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For users on a budget, the Dimension 3100 has most of its bases covered despite there being alternatives that provide superior value for money. Design
When it comes to desktop PCs, black -- with a hint of silver --
is clearly the new beige. It's taken a while for some OEMs to
realise that beige is by far the dullest colour for a PC, but one
vendor that's had it right pretty much from the beginning is
Dell. The Dimension 3100 is mostly black, with silver trimmings,
and shouldn't embarrass even the most fashion-conscious user.
It's designed with plug-and-play firmly in mind -- there's a
memory card reader up front that supports all of the major
formats, as well as two USB 2.0 ports and a headphone jack. Yet
peripheral junkies shouldn't be alarmed, as there's a further
four USB 2.0 ports around back. It's unfortunate that the machine
lacks a Firewire port, albeit the standard is arguably on its way
It's important to note that the memory card reader takes up
the system's only 3.5-inch drive bay, so those that require a
floppy disk drive will have to either forego the card reader or
make do with an external drive.
Dell builds its computers to order, so technical specifications
can vary wildly depending on how much money you've got to spend.
We were specifically looking for a sub-AU$1500 system, so our
model came equipped with an Intel Pentium 4 630 (3GHz) processor,
512MB DDRII-533 memory and a 160GB hard drive.
This is fairly substantial for a system of this price, but
there are a few facts to keep in mind. Firstly, the machine's
processor is a single core model -- as opposed to the dual-core
offerings that have risen to ubiquity over the past six months --
so multi-tasking and system intensive applications such as video
editing are at times sluggish. Additionally, the system uses both
integrated graphics (Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900) and
integrated sound (2-channel), so don't expect tantalising gaming
or DVD playback performance.
The lack of decent graphics and sound hardware is odd
considering the fact that the machine uses the
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system, but
again this is largely due to the sub-AU$1500 price tag. Also
limiting its media centre abilities is the fact that the 3100
Despite the sub-standard graphics and sound hardware, the 3100
does boast some hallmarks of a high-end system, such as a 160GB
hard drive (as mentioned above) and a 16x DVD+/-RW drive. Dell is
even generous enough to throw in a USB keyboard and optical mouse
into the mix, as well as a set of basic stereo speakers.
Software-wise, the 3100 is quite bare, bundling Microsoft
Works 7.0, Sonic MyDVD and Sonic Digital Media. Of course,
applications such as Microsoft Office can be included with the
system at an additional cost.
The 3100 performs as expected for a PC in its price range. In our
SYSMark 2004 SE tests its score was virtually identical to the
similarly priced Optima WorkPro
7000T. It's great for basic office productivity tasks and
some multimedia applications (such as occasional DVD viewing),
but don't expect performance that's anywhere near that of a
Its 3DMark06 scores were predictably dismal thanks to the
integrated graphics solution. Note that while the Optima machine
produced a score that's three times faster than the 3100, neither
machine is realistically suitable for even casual gaming, let
alone hardcore use.
If your PC lives in your bedroom, you'll be pleased to hear
that the 3100 is virtually inaudible. That's not to say that it
offers inadequate cooling, but rather the case has been designed
in such a way that airflow is efficient enough to keep the system
cool using only a few larger, slow spinning fans.
Finally, the machine comes with a one year limited warranty
with next business day onsite service and standard phone support.
It also includes Dell's PC Restore software should you get hit
with a nasty virus.
For users on a budget, the Dimension 3100 has most of its
bases covered despite there being alternatives -- such as the
Optima WorkPro 7000T -- that provide superior value for