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Dell Dimensions 4600 (2.8GHz)
The 17-inch Dell E171FP LCD that accompanied the Dimension 4600 is a good-looking, but no-frills display. Though it does tilt up and down a few degrees, it lacks other adjustment options--such as height or swivel--offered by more-expensive panels, such as Dell's 1703FP. LCDs typically look better when the signal passes through a digital input, but the E171FP's single analog connection performed well in our tests, displaying sharp text and nicely saturated colors in a photograph on screen. Dell matched its display with modest graphics: The 128MB NVidia GeForce FX 5200-based card is insufficient for high-end gaming, but fine for most other imaging applications.
For audio, the 4600 came with integrated 5.1-channel sound and a pair of lower-end Altec Lansing ADA425 speakers and a subwoofer. Overall, they are a slight improvement over the Harman Kardon 395 set we've seen with previous Dimension 4600s. In tests with a DVD movie and vocal tracks on CD, we heard reasonably good sound quality. If you want surround sound, complete with immersive effects, select a more powerful set when ordering from Dell's site.
The keyboard has eight hot keys and a separate set of buttons for audio functions, plus a knob for volume settings. The 4600 does not offer the toolless access of Dell's 8300 series, but it's fairly easy to open up. Pressing a large L-shaped lever located on the back releases the side panel. The unit we received had two available drive bays: one 3.5-inch (normally for the floppy drive, which was not included), and one 5.25-inch for a second hard drive. As with other 4600's, we found the positioning of the internal drive bays a hassle. You have to first undo screws and remove the bay holding the 120GB hard drive before you can get at the empty bay behind it. However, the two open PCI slots and two memory sockets were easier to access.
Dell's documentation includes a comprehensive user manual specific to the 4600. It has tips for upgrading, troubleshooting, and connecting a variety of peripherals.
Dell offers this modestly configured system at $1139, 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 6V411-460RPW.
The 4600 offers home offices and small businesses a fine bundle of components at an attractive price.
Dell Dimensions 4600 (2.8GHz)
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