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Dell Dimension 8100 10/10

DJ Voice 2001 Mark - 191

Dell has a reputation for making cheap machines, which are good value for money. This 1.5 GHz Pentium IV is no exception. The Maxtor hard drive is quick enough for music making (40 GB - 80 GB also available) and their are four USB ports for all sorts of devices such as MIDI and audio interfaces, saving the cost of an additional hub. The DVD/CD-RW drive is a Samsung device and performs well, although for high quality ripping I would recommend buying a Plextor drive. Including a combo drive, rather than a separate CD-RW and DVD frees up an extra drive bay in the mini tower case. The machine although fast is not a speed demon when compared to other similar machines. Part of the reason can be explained by Dell's decision to use an Ultra ATA 100 disk system rather than a SCSI system. However, the flip side is that the machine is much cheaper (under £1000). The monitor is only a 17" and is reasonable but for a top quality machine, you can upgrade to a flat screen model (well worth it) or an LCD (which is still too expensive). The keyboard is an average model, but the mouse included is a Microsoft Wheel mouse. Most models come with an integrated 10/100 network card, freeing up a PCI slot for other purposes. Filling up the PCI slots, or installing extra drives is very simple since opening the machine is easy. In addition, the inside of the computer is well designed, with all the wires neatly tied together. If you are primarily using the machine for music you will be disappointed by the standard sound card included a mediocre Creative Labs 64. Luckily however, it is not a motherboard soundcard, so it is easy to replace, with a better model such as the Creative Labs SB Live Platinum (which outputs surround sound from DVDs).

For after hours there is a Geforce2 64 MB card which really makes a difference when you're playing Quake III or similar games. The graphics are smooth and you can easily play games upto 1600x1200 with no noticeable lag, even with detail and texture on the highest quality setting. Even if you claim not to play computer games, it is well worth buying a copy of Quake III to make use of this outstanding card. It also has both an analogue monitor and a DVI connector, so it is compatable with the new wave of digital LCD screens. One slight problem though, on my machine the parallel port did not work properly, although I suspect this is a software problem rather than an actual fault with the circuitry.

In short this is a good value machine, which is suitable for all but the most demanding of users. The cool black-silver design also makes a welcome change from the drab beige cases you see on most computers. If bought with a LCD screen this will also give Apple competition in the "stylish" computer market. It must be pointed out that the DJ Voice 2001 Mark was done, after I upgraded the Dell to a SCSI system with a Adaptec 2940 U2W controller and a 5 ms Quantum Atlas drive. I suspect the IDE machine would have got a DJ Voice Mark of about 180, since the SCSI equiped machine felt considerably quicker.