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Dell Dimension 4300

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  • Editors' rating
    6.2 Good

Pros

  • Good range of features
  • tool-free case
  • good price.

Cons

  • Limited expansion potential
  • average performer for its class.

The Dimension 4300 from Dell is a well equipped and reasonably priced system that delivers good, but not stunning, performance. Based on a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 processor and featuring both a DVD-ROM and a CD-RW drive, it's a good general-purpose PC without being at the very leading edge of technology.

The Dimension 4300 uses Dell's new case design, which opens out like a clamshell to allow access to the internal components. You need to place the unit on its side to do this, but once open it provides easy access to drives, memory and expansion slots. The case only opens to around 45 degrees, and a little wider would be more helpful. The design isn't perfect, but we wouldn't want to discourage Dell from pursuing this type of design -- it simply needs some refining.

Our review model featured Intel's 845 chipset and 256MB of standard PC133 SDRAM -- a departure from the Pentium 4's usual i850/RDRAM combination. Graphics are handled with aplomb by a 64MB nVidia GeForce3 graphics card, while audio is taken care of by a Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! card and a Harman Kardon HK695 speaker system. The 40GB Western Digital Caviar hard drive is a 7,200rpm model. All of these are good-quality components.

The Dimension 4300 would make a decent gaming machine, as indicated by its 3D WinMark 2000 score of 100fps. Multimedia performance is good too, with a Content Creation Winstone score of 52.7. Needless to say, mainstream applications cause this system no trouble at all, the Dimension 4300 returning a Business Winstone 2001 score of 42.2. Overall, this system's performance is slightly below that of an equivalent 1.7GHz Pentium 4 machine equipped with more expensive Rambus memory, but many users will be happy to trade off some performance for a cheaper PC.

Our review model came with a USB keyboard and mouse, which is still quite rare among the PCs we review. PS/2 ports are still present on the back of the unit, allowing you to use other input devices if you prefer them. We were also supplied with a Dell-branded 19in. Trinitron monitor.

As previously mentioned, the Dimension 4300 comes with a DVD-ROM and a CD-RW drive, both NEC units. The DVD drive is rated at 16-speed, and the CD-RW at 32-speed read, 8-speed write and 4-speed rewrite. Adaptec's Easy CD Creator software is bundled, along with the DirectCD packet writing driver for CD-RW media. Intervideo WinDVD is also supplied.

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Our review system had Windows 2000 Professional installed, but Windows XP is now available on the 4300 range if you prefer. Dell bundles Microsoft's Works Suite with this model. DellNet Internet access is also preconfigured for use with the built-in V.90 modem, which is the only network connection provided.

In addition to the case's easy access features, there are also two USB ports and a headphone socket on the front panel, hidden under a lift-up flap. The connectors are angled such that you can plug into the sockets, lower the flap and have the cables trail out from underneath. Inside the case there are two free PCI slots, and two free 3.5in. drive bays, one internal and one external.

This is a good PC, but there's nothing unusual about it. It's a standard workhorse suitable for general-purpose computing, multimedia and gaming. There's some room left for expansion but not much -- although that's not too big a problem since there's a good range of features provided. This is a good-value PC that's neither underspecified nor overpriced.

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