDIA video drivers for my 8600 GTS so I did that as well. Magically everything works now. For the past three or four days it has woken from it's slumber, recorded whatever I had scheduled, then gone back to sleep ten minutes after doing the recording. Yaaay !!! It has never done that correctly until this week. I don't know exactly what fixed the issue. It was probably the combination of the firmware upgrade, and SP1.
Now keep in mind my XPS 420 is a pretty lowly model by XPS standards. It has the Intel Q6600 quad core processor. The video card is a good video card, but it is by no means a top of the line card. But my machine is very quiet and does exactly what I want it to do, and I have high confidence it will continue to do so for the next three to four years.
If you are considering one of these, buy with confidence. Rock solid. Nice looking. Good price.
I am running the codecs that came with Windows Vista. I didn't even install the NVIDIA DVD Decoder I have a license for. DVD playback is very good with media player.
Which video card are you using? Might be time to post something to the Dell forum at http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board?board.id=Tech_Talk_XPS and see what happens.
I have the Radeon ATI HD 2600 XT video card. I had previously purchased the CinePlayer DVD Decoder for Windows Vista. So, I tried that and it didn't help DVD playback in Media Player.
I see that you got yours with the NVIDIA 8600 GTS video card. That card was not an option when I ordered mine, but I thought I was doing good to go with ATI with all the driver problems that I had with NVidia on my old Vista machine.
I'll post a question on the Dell forum and see if I get any hits.
Unfortunately there have been numerous reports of issues with your video card and it's my understanding they are replacing it at no cost to you with the newer cards now on the website. I would open a Dell support ticket immediately for resolution. Good luck.
Keith, great write up, best i have seen in my XPS 420 research. Quick question about RAID AHCI mode & eSATA. I am going down the same path you did by purchasing the 420 w/ one drive and Vista Home Premium (will hang large disk array from system later). I will reinstal with Vista Ultimate after it's recieved. From your post below it seems that you reinstalled Ultimate again and did something to flip the AO2 bios to enable RAID and the eSATA port. Can you fill in the blank for me, or let me know if Dell posted or is shipping with a revised BIOS? Thank- Brian
Keith Combs wrote:
[UPDATE for 1/11/2008] I have rebuilt my machine from the ground up. I am still on BIOS A02 and have the SATA controller in RAID AHCI mode. My eSATA port is working properly. In order for me to do this, I had to reinstall the operating system again, which is unfortunate. I could not figure out how to get it to work any other way even though I received feedback inside and outside Microsoft. I do not recommend doing this. If you reinstall the OS more than one time, you'll likely break the OCUR HD recording capability if you have the ATI digital cable tuners. I recommend you wait for Dell to come up with a supported solution from their engineering team. They may end up fixing this will a BIOS update or something. I certainly hope so.
Um....Just to be really clear. No matter how many times I've called Dell, or who I've talked to, or how many forums I've searched, or how many times Dell tech support put me on hold or repeatedly ased me the same questions, whether begging or berating, shouting or sobbing, I've been unable to get them to send me a 64 bit replacement, or intelligently answer any of my qestions. I have the XPS 420, 4 gb ram, E8500 3.16 ghz, intel x38 chipset. I received service from Dell that I would've been embarrassed to receive from McDonalds. Incidentally, once I deactivated the User Account Control, it runs magically, but I still want 64 bit. If anyone knows some secret that I don't, hollar it from the hill tops.
I saw that if you ordered an XPS 1330 you could have the 64 bit version of Vista shipped to you by Microsoft. Can you do this with the XPS 420 since the 64 bit version of Vista isn't available? Thanks!
I don't believe so, but I really don't know. I was under the impression the OEM was responsible for doing this.