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Dell Optiplex 980 review


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

Review Date: 25 Jun 2010

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £689 (£810 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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