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6/96 Reviews System: Dell OptiPlex GL+5100

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

Blue-Collar Computer

By David Hafke

Sometimes temptation gets the better of us. We might need the high-mileage hatchback, but we can't keep our eyes off the hot little convertible. And we know we need a sturdy, blue-collar PC, but it's hard to fight the lure of mega models with megahertz to burn. Dell provides a soft landing for your return to reality with its workhorse OptiPlex GL+5100.

The OptiPlex GL+5100 is built around a modest 100MHz Pentium CPU, but no corners have been cut: This fully equipped sys-tem is decked out with quality components. In addition to its 16MB of EDO RAM (expandable to 128MB), the system has 256KB of pipeline-burst level 2 cache. Its drives include a 1-gigabyte Western Digital hard disk and an NEC quad-speed IDE CD-ROM drive. The 15-inch Dell VS15X monitor has a 0.28mm dot pitch and connects to the system via the motherboard-based S3 Trio 64+ graphics accelerator with 2MB of VRAM. The motherboard also houses the OptiPlex GL+5100's 3Com EtherLink III network interface. The sound system is based on a Vibra 16 sound card, which attaches to a pair of Altec Lansing ACS5 speakers. A keyboard with Windows 95 keys and a Dell-branded Logitech mouse complete the system's configuration.

This is an impressive hardware lineup-and it's a good thing, too. The system's slim desktop case, which slips off easily by loosening a few thumbscrews, doesn't leave much room for expansion. In fact, it's pretty much a full house inside. With the two external bays used by the CD-ROM and the floppy drive and the single internal bay holding the hard drive, there are no available drive bays. The system has three expansion slots: a PCI slot, an ISA and one PCI/ISA shared slot. The Vibra 16 sound card occupies the shared slot-mainly because it can't fit in the ISA slot without bumping into the oversized heat sink that helps cool the processor.

The 15-inch monitor produced a good image and the on-board video hardware performed well on our Wintune benchmarks, with an average rating of 11.67Mpixels per second-a good score for a 100MHz machine. Other test results confirmed that the OptiPlex GL+5100 is a solid, economical performer. Its CPU clocked 183MIPS, and the hard disk's average uncached throughput was just a shade under 3MB per second. The system also performed impressively on our application tests using Word 7.0 and Excel 7.0 macros. It took an average of 20.33 seconds to run the Word macro and 15.33 seconds to complete the Excel macro.

The audio combo of the Vibra board and the Altec Lansing speakers pumped stereo sound with good, if not exceptional, quality. The audio system will capably handle office applications and most multimedia tasks.

Setting up the system involved little more than popping the boxes open and plugging the cables into the conveniently labeled ports. The reasonably priced OptiPlex GL+5100 comes with Windows 95 preinstalled, but no other software.

One of the system's more intriguing features is its ability to turn itself off. When the Windows 95 shutdown prompt, "It's now safe to turn off ..." appears, sit tight-the system will power itself down.

The Dell OptiPlex GL+5100 is not for expansion-minded users, but if you need a well-equipped PC that will ably plow through your daily workload, this system will fill the bill admirably.

Info File
Dell OptiPlex GL+5100
Pros: Performance
Cons: Expansion; software
Dell Computer Corp.
800-BUY-DELL, 512-338-4000
WinMag Box Score: 3.0
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