WHAT’S HOT: Dell Computer Corp.’s 8100 Dimension line makes a persuasive fashion statement: The black-and-silver midsize tower ships with color-coordinated monitor, keyboard, mouse, and champagne-glass-shaped Harman/Kardon HK 695 speakers. This high-performance PC makes a pretty picture when you power it up, too: The 19-inch Dell M991 monitor (a Best Buy in our latest review of 19-inch monitors) delivers deep, rich colors with crisp text: A text screen consisting mainly of 12-point characters blurred only slightly at the monitor’s highest resolution of 1600 by 1200. Color-coded rear ports and a color setup poster make assembling the Dimension 8100 an elementary task, and a system-specific Solutions Guide provides thorough troubleshooting information. Microsoft Office XP Small Business Edition comes bundled.
WHAT’S NOT: Equipped with Intel’s latest 1.7-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 128MB of RDRAM and running Windows 2000, the Dimension 8100 earned a score of 198 on PC WorldBench 2000. Though that’s plenty fast for most office tasks, it’s three points below the average for similarly configured 1.5-GHz P4 systems. Due in part to long wait times during our anonymous tech support calls, Dell’s service rating for the Dimension line has dropped to Fair.
WHAT ELSE: You release the plastic case cover by flipping open a clasp on the rear and pressing a button on the front of the system (though fully removing the cover may require some extra jiggling). The cramped interior includes four free PCI slots and two open drive bays (one externally accessible) that you can reach without tools. The back of the case provides four USB ports, a sturdy double-loop case lock, and an integrated network interface.
The Dimension 8100 includes both a 12X/8X/32X CD-RW drive and a 22X-48X CD-ROM drive for easier disc-to-disc copying. Dell’s Enhanced Quietkey keyboard has four hot-keys for multimedia access and remains true to its name during typing; the keys respond sluggishly, however, and the spacebar requires extra effort to depress.
Dell recently dropped the standard warranty on its Dimension line from three years to one year for both parts and labor, and it now limits free tech support to one year. Buyers can pay extra to extend the parts and labor coverage to two or three years and to upgrade to lifetime technical support, however.
BEST USE: Its beautiful monitor makes this Dimension 8100 a good choice for business users who spend long hours in front of their screens and don’t mind paying for the extras. But it doesn’t deliver the peak performance its price and processor might indicate.
Dell Dimension 8100
PC WorldBench 2000 score of 198, Pentium 4-1700 CPU, 128MB of RDRAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows 2000, 40GB hard drive, 22X-48X CD-ROM drive, 12X/8X/32X CD-RW drive, ATI Radeon graphics card with 32MB of DDR SGRAM, 19-inch Dell M991 monitor, Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live sound card, Harman/Kardon HK 695 speakers, network adapter, midsize tower case. One-year parts and labor warranty; free, one-year, toll-free 24-hour tech support.
Prices listed are in Cdn currency.