Pros: Small footprint, very quiet; performance, easy to maintain; a plentitude of USB ports.
Cons: Limited upgrade options; only four USB ports.
The Bottom Line: The new DellOptiplex GX520 is a high performance workhorse that more than meets our current computing needs and fits into our network-centric environment with ease.
The push is on to lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) on computer equipment in the American workplace. This directly parallels the drive to move more and move data off the workstation and onto servers and other centralized storage medium turning desktop computers into little more than glorified dumb terminals.
Dell has been quick to capitalize on the converging trends and offer a line of Optiplex business-class workstations that are simple, thin-client easy design that offers high performance and low maintenance. The newest in this line is the DellOptiplex DX520 Business Desktop.
The DellOptiplex GX520 is very similar in design to other Dell Optiplex designs in the GX series of desktop that proliferate our workspace. Our boss ordered the entire IT-Engineering department new Optiplex GX520 desktops so that we could evaluate the for corporate-wide use. They replace the Optiplex GX 250, which is rough the same size, and uses essentially the same technology.
The GX520 can be ordered in one of three configurations, all in flat gray and silver; the Small Form factor, Small Desktop, and Small Mini-Tower. All have the same basic innards with the major difference being the size, configurable options, and of course the weight of the units. All of our units utilize the Small Desktop design.
Powered by an stalwart Intel Pentium 4 550 processor running at 3.4 GHz and 1.0GB of DDR2 Dual Channel memory, the GX520 has more than enough power to handle the usual office applications we throw at it as well as various network monitoring tools, such as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) Operators Console and Microsoft Exchange 2003 System Management Console. The ATI Radeon X300 video card makes it easy to deal with lightweight 3D graphics; it is certainly more than adequate for our needs; the most graphic intensive application I routinely use in Visio.
The BTX motherboard design Dell wedged into the GX520 is based on Intel's 915G Express chipset. The board is engineered for more efficient airflow and quieter operation. This is evident in the rather large vents that take up clearly half the front of the computer. And the machine is extremely quite. Dell achieved this mastery by realigning the processor, chipset, memory banks, and expansion slots, enabling the placement of a single system fan to cool the entire interior. The BTX design is a sharp contrast to ATX-style systems, which usually require two or more fans.
The GX520 is small; therefore upgrade options are limited, not unlike its predecessors. The single slim hard-drive bay is taken up by an 80GB SATA drive. The lone optical-drive bay can house a single CD-RW/DVD combo drive, but we opted for the CD-RW/DVD burner. As mentioned above the GX520 is fitted with (2) front-side USB ports and two audio jacks, while the rear of the system holds six USB ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, three audio jacks, and parallel and serial legacy ports.
Cracking open the GX520 is a very simple process thanks to a removable side panel. Once inside you will note that like the chassis itself, all internal components are tool-less, and densely packed. An easily removed riser card holds the ATI video card and an open PCI slot. The second low-profile PCI slot is available on the motherboard. The density of this design made itself apparent when I switched out the system memory; I had to remove both the hard drive and DVD drive in order to get at two sticks.
As a base unit our complement of some 15 Optiplex GX520s shipped with 800MHz FSB (Front Side Bus) Pentium (4) 3.4GHz processors. Each workstation also shipped with 1.0GB of DDR2 RAM in a Dual Channel configuration; a 80GB (SATA) hard drive (HHD); DVD-RW drive. The Operating System that shipped with the box was of course Windows XP Professional SP1.
Despite the limited (expandable) capabilities of the DellOptiplex DX520 I do like the unit, for the same reason I like the other Dell GX series desktops in our inventory; they are perfect for our environment, where in many cases space on the desktop is at a premium.
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 Explorers performance does not seem at all changed from previous desktops that I have used.
The built-in 10/100/1000 network card (NIC) works as advertised, but I as I stated is earlier reviews of others in the GX line, I would have preferred a standalone card which could be swapped out, or a card that could be upgrade in the future via firmware. And I wish Dell would stick with one manufacturer; preferably Intel, or 3Com. The NIC chip 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 however, offers limited 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 eight USB version 2.0 ports (six in the back, two in the front) are a welcome addition especially the two in the front which are not hidden behind an annoying hinged door, though I would like to have seen the number reversed; i.e. four 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 DellOptiplex DX520 Business Desktop is powerful business class workstation that is more then adequate for our primary business computing needs. For the base price of some $1100.00 the DellOptiplex DX520 is a relatively inexpensive high performance workhorse that more than meets our current computing needs and fits into our network-centric environment with ease where we always have an eye, or two, trained on TOC.
Operating systems included: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1 or Microsoft Windows XP Home SP1;
Processor: Up to 2.8 GHz Intel Celeron w/533 MHz FSB/ Intel Pentium 4 w/800MHz FSB;
Cache description: 128/256 or 512-KB Integrated L2 Cache;
Memory description: Up to 2GB 533MHz Dual Channel Shared DDR2 SDRAM;
Memory slots: 2 DIMMs;
Hard drive, internal: 80GB 7200rpm PATA;
Hard disk controller: integrated ATA/100 Dual Channel integrated 2-channel Ultra SATA-160;
Optical drive: CD ROM, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, or DVD-RW;