All-in-One (AIO) computers make a lot of sense for businesses, offering a space-saving, power-frugal design and minimal unsightly cabling (especially if you use a wireless keyboard and mouse). Some designs are more accessible and upgradable than others, however, and Dell's OptiPlex 9010 is considerably harder to get into than, for example, HP's Z1 Workstation. Luckily there are plenty of configuration options: the entry-level spec costs £779 (ex. VAT), while our review unit came in at £1,078 (ex. VAT). Not cheap, then — but is it worth the outlay?
The OptiPlex 9010 is built around a 23in. screen with full-HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution and an office-lighting-friendly anti-glare coating. The LED-backlit screen — which delivers decent brightness but average viewing angles (particularly in the vertical plane) — sits slightly recessed within a matte-black bezel measuring 3cm on the top and sides, extending to just under 7cm at the bottom. The stand is a sturdy aluminium affair that offers enough tilt to service most desk/chair arrangements; the hinge is solid enough to keep the screen in position, too. The general design impression is understated and businesslike: it's no Apple iMac, but it's not irredeemably drab either.
Dell recently announced a touchscreen version of the 9010 AIO running Windows 8: no pricing is available for this variant yet, which will ship towards the end of October along with Windows 8 itself.
The system unit measures 57.4cm wide by 38.6cm high by 6.8cm deep and weighs from 7.6kg, while the stand is 22cm deep and adds another 2.4kg of weight. It's no lightweight, but the OptiPlex 9010 is perfectly luggable for short distances.
There are ports and slots dotted around the system: a multiformat flash card reader, two USB 3.0 ports and a pair of audio jacks on the left; the power switch, on-screen display control buttons and the optical drive on the right; and the power input, VGA and HDMI ports, an RJ-45 (Ethernet) port and 6 USB ports (four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0) at the back, along with another audio (line-out) jack and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. Everything is reasonably accessible.
What's not so accessible are the system's innards, which require the removal of the system unit from the stand, and then the back cover, which is secured by four screws at the base of the screen. You don't want to be doing this too often, so pay attention to the options when you're specifying the system at purchase time.
Our review unit came with Dell's KM632 wireless keyboard and mouse kit, which is a £26 option. We like the wireless aspect, even though the dongle takes up a USB slot. However, we found the keyboard's action a bit spongy.
Our review unit was powered by a quad-core Intel Core i5-3550S processor running at 3.0GHz (up to 3.7GHz with Turbo Boost), with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 2500 GPU. This is replaced on Dell's website by the Core i5-3570S, with standard and Turbo Boost clock speeds of 3.1GHz and 3.8GHz respectively. For improved CPU and graphics performance, you can pay £70 (ex. VAT) extra and specify the Core i7-3770S with HD Graphics 4000. All of these processor options support Intel's vPro out-of-band management technology. The operating system is Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
The standard memory complement is 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, but our review unit had 8GB, an £87 (ex. VAT) upgrade that's well worth having. Similarly, whereas the standard hard drive capacity is 500GB, our review system had a 1TB (SATA III, 7,200rpm) drive, at a cost of £87 (ex. VAT) extra. Another premium option on our review unit was the optical drive, a Blu-ray writer that adds a hefty £118 (ex. VAT) to the price tag. Many businesses will happily forego this addition.
Wireless connectivity comes courtesy of Intel's Centrino Advanced-N 6235 combo card, which supports dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. If you can manage without wireless, you'll save £33 (ex. VAT).
As a business-class system, the OptiPlex 9010 AIO is well-equipped, with Intel vPro (iAMT 8) support plus Dell's extensions for remote out-of-band- BIOS management and hard disk wipe. Data security is covered by Dell's Data Protection/Encryption software, through which you can access Trusted Platform Module (TPM) settings.
Our review unit failed to deliver a Windows Experience Index (WEI) score, terminating at the disk test stage with the following error message:
We ran chkdsk.exe and sfc.exe, but both utilities declared the system clean.
Moving on, we examined CPU and GPU performance using the demanding Cinebench 11.5 benchmark, comparing the OptiPlex 9010's results with those from HP's Z1 Workstation. Both of these AIOs run quad-core processors, but the OptiPlex 9010's is a 3.0GHz Core i5-3550S while the HP Z1's is a considerably more powerful 3.5GHz Xeon E3-1280, resulting in a 22 percent difference in CPU scores (5.43 and 6.97 respectively). The big difference is in the OpenGL test, where the Z1's discrete 2GB Nvidia Quadro 1000M GPU delivers more than double the performance of the 9010's integrated HD Graphics 2500 (26.17fps versus 11.72fps):
Clearly these two AIOs are aimed at very different markets — the specialist HP Z1 Workstation costs twice as much as the business-class OptiPlex 9010, for a start. However, it's instructive to see what you get for your money in terms of performance.
Unlike WEI, the ATTO Disk Benchmark ran just fine, showing that the OptiPlex 9010's 500GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive was slightly slower than the HP Z1's 500GB, 7,200rpm Toshiba hard drive (106.3MB/s write and 115.7MB/s read versus 119.3MB/s write and 126MB/s read respectively):
Low power consumption can be a big advantage of an all-in-one system. This is not particularly true of the 27in. HP Z1 Workstation, which draws between 129.2W and 213W when running various tests, but certainly is of the 23in. OptiPlex 9010, which draws around a third of the Z1's power (37.4W-71.1W):
Partly as a result of its power-frugality, the OptiPlex 9010 is admirably quiet in general use.
Overall, we're impressed with the OptiPlex 9010 All-In-One Desktop: it offers unfussy design, solid construction, low power consumption and quiet operation. However, its graphics performance is moderate, the screen's viewing angles could be better and it's not cheap: a 21.5in. iMac with a 2.5GHz Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and a discrete Radeon HD 6750M GPU costs £899 (ex. VAT; £1,079 inc. VAT), for example. Things do even up somewhat if we drop the £118 (ex. VAT) Blu-ray drive, as many businesses will, but the Dell is still £61 (ex. VAT) more expensive. Still, for that you get a bigger hard drive and business-class security and manageability.