The Dell OptiPlex 740, is a business desktop PC. The OptiPlex 740 comes in minitower, desktop (horizontal orientation) and ultracompact versions. The inexpensively configured Dell OptiPlex 740 minitower we tested had an inoffensive design, using mostly matte-black plastic but also a few shiny black pieces.

The ultracompact version of the Dell OptiPlex 740 (which we did not look at) takes up about one-third the space of the minitower, and with an adapter, you can mount it on the back of Dell's 17in LCD monitor to save even more space.

Hard drives mount perpendicularly to the side of the minitower Dell OptiPlex 740's case, in plastic sleds with rubber mounts to reduce vibration (although the mounts use less rubber than we used to see in Dell systems). If you pinch the sides of the mounts, the drives slide out easily; we had a slightly harder time getting them back in, however.

Clips on the side of the air scoop route the SATA drive cables neatly. The cables are precisely the right length for their connectors to reach the drive bays. If you were to premount drives in the sleds, you could probably have a new drive installed in the Dell OptiPlex 740 is less than a minute.

Slots cut into the interior of the Dell OptiPlex 740's case let you slide in optical drives without screws. Simply press a button to pop the front bezel off and release a drive. You can install or uninstall an expansion card rapidly, thanks to a fairly good quick-release adaptor; the power supply comes out without tools, too. The case's side panel pops off when you pull a lever (with a hefty integrated lock) on the top of the case. The Dell OptiPlex 740's side panel is much easier to reattach than those of the other two systems. You simply insert the panel's bottom edge into the side of the case and then tip the panel up and slam it shut, instead of sliding it on.

The Dell OptiPlex 740 system we reviewed did not have a chassis-intrusion-detection mechanism installed, but Dell offers it as a no-cost option. You can buy a security sleeve for mounting the desktop or ultracompact versions under a desk or on a wall, but with the tower system, you'll have to rely on a cable lock.

The Dell OptiPlex 740's motherboard has an embedded Trusted Platform Module security chip; you can use this chip along with the included software to encrypt passwords and document folders. The Dell OptiPlex 740's chip works with Vista's Bit Locker security feature, which lets you encrypt your entire hard drive.

The Dell OptiPlex 740 configuration we tested had integrated graphics, and it allowed only a single, VGA-monitor connection, although Dell sells an internal DVI (digital visual interface) adaptor card for around a fiver that you can use to connect dual displays.

But if you are willing to spend a bit more money, however, you might as well opt for discrete graphics: Dell charges around £30-£40 for a 128MB ATI 1300 card. Our test configuration also included Dell's low-end 20in wide-screen monitor, the E207WFP; we didn't subject it to a formal evaluation, but it had no obvious visual flaws. The monitor does not allow height adjustments or swiveling, however.

Adding a discrete graphics card might help the system's overall performance, if only because it wouldn't steal from system memory. Our test system had plenty of RAM, but in our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests, the Dell OptiPlex 740's score of 70 only barely beat an identically configured Lenovo 3000 J115.

But while the Dell OptiPlex 740 earned a Superior rating for performance, it was competing only against the J115 and an HP Compaq dc5750, three Vista value systems we've tested recently. Compared with the power Vista systems we've tested, all of these systems are quite slow - the fastest Vista system we've tested to date scored around 130 on our benchmark.

Dell OptiPlex 740: Specs

  • OptiPlex GX740 DT
  • AMD X2 3800 (2.00GHz, 2* 512K)
  • Windows Vista
  • 16x DVD-ROM Drive
  • 80GB (7, 200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • Dell Quietkey USB Black Kybd
  • Dell 2 Button USB Scroll Black Mouse
  • USB KEYBOARD UK MG
  • Energy Star Compliant
  • OptiPlex Resource CD
  • Internal Dell Business Audio Speaker
  • GX System Docs (MND Chassis)
  • 512MB 667 MHz NON-ECC DDRII Memory(1*512MB
  • Cyberlink Software Decode v5.5
  • OptiPlex GX740 DT
  • AMD X2 3800 (2.00GHz, 2* 512K)
  • Windows Vista
  • 16x DVD-ROM Drive
  • 80GB (7, 200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • Dell Quietkey USB Black Kybd
  • Dell 2 Button USB Scroll Black Mouse
  • USB KEYBOARD UK MG
  • Energy Star Compliant
  • OptiPlex Resource CD
  • Internal Dell Business Audio Speaker
  • GX System Docs (MND Chassis)
  • 512MB 667 MHz NON-ECC DDRII Memory(1*512MB
  • Cyberlink Software Decode v5.5

OUR VERDICT

The Dell OptiPlex 740 is far from the fastest Vista system you can buy, but its innovative, quiet case design makes it a top choice among business systems, especially if noise reduction is a priority for your office.

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