Rendezvous with the future

Planning to upgrade to Microsoft's new 64-bit operating system when it ships next year but need a new desktop machine right now? You might consider Dell's new OptiPlex GX620. It's got the hardware foundation you'll need to run the 64-bit environment next year, yet it can also handle the 32-bit software you depend on now.

The GX620 is primed for future needs with its huge memory capacity and powerful graphics. Plus, Intel's new chassis, motherboard and power supply design, called Balanced Technology Extended, achieves better thermal efficiency for the new breed of hotter-running parts, according to Dell.

The GX620 is based on the Intel 945G chipset, which features processors capable of 64-bit computing, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 with up to 224M of shared video memory and Execute Disable Bit, a security feature that prevents certain kinds of buffer overflow viruses.

The GMA 950 graphics will help when you want to run that 64-bit Microsoft operating system, code named Longhorn and scheduled for release in 2006.

Our unit shipped with a 3.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor 650, which is capable of 64-bit or 32-bit computing. The system is available with lower-priced Celeron D processors and will support Pentium D dual-core processors when they're available.

The GX620 is available in four chassis options, including mini-tower, which we reviewed; desktop; small; and ultra-small.

Dell's DirectDetect diagnostic tool uses four LEDs on the front of the chassis to identify up to 16 system health indicators.

We received an 80G Serial Advanced Technology Attachment hard drive, but the GX620 can accept Serial ATA drives ranging in size from 40G to 250G. Additionally, the 512M of DDR2 memory in our system is expandable to a whopping 4G.

One of the two 5.25-inch external drive bays in our unit contained a DVD-RW and CD-RW combination drive and the other was free. It also included one free 3.5-inch external drive bay and one free internal one.

You'll also get USB ports galore, with two USB 2.0 ports on the front and six in back.

We loved the excellent serviceability of this chassis. Most of the cables inside were either neatly tied together or held by strategically placed clips. Ribbon cables featured large loops on the ends for easy unplugging, and the hard drive slipped out easily with no tools.

The chassis also features a tool-free mechanism for holding up to four expansion cards in place without those tiny, annoying screws.

Our review unit costs $1,010 as configured, including an optical mouse. The systems come with a three-year, next-business-day, on-site service and OpenManage Client Instrumentation, a Dell application useful for managing remote desktop PCs and other devices.

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