Dell Optiplex 980 review

25 Jun 2010

A solid, cleverly designed and powerful business machine that's ideal if smaller systems just aren't versatile enough

Price when reviewed 
810
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £689
Price inc VAT £810
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site, 3 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 320
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency 3.33GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket LGA 1156
HSF (heatsink-fan) Dell proprietary

Motherboard

Motherboard Dell E93839
Conventional PCI slots free 2
Conventional PCI slots total 2
PCI-E x16 slots free 2
PCI-E x16 slots total 2
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 1
PCI-E x1 slots total 1
Internal SATA connectors 4
Internal SAS connectors 1
Internal PATA connectors 1
Internal floppy connectors 1
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 2
Memory sockets total 4

Graphics card

Graphics card Intel GMA X4500HD
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting N/A
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500HD
DVI-I outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 1
Number of graphics cards 1

Hard disk

Hard disk Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAKS
Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Cache size 16MB
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical drive Samsung TS-H563G
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Sound card N/A

Case

Chassis Dell proprietary
Case format Full tower
Dimensions 187 x 445 x 410mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply rating 350W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 1

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 10
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port yes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 3

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 4
Front panel memory card reader no

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard Dell wired keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 35W
Peak power consumption 89W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.99
Office application benchmark score 1.62
2D graphics application benchmark score 2.10
Encoding application benchmark score 1.88
Multitasking application benchmark score 2.37
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A