Dell didn't lose any points in performance, though. With a score of 3.77 in our 2D benchmarks, the OptiPlex stole top position from NEC, with Fujitsu Siemens just behind in third place. This is no surprise considering the 1.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512Mb of PC133 SDRAM - an unparalleled combination this month.
With neat final touches in the form of two front-mounted USB ports, plus a headphone socket, it's difficult to find anything to criticise here. If ordering in sufficient quantity, you can no doubt even negotiate on the hefty £45 delivery price. In short, if you're looking for a business PC and have £700 to spend, choose the OptiPlex.
Dell has dominated our last two business PCs group tests, scooping the Labs Winner award in both. We had hoped that it would be more vigorously challenged this time around, but the combination of a superb warranty, a fantastically designed case and strong performance was too much for Dell's opposition.
The three-year, on-site service package was only matched by Fujitsu Siemens and IBM, but even then Dell pulled away thanks to next-business-day cover. Dell also provides all the pre-sales and post-sales support an IT manager could ask for, with same-day cover available for an extra £99, not to mention on-site installation.
It's impossible for us to test for reliability here, but our reader-voted annual awards (see Reliability and service, p72) give an excellent indication of this, and once again Dell came out well, losing only to IBM. Even if something does go wrong, it's simplicity itself to access the case: press the buttons on either side of the chassis. The hard disk, CD-ROM and floppy drive are all removable via caddies, and there's an unhindered path to the single, half-height PCI slot, the spare DIMM socket and the CPU. Even the motherboard and PSU are easy to remove.
Another bonus is that this is an incredibly quiet PC. The only time you'll notice any noise is when the hard disk is accessed. This is a 40Gb Seagate device and is kept company by a TEAC CD-ROM. The CD-224E is designed for notebooks, shown by its low 24-speed rating. This contributed to a relatively low score in our specification graph, and Dell also lost points for a two-button mouse - why drop the middle wheel?
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