Looks, brains, brawn-Dell's OptiPlex line has it all

Apparently Dell Computer Corp. believes that what is on the inside is just as important
as what is on the outside when it comes to its OptiPlex line of computers.


When it introduced its Pentium Pro business machine, the GXpro, Dell also introduced a
complete case and chassis redesign called OptiFrame. Featuring a recyclable case and an
extremely well-designed interior, the Dell GXpro combined aesthetics, function and power.


Now Dell has brought this redesign to its OptiPlex G-series models that have standard
Pentium chips. The GCN Lab received two examples of this new design, the GS+ and the GXi.
Both come in midsize and low-profile models. Our Gs+ review unit came in the low-profile
version, and the GXi came in the roomier midsize chassis.


The low-profile design is for office managers who know what they want in a computer and
who aren't going to expand its capabilities or add a lot of option boards. The midsize
case is for users who like to be ready for anything.


Both designs feature a PCI/ISA architecture, integrated S3 Trio 64V+ PCI video and the
same easy-to-maintain design.


A levered expansion slot lets you remove the card cage for easier access to your PCI
and ISA card slots. The low-profile design has one PCI slot, one ISA slot, and one shared
slot. The midsize case has two each of the ISA and PCI slots, with one shared slot.


On the midsize chassis, the power supply swings out of your way on a hinge for better
access to the motherboard and the back of the drives.


On both designs, this is all encased in the recyclable chassis which supports monitors
up to 150 pounds and provides the easiest toolless entry we have seen. Dell did thermal
modeling studies to find the best way to increase cooling airflow across hot running
processors.


Both models were created with the goal of lowering the total cost of ownership. If
replacing the 200-MHz Pentium processor with the MMX chip in less than a minute and a half
is any indication, the strategy works.


The Gs+ model, aimed at the budget-conscious market, features a solid design with few
perks. The GXi is for offices that need network-ready computers with as little fuss as
possible.


Loaded with an integrated network card, integrated sound, 2M flash memory for BIOS and
desktop management interface support, the GXi can be taken out of the box, put on a desk
and plugged into your existing environment.


While the Gs+ may be an entry-level computer, it is not lacking in on power. It turned
in scores on the GCNdex32TM benchmark that were just a shade under the scores turned in by
the GXi.


Our test units differed slightly from the baseline configurations, with the Gs+ having
the optional integrated network controller and the GXi having the Imagine II 128-bit video
controller from Number Nine Visual Technology Corp. Both units had eight-speed IDE CD-ROM
drives.


The GXi, while a solid performer, did not blow the doors off the Lab. Scores on the
GCNdex were close to what we've seen from other Pentium 200 PCs we've tested. Design, not
speed, sets these computers apart. They are as fast as anyone else's, but in an office,
ease of use and management are more important. And they're good-looking, too.


This line keeps costs down and will likely win praise from technical support staff,
network managers and sysadmins.


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