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Good Things Do Come in Small package, Well Almost

  • Jan 5, 2006
  • by
Pros: Small footprint, very quiet; performance, versatility.

Cons: That darn capacitor problem.

The Bottom Line: The Dell Optiplex GX270 is an inexpensive high performance maverick that more than meets our current and future computing needs. But beware the capacitor issue!

I recently started a new job as a Senior Systems Analyst running the Microsoft Exchange 2003 installation for a mid-sized Mid-West financial company. Fortunately for me the new job did not entail moving; indeed the morning commute is actually shorter! My job is made considerably more palatable because the desktop is standardized; everyone has a either a Dell Optiplex GX250 or Dell Optiplex GX270 Business class convertible tower (by convertible I mean the computer can be positioned as a tower or desktop unit) computer on their desk.

The Dell Optiplex GX270 is very similar in design to the Dell Optiplex GX270. The primary difference for our environment is the size of the boxes (the GX270 is larger) and the hard drive technology; the GX270 uses the Parallel ATA (PATA) drives with the GX250 utilizes the newer SATA technology exclusively. However Dell does offer an optional 120GB SATA drive with the unit.

The GX270 can be ordered in one of three configurations; the Small Form factor, Small Desktop, and Small Mini-Tower. All have the same basic innards with the major difference being the size, and of course weight of the units. All of our units utilize the Small Desktop design.

As a base unit our complement of some 250 Dell Optiplex GX270’s shipped with 800 MHz FSB (Front Side Bus) Pentium (4) 3.0GHz processors with Hyper threading technology. The motherboard features the new 945G Express chipset with integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 950 video. Each workstation also shipped with 1.0GHz of DDR2 RAM in a Dual Channel configuration; a 40GB (PATA) hard drive (HHD); CD-ROM drive; 3.5” floppy drive; 2 front USB 2.0 ports; 6 rear USB 2.0 ports; Integrated Gigabit Ethernet; Integrated Intel Extreme 2 Video, and Windows XP Professional SP1.

Not Much Room for Expansion:

The Small Desktop GX270 offers no room for expansion in the front of the unit; e.g. you can not add an additional CD-ROM drive to the unit. There are NO external drive bays and all of the internal drive bays are used by the hard drive, CD-ROM and 3.5” floppy respectively.

Most of our units are flipped (converted) used as desktop CPU’s, with monitors on top. I have never worked with a desktop unit quite as small as the Dell Optiplex GX270, and GX250, but the small size in no way impacts performance. However, just as there is there is little room for expansion either by external drive bays (3.5” or 5.25”) there is little PCI expansion possible either; the unit only has two slots.

In the rear of the GX270 you’ll find the following; (6) USB ports, (1) Integrated Gigabit Ethernet port; (1) Integrated Intel Extreme 2 Video port; (1) standard Parallel Port; (1) 9-pin serial port; and one each of 9-pin mouse and keyboard ports.

Open the GX270 up and you will be greeted by the genius of compact design. Inside the easy to open case you will find just (2) 32-bit PCI slots as well as an AGP slot; that’s it, there is not more room for expansion. The unit’s diminutive size does not limit the amount of DDR RAM (DDR333 or 400 MHz memory) that can be deployed; the unit has four DIMM slots for a maximum of 4.0GB of RAM.

First Impressions:

Despite the small size I like the Dell Optiplex GX270. Response to keyboard input and or mouse movements are quick, and programs open with little to no delay. Since this is a business desktop, there is no opportunity to test gaming or other related software on the computer; in fact as part of our build the games were removed from the OS. I can report however, that business apps; i.e. Microsoft Office 2003, Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0, Outlook 2003, Norton Anti-Virus, etc., all load and run extremely fast, while Internet Explorer’s performance does not seem at all changed from previous desktops that I have used.

The built-in 10/100/1000 network card works as advertised, but I would have preferred a standalone card which could be swapped out, or a card that could be upgrade in the future via firmware. The card can be disabled via the BIOS.

The built-in sound card works remarkable well and produces sound comparable to many high end offerings. The built-in speaker also offers surprising fidelity. Space on the front panel containing a lone headphone jack is a welcome convenience, an innovation it has taken PC manufactures over a decade to incorporate into their designs.

The integrated Intel Graphics Extreme video card is fine for business applications, and is the only card available for this machine. Most of our stock are mated with 17 – 19 inch CRT’s or 19” flat panel LCD displays. Colors are sharp, crisp, and brightly rendered.

The eight USB version 2.0 ports (six in the back, two in the front) are a welcome addition especially the two in the front (behind a hinged door), though I would like to have seen the number reversed; i.e. two in the back and four in the front. Increasing, the devices that utilize USB ports are portable in nature and having to continually move the Tower in order to access them can become a pain. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the two USB 2.0 port in the front of the tower, though they are quite close together which might hinder the use of more then one at a time.

The only strike against the GX270 is the ongoing capacitor problem are experiencing, a malady the computer shares with the GX250. It seems a number of the third-party capacitors on the motherboards of the GX270 and GX280 are causing voltage surges that cause a number of problems, the least of which is uneven power output to the power supply which causes the fan to surge when the computer is first powered on, and throughout the day.

Another more vexing problem has to do with the hard drive. Over time the capacitor problem causes the hard drive to race continually as if it is being continually accessed.

We have experienced a high number of computers with these symptoms and have had to replace them with other stock. To its credit Dell is aware of the problem and is replacing the motherboards onsite, albeit slowly, but we have recovered about one-third of the faulty computers. I personally have had two machines exhibit the symptoms; both computers were replaced.


The Dell Optiplex GX270 Business Desktop is powerful business class work station that is more then adequate for our primary business computing needs. For the base price of $649.00 the Dell Optiplex GX270 is an inexpensive high performance maverick that more than meets our current and future computing needs. But beware the capacitor issue!


• Operating systems included: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1 or Microsoft Windows XP Home SP1

• Processor / CPU min: 2.6 GHz Intel Celeron w/400 MHz FSB/ max: 3.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4 with HyperThread w/ 800MHz FSB

• Cache description:128-KB or 512-KB Integrated L2 Cache

• Memory description: min: 128MB max: 4GB DDR-2 SDRAM

• Memory slots: 4 DIMMs

• Hard drive, internal: 40GB 5400.2rpm, 40& 80GB 7200rpm PATA; and 120GB 7200rpm SATA

• Hard disk controller: integrated ATA/100 Dual Channel integrated 2-channel Ultra SATA-160

• Optical drive: CD ROM, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW

• Drive bays: 2-3.5" internal

• Internal audio: Integrated AC97 audio with Internal Speaker

• I/O (input/output) ports: 8 USB 2.0, (1) standard serial, (1) parallel, 2 PS/2, (1) RJ-45, 1 VGA, audio in/out, headphone and microphone (Back panel).

• Graphics card(s) available: Integrated Intel Graphics Extreme

• Network / LAN characteristics: Integrated Broadcom NetXtreme 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet.


Amount Paid (US$): 650.00
Operating System: Windows
Processor speed: 701-800
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-ROM
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50

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About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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The OptiPlex GX270 offers relevant technology for your organization. Available with Intel Pentium 4
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