Dell's OptiPlex GX620: A Monster Behind the Monitor

By Eric Grevstad | Posted August 26, 2005

Offering four different desktop chassis designs, Dell makes it easy for small business owners to pick the computer size that's "just right" for their needs. The 12.4- by 13.4- by 3.6-inch OptiPlex GX620 is the second-smallest option, and you can attaché it to the back of a Dell-supplied flat-screen display to shrink the PC's desktop footprint to a minimum.

Our GX620 flaunted a Pentium 4 660 processor and Radeon X600 graphics card, 512MB of memory, an 80GB Serial ATA hard disk, DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, and a 17-inch, 1,280- by 1,024-pixel Dell 1706FPV LCD monitor for a total of $1,779. As with other OptiPlexes, that includes a three-year warranty with next-day on-site service, though extra-cost contracts offer reduced time on hold and same-day repairs.

Some Assembly Required
Setting up the GX620 is fairly straightforward, though it takes a few minutes of twiddling to mount first the LCD monitor and then the computer on their shared stand, securing the PC with a plastic bracket on top and a thumbscrew on the bottom (and invariably trying it with the PC facing the wrong way and having to start over). The stand gives the LCD a welcome 6.5 inches of height adjustment as well as forward or backward tilt; a handle at the top helps you grapple the combo into position in lieu of a swivel mount.

With the screen and system hugging either side of the stand, connecting the necessary power and video cables is a minor challenge. When we first switched on the PC, after plugging the display's preinstalled analog cable into the VGA port on the back of the GX620, the screen gently set us straight: "This computer has an add-in graphics card, but the monitor cable is plugged into the integrated video connector." We hurried to make the DVI digital connection between the display and the Radeon PCI Express x16 card, and were off to the races. (No, the system wouldn't let us connect both the Dell flat panel and an analog VGA display at the same time.)

More Than Enough Power for Excel and PowerPoint
When we say "off to the races," we're speaking literally: The 3.6GHz Pentium 4 660 processor and DDR-2/533 memory made the OptiPlex one of the fastest PCs we've tested.

By contrast, the 128MB ATI Radeon X600 SE graphics card didn't dazzle us with a big performance improvement over the 945G chipset's Graphics Media Accelerator 950 or even ATI Radeon X300 solutions we've sampled. We suspect most small business owners will be content to deploy the OptiPlex with integrated graphics and save $89.

Popping a single latch lets you remove the small-form-factor GX620's lid and gaze at the tightly packed goodies therein. The half-height PCI slot (vacant) is pinched between the PCI Express x16 slot (occupied) and the case frame, though there's reasonably clear access to the four DDR-2 memory sockets.

The 80GB Seagate Barracuda Serial ATA hard disk (7,200 rpm, 8MB buffer) and a 1.44MB floppy drive (a $19 option) occupy the internal and external 3.5-inch drive bays, respectively, with the Hitachi-LG Data Storage DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive filling the lone 5.25-inch bay.

The CPU hides under a mammoth heat sink and air duct; the cooling fan is audible but not obnoxiously loud when the OptiPlex is crunching numbers or rendering detailed video. We should also note that not only are larger 160GB and 250GB drives available, but you can choose from SATA I or swifter SATA II models.

Space Efficiency
At the front of the case, you'll find headphone and microphone jacks and two USB 2.0 ports. Around the back are six more USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, parallel, serial, integrated VGA, and audio-in, -out, and microphone ports, plus the DVI and S-Video outputs of the Radeon X600 SE card.

Dell's software bundle begins with Windows XP Professional SP2 and ends with CyberLink's PowerDVD (a handsome, Media-Center-style version), Sonic's MediaCenter CD backup and burning software, and Wave Systems' Embassy TPM security client. We had no complaint with the GX620's simple (no multimedia extras) but solid-feeling keyboard and smooth-moving optical scroll mouse.

We heartily approve of the Dell 1706FPV monitor with its thin-bezel, analog-and-digital-inputs and sharp text and bright colors. It offers 1,280 by 1,024 resolution at a flicker-proof 75Hz as well as at LCD screens' usual, almost-flicker-proof 60Hz.

The only oddity is that Dell sent the 1706FPV along with our small-form-factor OptiPlex, while on Dell's site the monitor is listed as a choice only with the ultra-small system (where it adds $349 to total cost; small-form-factor shoppers' default 17-inch LCD choice is the 1,000:1-contrast, $319 model 1704FPT).

Overall, we think anyone with a desk decorated by an OptiPlex GX620 will be a happy worker bee indeed: The piggyback design makes for a tangle of cables beneath the monitor, but it's hard to beat the space savings, and the PC's snappy performance joins the LCD's height adjustment and image quality to make a first-class, compact workstation. We think our test system is priced a few hundred bucks too high to make the jump from a four-star to one of our rare five-star reviews, but at least half of that's due to the revved-up Pentium 4 660 processor — it's awfully tempting to ponder a GX620 with Intel's dual-core, 2.8GHz Pentium D 820 and GMA 950 integrated graphics for $350 less.

Pros:

  • A speedy, space-saving office PC with an excellent 17-inch LCD monitor
  • Small-form-factor design a nice compromise between ultra-small and larger desktop models

Cons:

  • Price climbs sharply with faster CPUs; small selection of low-profile PCI and PCIe x16 cards

Adapted from hardwarecentral.com.

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