Lots of questions have come up with the release of Dell’s
XPS 420 so I thought I’d try and address as many as possible for anyone on the
edge of purchasing a CableCARD PC. For
questions not answered below, be sure to check out
my Vista CableCARD FAQ which has some more basic information covered in a
Q&A format. A special thanks to James
Clardy at Dell for helping out here.
Q: Are tuners
internal or external?
A: Dell is using external ATI Digital Cable Tuners, and it
includes a Media Center remote/receiver so you have everything you need to get
Q: How quiet is the
A: According to James the XPS 420 is extremely quiet
although not silent. Sound is very
subjective, but a few already have XPS 420’s at their homes so
they might be able
to give their subjective reviews of how quiet it really is.
Q: Can I swap the
components to another case (HTPC style)?
A: Yes and no. The
Dell XPS 420 is a BTX system, not ATX.
You can swap the components into another BTX case, but few HTPC exist in
the BTX form factor.
Q: Will Dell offer an
HTPC style case in the future?
A: There are no public plans for Dell to do so at this point,
but James says “If people speak, we’ll listen.”
The suggested path here is for those who want to see some sort of HTPC
form factor to start a campaign. Dell
already has a website for such called IdeaStorm,
so I’ll leave it to others to start up some initiative.
Q: Are more then two
CableCARD tuners support?
A: Dell officially only supports two
CableCARD tuners which is the max supported by Microsoft. That said this can be hacked using a registry
change that has been around forever.
That is not supported by Dell, but it does technically work.
Q: Should I get an
upgraded video card?
A: James suggests an upgrade to a NVIDIA 8600GTS (+$200) over the base ATI HD
2400 Pro. If you are doing a lot of
viewing via the local PC or Blu-ray/HD DVD, this might be a good upgrade. If you are viewing via an Media Center
Extender then you should be good with the 2400 Pro. All of the cards support HDCP.
Q: Can I change the
graphics card myself after purchase?
A: If you are just changing the graphics card, it “should” work just
fine. I would personally suggest only
upgrading from ATI to ATI or NVIDIA to NVIDIA.
That’s just me though. Your card
upgrade must support HDCP to work correctly locally. Having said that, I would suggest not chaning it at all. There are several threads at The Green Button and AVS Forum with
people fighting to get their system to work again after video card upgrades.
Q: Can I change other
components on the PC?
A: Changing multiple components can screw up Vista/OCUR activation
which can be a pain to recover from and generally requires a reinstall of
Windows Vista. Once you reinstall,
previously recorded content will not playback at all. I would suggest changing as little as
possible, there are several threads at The Green Button and AVS Forum with
people fighting to get their system to work again after major hardware upgrades.
Q: Can I playback
recordings on Media Center Extenders?
A: Yes. The Xbox 360 Extender and
upcoming Linksys/D-Link/HP MediaSmart HDTVs can playback all recordings made
with CableCARD’s. Dell has the DMA2100 here,
and if you are using wireless a Wireless-N router upgrade is suggested (James
likes the Linksys WRT600n).
Q: Will the XPS 420
work with BOCRs (or MOCURs) in the future?
A: While CableLabs has not announced anything, Dell is
interested in being in the forefront with such technology and does not
anticipate that you will need a new PC for MOCUR or
BOCRs to work (new hardware and software updates will be needed of course).
If anyone has additional questions let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.