Dell Optiplex 980 review

£810
Price when reviewed

Inside this impressive enclosure is a powerful specification. Intel’s Core i5-660 is a relatively new chip, and its 3.33GHz clock speed is augmented by the familiar Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost. It’s evidently a powerful part, returning a score of 1.99 in our application benchmarks. That’s more than enough to handle the most demanding business software. Elsewhere, the specification is more ordinary.

A 320GB hard disk is sizeable enough, Intel’s integrated graphics are capable of handling basic desktop computing, and there’s a DVD writer in tow. Given there’s 4GB of RAM inside, we were slightly baffled to find Windows 7 Professional 32- bit edition installed; in this configuration the OptiPlex 980 can access only 3.4GB of the machine’s memory. But, thankfully, Dell lets you choose a 64-bit version of Windows at no extra cost when ordering.

What you want

There’s also a full range of customisation options available if this specification – which costs £689 exc VAT and is one of the cheapest available – doesn’t take your fancy. Downgrading to a Core i5-650 will save you £20 exc VAT, and a range of more powerful processors are also available: a Core i5-750 adds £29 to the cost, a Core i7-860 an extra £103, and the Core i7-870 £340.

Elsewhere, it’s possible to upgrade to a 500GB hard disk for £17 or a 128GB SSD for £269, double up to 8GB of RAM for £92 or add 16GB of memory for an extra £404. A wide range of graphics cards are also available: although we don’t anticipate much demand for the Nvidia GeForce GT330 and ATI Radeon HD 4550 options, there’s a trio of entry-level professional cards from Matrox that can be fitted. And, needless to say, the impressive three-year, next-business-day warranty can also be upgraded, with an additional two years costing £39 exc VAT, and more advanced levels of support also available.

Dell Optiplex 980

Dell has left no stone unturned here, and there’s plenty to get your teeth into on the software side too. Dell has spent plenty of time getting the BIOS right, and has eschewed the traditional keyboard-operated utility for a cursor-controlled environment. It’s far easier to use than the average BIOS, and packed with sensible settings: the front and rear USB ports can be disabled along with the TPM chip, PCI slots and Wi-Fi, and it’s possible to choose how secure your administrator password is with a range of character and length options.

The software within Windows 7 Professional is less impressive, with utilities to handle basic network and security duties. It’s more than you’d see on most business machines, but can’t compete with Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Toolbox for breadth or versatility.

Nevertheless, this minor complaint pales into insignificance beside the Dell’s superb case design, attention to detail and performance – and, suddenly, £689 exc VAT seems like a bargain. If small-form-factor systems just aren’t versatile enough, then the OptiPlex 980 is as good as it gets.

Warranty

Warranty3yr on-site, 3 yr return to base

Basic specifications

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

Processor

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

Motherboard

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

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
Capacity320GB
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

Drives

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

Monitor

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

SpeakersN/A
Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardN/A

Case

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
Modemno
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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