Dell's OptiPlex is first with a tower that's easy to open

Not anymore. Dell Computer Corp. has improved on what we thought was already an
administrator-friendly system with a minitower chassis for the easy-access OptiPlex line.

The OptiPlex GXa has only one button. When you press it the side panel opens. The
interior, as in previous OptiPlex models, is neat and accessible with a card cage for
three PCI, two ISA and two shared PCI/ISA slots.

None is occupied. Everything is integrated onto the motherboard including audio,
10/100-megabit/sec networking and even 4M Accelerated Graphics Port video.

The AGP video had stellar scores on the two-dimensional GCNdex32TM benchmark
suite, and initial 3-D performance was OK. On one OpenGL benchmark, full-screen SuperVGA
rendering produced 11.75 frames/sec, 2 1Ž2 times better than the two-dimensional 8M
card of the previous OptiPlex generation.

This is far from the Dell WorkStation 400's 16M card that could crank out 150
frames/sec [GCN, Sept. 8, Page 1]. An optional 8M card for the OptiPlex GXa must be
installed on the PCI bus because there is no available AGP slot. By the way, the 8M card
is similar to what was available on the previous OptiPlex and will produce only marginally
better 2-D and worse 3-D performance.

Across the board, the OptiPlex performed like the earlier generation. In fact, the
266-MHz Pentium II system I examined was nearly the same in performance as Dell's
Dimension line [GCN, May 12, Page 64].

Because the OptiPlex has Intel Corp.'s 440LX chip set and an Ultra ATA hard drive, I
expected more improvement over the Dimension than I saw. Still, hard-drive access was
speedy, and the 24X-maximum CD-ROM drive worked much faster than the earlier 12X drive.

As an OptiPlex, the GXa is easier to maintain than the Dimension. Like the OptiPlex,
the GXa is certified for seven operating systems but comes standard with Microsoft Windows
95 or Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

New in the GXa is Desktop Management Interface 2.0 support at the BIOS level and
compliance with the industry PC 97 specification, including power management.

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