Dell Dimension 8200 (2.8GHz Pentium 4)

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Excellent performance, especially with content-creation-type applications and 3D games.

Cons

  • No USB 2.0 or Ultra-ATA/133 support
  • no FireWire connectivity
  • standard warranty only covers one year.

Intel’s latest processor is the 2.8GHz, 533MHz-bus Pentium 4, which becomes the flagship of the desktop range until the 3GHz barrier is breached later this year. As usual, Dell was first through ZDNet UK’s door with a PC showcasing the new chip. It’s no surprise to report that the Dimension 8200 is one of the fastest systems we’ve ever tested – it’s the fastest when running content creation-type applications and 3D games, and the second fastest when running mainstream business programs. But what else do you get for your £1,699 (ex. VAT)?

As befits a performance-orientated PC, the 2.8GHz Dimension 8200 uses Rambus memory – two of the motherboard’s four RIMM slots are filled with 256MB PC800 modules, giving a total of 512MB and a theoretical RAM capacity of 2GB. Co-ordinating the CPU, memory and peripheral subsystems is Intel’s 850E chipset, which supports the 533MHz frontside bus but cannot handle the latest Ultra-ATA/133 hard disks or USB 2.0 peripherals. Dell has got around the USB 2.0 problem in previous review systems by fitting a PCI card, but did not do so with our 2.8GHz machine. Digital video enthusiasts should note that FireWire is not available as standard on this PC, although there are two free PCI slots available for adding any missing functionality.

Hard disk storage is provided by a fast 7,200rpm 120GB Western Digital drive, while optical media are taken care of by a Philips DVD+RW drive and a fast 48-speed CD-ROM drive. There are no spare external 5.25in. drive bays, but there is a spare external 3.5in bay beneath the floppy drive. Inside the tool-free-access case, you can fit another 3.5in. drive if 120GB of hard disk storage proves insufficient.

Dell’s cutting-edge Dimensions are primarily aimed at consumers, and gamers in particular, hence the presence in this system of a top-end nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics card fitted with 128MB of DDR memory. The display is a familiar one – Dell’s 1702FP, a 17in. TFT monitor with analogue and digital inputs.

The audio subsystem is pretty impressive, too. A Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card sends its output to a Dell-badged Altec Lansing ADA995 surrond-sound speaker system. This six-piece (4 satellite speakers, one centre speaker and a subwoofer) system is THX-certified and delivers a pretty impressive sonic experience when you’re playing games or watching DVD movies.

As expected, the 2.8GHz Dimension 8200 turns in an excellent set of benchmarks. Its Content Creation Winstone 2002 (high-end applications) and 3DMark 2001 (DirectX 8 gaming) scores are the highest we’ve recorded, beating the previous best results by 9.66 and 7.38 percent respectively. It’s an excellent mainstream performer too, although the 2.4GHz P4-based Poweroid 8001 still beats it by 10.36 percent. As a performance PC designed for gaming and entertainment, this machine certainly delivers the goods.

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The Dimension 8200 comes with a new-style keyboard featuring a row of quick-access buttons and audio controls in a silver-coloured strip above the main keys. You also get a Dell-branded Logitech USB MouseMan Wheel mouse. The software bundle includes Windows XP Home, Microsoft Works 6.0, Norton AntiVirus 2002 and MyDVD authoring software. The standard warranty is a somewhat disappointing one-year collect and return service, although this can be upgraded -- at a price.

If you’re looking for a high-performance PC designed for gaming and entertainment, you won’t find a faster system right now than Dell’s 2.8GHz Dimension 8200. It’s not the quickest mainstream performer we’ve seen – but then, it’s plenty fast enough for that kind of application anyway. The standard warranty could be more generous, but hopefully with an established vendor like Dell, you won’t have to exercise it.

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