By now you’ve probably heard of Dell. Despite its best efforts to alienate consumers with its atrocious “Dell Dude” campaign a few years back the company has slowly been gaining momentum in the home PC marketplace. No matter which end of the wealth spectrum you happen to reside on, the company has something to cater to your needs. Today we take a look at the Dimension 4700, a middle-of-the-line PC that provides an awful lot of bang for the buck.
The standard unit retails for $669 and features a P4 2.8, 256MB SDRAM, 40GB SATA HD, 48x CD-Rom drive, onboard 10/100 Ethernet and competent onboard audio and video. It lacks a modem and speakers so if you’re an old bat who hasn’t yet welcomed the next generation of technology, you’ll have to spring a little extra for those. It’s a newer unit so it utilizes the PCI-Express graphics card configuration that is said to usher in the next generation of video cards. If you were planning on porting your old AGP-based video card into this system you’re out of luck as it lacks an AGP Port.
Everything comes encased in a standard Dell Mini-tower that’s smaller than most 3rd party solutions. It’s about half of the size of my Rosewill
and weighs about 30 pounds, making it really easy to tote around. All of the internal components can be accessible via a simple lever-based mechanism that resides on the side of the case. This is a nice touch because it makes it very easy to access the inside of the computer; there’s no need to reach for the Philips when I want to add some RAM. Those of you who have a lot of little toys and peripherals will be glad to know that the unit features eight USB ports, six on the back and two on the front. This is a godsend for someone like me who has to plug in an MX700, a Saitek Gamers Keyboard, a Griffin Technology PowerMate, a SanDisk card reader, a Linksys Wireless Card and a USB camera.
After you open up the case you’ll discover that the compact design comes at a steep price. Everything is really cramped and it’s difficult to access the drive bays and the hard drives. There are only two available PCI slots (in addition to the PCI-E slot) and this is immediately noticeable if you’re a gamer or a musician. Onboard audio is fine if you’re a casual player but most of us like third-party solutions. Let’s say you add in a Sound Blaster Audigy 2
, that leaves you with one slot. Put in a wireless network card and you’re completely tapped out. If you want to add in a TV-tuner you’re out of luck as you’ve already used up all of the interior space. It should also be noted that it’s impossible to add an internal card-reader to the front of this PC. It’s not a huge turn-off if you’re a gamer, but it puts a huge damper on the whole ordeal if you’re using this as an all-in-one solution.
Although the system can be used by gamers, it’s marketed for use in small businesses and the home. Because of this, the unit comes packaged with a whole host of programs that most gamers will see as filler. This includes Word Perfect Office, McAfee Security Center, MusicMatch JukeBox, Dell Picture Studio, PrintMe Internet Printing, and a couple of user manuals. If you’re like us you’ll want to uninstall these programs as they’ll prove to be useless and will take up precious disk space.The base model comes with a Dell branded two-button mouse and a standard 101 key keyboard. Both of these are pretty crude and probably won’t ever see the light of day. If you’re serious about gaming you’ll want to upgrade to the MX500 for an additional $50 or search for the wireless MX700. Setting up the unit is easy thanks to the giant posterboard-sized foldout that Dell packages with each unit. This foldout shows all of the hookups and even the most novice computer user will have this baby up and running in no time.
Let’s face it, most of you are reading this review to find out how the unit performs in the video gaming realm. If you’re looking to play games right out of the box you might be more than a little disappointed. Although the system utilizes the new Intel 945G chipset, the system is still relatively underpowered when it’s pitted up against today’s top-notch games. Older games such as Call of Duty, BattleField Vietnam
and Unreal Tournament 2004
run competently enough but the next wave of games simply cripple the system. Half Life 2
is more chop happy than a Japanese Sushi chef and Counter Strike: Source
is simply unplayable. Don’t even think about playing DOOM 3
on the system, it just isn’t going to happen.
In addition to being slow, the card lacks sufficient technology to power today’s graphic intensive games. Words like Transform & Lighting don’t exist in this card’s vocabulary and don’t get any crazy ideas about AA or anisotropic filtering. It’s possible to rotate your view point to take advantage of an LCD with a pivot, but the technology is unreliable and suddenly changes resolution without notice. To really get the most out of this system you’ll need to purchase a PCI-Express video card. For the mid-range gamer (who we feel this system is aimed at) we recommend you check out the Sapphire X800. You can check out John’s review of the card by following this link
. To put it into perspective, my old P4 2.4Ghz with an ATI 9700 All in Wonder simply murders this unit when it comes to gaming. Add in that Sapphire card though and it’s an entirely different story.
Another crucial part of gaming is the audio. The base model utilizes an onboard chipset that is capable of producing 5.1, but the results are marginal. Most of the sounds we experienced were garbled and incapable of putting our Logitech Z-680s to the test. The rear channels were a mess and the bass wasn’t as clean as it should have been. Music plays competently enough but the chipset failed to properly utilize our 5.1 setup. Generally we use the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 to test our speakers and after using this onboard solution, it’s easy to see why. If you’re planning on buying this system it’s advisable that you pick up a third party soundcard as well. Luckily, this system is so affordable that you’ll have more than enough left over to purchase the necessary upgrades.
2.8ghz is great if you’re living in the present, but you’ll want to add a little bit of oomph so that this baby carries you into the next generation. For an extra $70 you can upgrade to a 3.2 and an extra $40 will score you an 80GB SATA HD. If you’re adamant about having a DVD-Writer you can get one for an extra $90 while you’ll want to upgrade to 512MB of dual channel RAM for an extra $50. The real kicker? All of this can be had for $749 + taxes and shipping. Most of the people I know are looking to spend about $1000 on a system without taking a monitor or peripherals into consideration. In this scenario they’d have $250 left over, more than enough to pick up a competent video card, CRT monitor and sound card. Get the upgrades; they’re definitely worth the price.
Finding a new computer is usually a tough and drawn-out process, but Dell makes it easy thanks to its affordable and practical solutions. If you’re still clunking around on that old P4 1.5 you’ll want to get into the next generation of gaming. We recommend picking up the Dell Dimension 4700; it’ll get you in to the game with enough spare change left over to keep you there.