'

Dell redesigns its PC lines

The company sheds the grey, boxy shape to give its Optiplex PCs a rounded look with a dark, midnight grey colour

Dell will spend a lot of time talking about its new directions at its Dell Direct Connect customer conference this week, but the product that put it on the map, the PC, will also receive some attention. Dell will launch major redesigns of its corporate desktop and notebook PCs at the conference.

The redesign of the Optiplex corporate desktop PC, the first in several years, marks a departure from the standard beige Dell box.

The new Optiplex GX150 sheds the traditional-looking boxy shape for a rounded look and dons a midnight gray colour with a light gray accent. The PC has been in design for 18 months and is expected to begin shipping in the middle of October. Pricing hasn't been finalised but will be close to that of the current Optiplex line, Dell officials said. They estimate the GX150 will start at around $700 to $800.

The redesigned Optiplex differentiates itself from its predecessor in a number of ways, besides its colour. It is about 30 percent smaller and offers access to Universal Serial Bus and audio ports from the front, instead of making users reach around the back to plug in peripherals. The new PC is also quieter by a wide margin.

Depending on the configuration of the PC, Dell officials say it is up to 40 percent quieter. The company improved the acoustics, in part by going to a new kind of cooling system, which draws air from the back of the PC, circulates it over major components and sends it out the back again. In addition, the hard drive is isolated using polymer mounts.

Dell says the GX150 can also be more easily serviced. The PC has a clamshell-like design that allows it to be opened like a book for servicing. Inside the PC, Dell has implemented a colour-coding scheme, which it says will make servicing much easier. The company has colour-coded everything, including labeling all of the user serviceable items, such as memory, hard drives and graphics cards, with green. The PC uses fewer screws, instead using snap-in, snap-out parts, which Dell claims improves serviceability and decreases manufacturing times, lowering the overall cost to build a PC.

The new Optiplex was designed with Intel's 815 chipset. Because the chipset can support both Celeron and Pentium III chips and has a built-in graphics engine but also offers support for an AGP graphics card, Dell will use it in a wide range of configurations. The new Optiplex will scale in price and processor speed, from a low-cost 600MHz Celeron model to a high-end 1GHz Pentium III model. The PC will support Intel's Pentium 4 at a later date.

The new design will form the basis for a number of new chassis, Dell officials said.

Dell will also preview its new Latitude notebook, which officially ships next week. The new Latitude, Dell's first major redesign of the platform in three years, gains a host of features, including built-in wireless capabilities, Dell officials said.

More details will follow.

To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.