capsule review

Dell Dimension 8400

At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension 8400

Dell Dimension 8400
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

This new Dimension 8400 is the first system we've reviewed for our Top 15 Desktop PCs chart that uses Intel's new 925X chip set--and the first we've tested that carries a 3.6-GHz Pentium 4 processor. This new chip set lets the 8400 use the latest dual-channel memory and the new PCI Express bus, and it incorporates more functions into the motherboard.

Our test system came with 1GB of DDR2-533 memory and a 3.6-GHz Pentium 4 processor--a combination that powered the system to a WorldBench 5 score of 98, which approaches the scores we've seen from recent AMD Athlon-based PCs. Two 160GB hard drives running in a RAID-0 configuration provide 320GB of drive space, and two open SATA ports let you add more drives for extra disk space. But if you want any more storage space, you'll have to add an external drive: The only unoccupied drive bay in our test system was a removable-media bay.

The motherboard's PCI Express X16 slot is filled with an ATI Radeon X800 XT graphics card, with 256MB of graphics memory. The combination of a faster bus and the latest ATI graphics processor produced extremely high frame rates in our graphics tests. At 1280-by-1024-pixel resolution in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the system managed 135 frames per second; in Unreal Tournament 2003, it achieved an amazing 281 fps. All of our test games looked great on the 19-inch Dell UltraSharp 1901FP LCD monitor (the current Best Buy on our Top 10 19-inch LCD Monitors chart), as did the DVD movie and other screens we use in our tests. Colors were bright and realistic, and text looked sharp and highly readable.

Our system came with 5.1-channel Dell 5650 speakers. You can attach the control bar (which incorporates the center speaker of the 5.1 speaker set and a volume control) to the bottom of the monitor. Driven by a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card, the speakers delivered excellent sound.

The 8400 has Dell's familiar, dark gray midsize-tower case. A flap on the front provides convenient access to a pair of USB ports and a single configurable audio port, all of which face downward. These are easy to reach if the system is sitting on a desk; but if you put the box on the floor, you'll find that switching USB accessories is far too fiddly. Fortunately a four-port USB hub is built into the monitor. Finally, the curved molding around the DVD writer and the CD-ROM drive makes it hard to reach their eject buttons.

You don't get a lot of room for expansion inside the 8400. Since the fan on the graphics board blocks the only open PCI Express X1 slot, there is no room for extra add-in cards.

Dell offers this loaded system at a reasonable price of $2999. To get the configuration we tested from the home and home-office portion of Dell's site, enter Dell's E-Value Code of 6V411-840REV.

The Dimension 8400 is a top-of-the-line machine packed with lots of promising new technology, none of which disappoints.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension 8400

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