capsule review

Dell Dimension 8300

At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension 8300

Dell Dimension 8300
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

The Dimension 8300 is one of three Dell PCs we've tested recently to combine Intel's 3.2-GHz Pentium 4 CPU and a gigabyte of DDR400 SDRAM. On PC WorldBench 4 tests, this model earned a score of 126--neck and neck with the scores served up by its siblings. A refresh of the 8300 model we tested previously, this has a bigger hard drive and includes a speedier DVD recordable drive.

For graphics tasks, the 8300 calls on its ATI Radeon 9800 Pro board with 128MB of memory. While its frame rates were a step below the fastest systems on our chart, the card has plenty of headroom for handling challenging games. Nicely complementing the ATI is Dell's thin 17-inch UltraSharp 1703FP LCD. It works with either an analog or a digital input and provides four USB 2.0 ports (two on the bottom and two on the side). The panel also rotates into portrait mode, a handy position for working with long documents or viewing Web pages with less scrolling. In our image tests, we saw vivid colors and sharp details on a photo and crisp text on a newsletter and a screen with a variety of font sizes.

The Altec Lansing ADA-995 THX-certified 5.1 speaker system--Dell's priciest offering--and the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card produced wonderful results in our audio tests. During a race scene from a Star Wars DVD, we heard cinema-like engine roars and explosions. Vocal tracks from a CD were equally enjoyable: Low-range tones sounded clear, without distortion, regardless of the volume setting.

Like most high-end systems these days, the 8300 is nicely equipped for video archiving and editing: Along with the gigabyte of RAM, it has a huge 250GB hard drive (the largest we've seen in a Dimension 8300 to date) and a quick, 8X DVD+R/RW drive--currently the top speed for burning videos and backing up data. The package would be even better if Dell offered dual-format DVD writable drives with its systems.

The 8300's case opens like a book after you press buttons at the top and bottom. The PC's innards are divvied up between the two halves of the case--with drive bays on one side and the motherboard and cards on the other. The design provides plenty of room for accessing all components. Should you need help working on the PC, you can turn to Dell's comprehensive "Solutions Guide" manual, which has illustrated sections on performing upgrades, and troubleshooting advice for common problems.

Dell offers this loaded system at a very reasonable price of $2899, but you have to jump through one hoop to get it: When ordering online from the home and home office portion of the Dell site, you have to start by selecting the icon marked "E-Value Code" and entering Dell's promotional code of 6V411-D83REV. Configuring the same system from scratch, without using the code, will cost you more.

This Dimension 8300's robust set of components will please power users seeking a versatile machine for work or play.

Mick Lockey

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At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension 8300

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