Dell Dimension 5000 review

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The Dimension 5000 is a significant product for both Dell and the PC world in general. Out goes the standard hinged case (see the Dimension 8400) and in comes a radical new design. The change is thanks to the long-awaited BTX form factor, Intel’s attempt to tackle the increasingly pressing cooling issues of modern processors.

Dell Dimension 5000 review

The notoriously hot-running Intel Pentium 4 is placed near the front of the case in the BTX design, making it first in line for cooling. A 120mm fan sucks in air from the vent, over the heatsink, and into the large open area above the graphics card. The rear of the case is largely an open mesh, allowing the now warm air out easily. Despite the rearranged layout, the only indication from the outside is a large recessed vent at the front of the case.

There’s 1GB of PC3200 RAM to help the 3.4GHz Pentium 4 with its workload. The respectable application benchmark score of 1.85 shows that the Dimension 5000 is more than fast enough for just about any task you care to throw at it. The Pentium 4 outshines the Evesham’s Athlon 3500+ in the one area where raw power can still count: media encoding. The Dell completes jobs in around half the time that our reference PC takes, while the Evesham is only 50 per cent quicker.

The system keeps everything sufficiently cool. We ran our benchmarks on an endless loop over a weekend, and still the system refused to fall over. Thanks to the nVidia GeForce 6800 card, we saw high frame rates throughout our benchmarks; at 1,280 x 1,024, only Far Cry dipped below 50fps. However, the scores weren’t quite as good as the 6600 GT in the Evesham nForce GT (see A List, p48), as the Dell’s 3.4GHz CPU clearly limited the game’s performance. Forcing even higher resolutions reveals a truer story: with 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, both Far Cry and Doom 3 remained playable at around 40fps.

The space above the graphics card, and the fact that it sits fan-up, means that Dell can utilise every PCI slot. This is handy, as the microBTX motherboard has only two PCI slots and a single PCI Express slot. The PCI slots are filled with a 56K modem and a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS. Dell pairs the latter with its MMS 5650 5.1 speaker set, with a polite sub that doesn’t overpower the attractive, rich-sounding satellites.

Dell’s own-branded 19in TFT won’t disappoint either. Some detail is lost in dark and light areas when watching DVDs, but it’s generally acceptable. The extra screen size over the Evesham’s 17in panel is also welcome, although it shares the same 1,280 x 1,024 resolution.

Dell also beats the Evesham for storage space, with 250GB as standard rather than 200GB. Theoretically, there’s room for another disk, but as there’s no obvious airflow in this area of the case we’d be very reluctant to add another hard disk. Instead, consider upgrading to a 400GB disk for £150 at the time of purchase.

The Dimension 5000 is relatively foible-free then. The BTX layout means it’s quiet while keeping things cool, and the GeForce 6800 – while not noticeably faster than the Evesham’s 6600 GT in our tests – offers more headroom for future releases. The hard disk will need upgrading if you want to take advantage of the lightning-fast encoding capabilities, but it’s otherwise a well-specified system. It may be a little noisier and slightly bigger, but we still prefer the Evesham nForce GT, as it offers much the same for £150 less.

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