Dell Optiplex 980 review

Price when reviewed

In the world of business PCs, size matters: small-form-factor systems have replaced full-sized machines on desks across the country, with most users simply not needing the versatility of the traditional tower. Dell, however, is bucking this trend with the OptiPlex 980, a reassuringly large business workhorse.

It’s a serious-looking piece of kit: the front is made from metallic mesh and glossy-black plastic divided by a stripe of brushed metal, and the side panels feel as sturdy as anything we’ve seen from Lenovo’s range of ThinkCentres. The connectivity is good too, with four USB 2 ports on the front and six more USB 2 ports on the back alongside eSATA, a pair of PS/2 sockets, D-SUB and DisplayPort outputs, and even parallel and serial inputs. Security is obviously a priority.

The machine is opened using a handle that can be fastened with a padlock rather than the usual thumbscrews, and the interior boasts both a TPM chip and a tamper detection switch. The first thing to strike us when we opened the OptiPlex was its motherboard: it’s on the “wrong” side of the case, and the layout is markedly different from the usual ATX board. For a start, the four DIMM sockets are aligned horizontally rather than vertically, and the backplate is opposite the LGA 1156 processor socket rather than along one of the sides.

Interior design

While the OptiPlex 980 boasts an unusual interior, it’s clear there’s method in Dell’s madness. The solitary PCI Express x1 slot that sits towards the front of the chassis, for instance, is designed for a wireless card, and clamps into a small bracket beneath with a cage of purple plastic.

Dell Optiplex 980 interior view

There’s also the CPU heatsink, which, aside from the PSU, boasts the system’s only fan. It’s surrounded by a metal cage to funnel air towards the front of the chassis, and the fan is suspended on rubber mounts. The result is near-silent operation that will barely be noticeable even in the quietest of offices.

The larger chassis size also offers a decent amount of upgrade room. A hard disk can be quickly installed into a spare purple caddy without any tools – and Dell has already provided a power cable ready to connect it. Meanwhile, the front of the chassis offers spare 5.25in and 3.5in bays: a purple bracket can be released to allow these to be used and, in a neat touch, screws needed to secure optical drives in place are attached to the inside of the drive bay cover.

Elsewhere, the board offers two spare DIMM sockets that can accept a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 RAM, two spare SATA/300 ports, a pair of PCI slots and two PCI Express x16 slots, although one of these runs at just x4 speed. It’s a far wider selection than is available on the Lenovo ThinkCentre A58, and the Dell is just as cleverly designed as Lenovo’s range of small-form-factor machines.


Warranty3yr on-site, 3 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity320
RAM capacity4.00GB
Screen sizeN/A


CPU familyIntel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency3.33GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 1156
HSF (heatsink-fan)Dell proprietary


MotherboardDell E93839
Conventional PCI slots free2
Conventional PCI slots total2
PCI-E x16 slots free2
PCI-E x16 slots total2
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free1
PCI-E x1 slots total1
Internal SATA connectors4
Internal SAS connectors1
Internal PATA connectors1
Internal floppy connectors1
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec


Memory typeDDR3
Memory sockets free2
Memory sockets total4

Graphics card

Graphics cardIntel GMA X4500HD
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingN/A
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA X4500HD
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
DisplayPort outputs1
Number of graphics cards1

Hard disk

Hard diskWestern Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAKS
Hard disk usable capacity298GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size16MB
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A


Optical driveSamsung TS-H563G
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A


Monitor make and modelN/A
Resolution screen horizontalN/A
Resolution screen verticalN/A
ResolutionN/A x N/A
Pixel response timeN/A
Contrast ratioN/A
Screen brightnessN/A
DVI inputsN/A
HDMI inputsN/A
VGA inputsN/A
DisplayPort inputsN/A

Additional Peripherals

Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardN/A


ChassisDell proprietary
Case formatFull tower
Dimensions187 x 445 x 410mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply rating350W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays1

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)10
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portyes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
3.5mm audio jacks3

Front ports

Front panel USB ports4
Front panel memory card readerno

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardDell wired keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows 7

Noise and power

Idle power consumption35W
Peak power consumption89W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.99
Office application benchmark score1.62
2D graphics application benchmark score2.10
Encoding application benchmark score1.88
Multitasking application benchmark score2.37
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

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