Dell Dimension 5000 review
When we first met the Dell 5000, we stopped and just looked.
It was different. For starters, it had a big 'D' section cut from the front of its case. And when we plugged the machine in and switched it on, the PC was practically silent. There was none of the fan noise that powerful PCs tend to make. What was going on?
The answer lay inside the Dell. The vast majority of PCs we see are built around an industry design standard called ATX - a 10-year-old set of rules that stipulate how the components inside a PC are laid out and how air flows inside the machine. The Dell is built to the new BTX standard, a set of rules which aim to advance PC design and produce computers quiet enough to take their place in the lounge.
One of the cornerstones of the BTX design is the desire for silence. Inside the Dell, this is achieved by keeping the hottest components (graphics card, hard disk and processor) at the bottom of the case. Air is drawn over them by a big, slow and quiet fan, through the processor's heatsink and out of a large void at the front of the machine. The system is so efficient the PC has only two fans - many ATX machines have five or more, which is why they sound like a helicopter taking off.
BUILT FOR POWER
After the drama of the case, the rest of the Dell is a more standard, though nonetheless impressive, machine. At its heart is a 3.4GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 256MB nVidia 6800 graphics card. When working together, these components make a formidable team, mustering some fantastic benchmark scores. Gaming performance was equally stellar - a Doom 3 score of 48.4 frames per second will keep even the most hardcore gamer smiling.
The processor and graphics card can't take all the credit for this PC's stomping performance, though. The hard disk also deserves an honourable mention. The 250GBMaxtor 7Y250MO isn't just big, it's also fast. Its Serial ATA connection, 8MB cache and 7,200rpm spin speed all help it keep up a constantly rapid flow of data to your PC's components. The machine's DVD writer is a similarly impressive piece of kit. A little digging revealed that it's a Phillips DVD8631, a drive with a maximum DVD+R write speed of 16X.
DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS
Along with its distinctly futuristic looks, the Dell chassis is also very practical. Just lift a handle at the back of the case and it swings open, revealing all its components and internals. This will make the job of upgrading easy but it's unlikely you'll ever need to, as the machine's specification is so generous - but more of this later.
At the machine's front are two USB 2 ports and a connector for your headphones and microphone. Oddly, though, there's no reset button or floppy drive. If you have lots of software on floppy disk, this might cause problems - but if it does, you can buy an external floppy drive from Dell for just over £20.
In truth though, the floppy disk drive now borders on being a museum piece. They're too small to store most modern files and most people will never need one.
The Dimension 5000's 19in TFT monitor is another excellent piece of kit. It offers fantastic image quality and performed very well in our colour and greyscale tests. Its only minor failing was brightness - we felt the monitor didn't produce particularly brilliant colours, but it's a small black mark in the face of its otherwise excellent all-round performance.
We liked the flat panel's stand, too - it lets the screen swivel through 90 degrees. This might sound like a gimmick, but if you're working on an A4 document, having your screen tilt to portrait mode makes life much easier. This effect is partly managed by the nVidia graphics card's driver. It has a feature called NVRotate which turns the image the graphics card sends to the monitor through 90 degrees too.