CES: Dell powers up gaming, multimedia line

By Chad Sapieha, Special to CBCNews.ca

LAS VEGAS - Dell has been putting a lot more emphasis on design lately, and its pride and joy at this year's Consumer Electronics Show is undoubtedly its new 22-inch Crystal LCD monitor.

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Already a Best of CES Innovations award winner, this tempered glass panel has a gorgeous "crystal" clear frame with four built-in speakers. Its 2 millisecond response time and crisp 1,680-by-1,050 resolution makes it ideal for everything from fast-paced 3D gaming to high-definition movies. And it's pretty as all get-out.

Another product turning heads at Dell's South Hall booth is the new XPS One all-in-one desktop, which looks to rival the minimal aesthetics Gateway's critically adored Gateway One. A slim, matte black keyboard and mouse (both connected to the PC via a Bluetooth wireless link) complement a surprisingly svelte — given that it's stuffed full of all the components normally found in a desktop tower — monitor, out from which only a pair of cables trail. Lower end models of the XPS One will apparently start at around $1,350 US and range up to $2,300 depending on configuration.

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But the primary draw at Dell's pavilion was Alienware's highly anticipated new luxury gaming desktop, the Area-51 ALX CF, which will be available in February or March this year. It will be the first machine to use Intel's new 45 nanometer CPUs (also just unveiled at CES). In fact, it will employ a pair of Intel's high-end quad core units for a total of eight simultaneously operating, blistering fast processor cores. Factor in graphics support for both NVIDIA's SLI and ATI's Crossfire dual GPU solutions, and this is one insanely powerful rig.

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To demonstrate the machine's prowess, an Alienware representative played Electronic Arts' Crysis — widely recognized as the most resource-demanding game yet made. With all visual settings maxed and at a resolution of 1,920-by-1,200 the ALX CF was still able to deliver a silky smooth frame rate (a first for the game, as far as this reporter knows). Speculation has it that this lavish new box will begin at around $5,500 US and go up from there based on configuration.

(The author is a Toronto-based freelance writer)