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Another (Little) Winning Design from Dell

  • Jan 4, 2006
  • by
Rating:
+1
Pros: Small footprint, very quiet; performance, versatility.

Cons: N/a

The Bottom Line: The Dell Optiplex GX280 Business Desktop is powerful business class work station that is more then adequate for our primary business computing needs.

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 Dell Optiplex GX280 Business class convertible tower (by convertible I mean the computer can be positioned as a tower or desktop unit) computer on their desktop.

As a base unit our complement of some 1100 Dell Optiplex GX280 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 (SATA) 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; front audio jack and Windows XP Professional SP2.

No Room for Expansion (Well Almost No Room):

The small size is something to get used to; I flipped (converted) my unit and use it as a desktop, with my flat panel monitor on top. I have never worked with a desktop unit as small as the Dell Optiplex GX280, but the small size in no way impacts performance. But there is little room for expansion either by external drive bays (3.5” or 5.25”) or PCI slots. 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.

Open the Dell Optiplex GX280 up and you will be greeted by the genius of compact design. Inside the easy to open case you will find just (1) 32-bit PCI slot as well as an AGP slot; that’s it, there is not more room for expansion. The unit’s diminutive size also limits the amount of DDR2 RAM (DDR-2/400 or /533 MHz memory) that can be deployed; the unit has but two slots for a maximum of 2.0GB of RAM.

First Impressions:

Despite the small size I like the Dell Optiplex GX280. 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 Graphics Media Accelerator 950 video chip is fine for business applications, and is the only card available for this machine and mine is mated with a 19” flat panel display. 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, 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 Dell Optiplex GX280 is the keyboard; it is way too small and I do no like it. The keyboard is certainly long enough, but if offers hardly any surface area width-wise; i.e. there is no place to rest your wrists while typing and over time this becomes uncomfortable, and just a bit awkward.

Another small complaint: the mouse is the old roller ball design.

Conclusions:

The Dell Optiplex GX280 Business Desktop is powerful business class work station that is more then adequate for our primary business computing needs. For the base price of $549.00 the Dell Optiplex GX280 is an inexpensive high performance maverick that more than meets our current and future computing needs.

Update January 4, 2006

Since my review there has been a rather startling development concerning this desktop and it reliability. 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.


Specifications:

• Operating systems included: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2 or Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2

• 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 1024-KB Integrated L2 Cache

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

• Memory slots: 2 DIMMs

• Hard drive, internal: min: 40GB (7200.2 rpm) max: 160GB (7200.2 rpm)

• Hard disk controller: 40, 80, 160GB, 250GB 7200 rpm SMART III integrated Ultra SATA-160

• Optical drive CD ROM

• Drive bays: 2-3.5" internal

• Internal audio: Integrated AC97 audio with Internal Speaker

• I/O (input/output) ports: 8 USB 2.0, (2) 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 Graphics Media Accelerator 950

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




Recommended:
Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 600
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Other
Processor speed: over 1000
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-ROM
Hard Drive (GB): Under 4

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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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About this product

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Next generation scalable desktop offering the latest Intel® Pentium® 4 Processors, 800MHz Front Side Bus, next generation Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM memory, PCI Express bus, Serial ATA and Integrated Gigabit Ethernet1 designed to deliver outstanding performance and reliability with low total operating costs.
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