capsule review

Dell OptiPlex 740

At a Glance
  • Dell Optiplex 740 Minitower Desktop Computer (Athlon 64 3800+ 2.40GHz/80GB/512MB)

Dell offers the OptiPlex 740, a system from its business desktops line, in minitower, desktop (horizontal orientation), and ultracompact versions. The inexpensively configured minitower we tested ($1024 as of 05/09/2007) had an inoffensive design, using mostly matte-black plastic but also a few shiny black pieces. The ultracompact version (which we did not look at) takes up about one-third the space of the minitower, and with an adapter, you can mount it on the back of Dell's 17-inch LCD monitor to save even more space.

Hard drives mount perpendicularly to the side of the minitower OptiPlex's case, in plastic sleds with rubber mounts to reduce vibration (though the mounts use less rubber than we used to see in Dell systems). If you pinch the sides of the mounts, the drives slide out easily; I had a slightly harder time getting them back in, however. Clips on the side of the air scoop route the SATA drive cables neatly, and the cables are precisely the right length for their connectors to reach the drive bays. If you were to premount drives in the sleds, you could probably have a new drive installed in less than a minute.

Slots cut into the interior of the OptiPlex 740 case let you slide optical drives in without screws; you simply press a button to pop the front bezel off and release a drive. You can install or uninstall an expansion card rapidly, thanks to a fairly good quick-release adapter; the power supply comes out without tools, too. The case's side panel pops off when you pull a lever (with a hefty integrated lock) on the top of the case. The Dell's side panel is much easier to reattach than those of the other two systems: You simply insert the panel's bottom edge into the side of the case and then tip the panel up and slam it shut, instead of sliding it on.

The system we reviewed did not have a chassis-intrusion-detection mechanism installed, but Dell offers it as a no-cost option. You can buy a security sleeve for mounting the desktop or ultracompact versions under a desk or on a wall, but with the tower system, you'll have to rely on a cable lock.

The OptiPlex 740's motherboard has an embedded Trusted Platform Module security chip; you can use this chip along with the included software to encrypt passwords and document folders. The chip works with Vista's Bit Locker security feature, which lets you encrypt your entire hard drive.

The configuration we tested had integrated graphics, and it allowed only a single, VGA-monitor connection, though Dell sells an internal DVI adapter card for $10 that you can use to connect dual displays. But if you're willing to spend a bit more money, you might as well opt for discrete graphics: Dell charges just $64 for a 128MB ATI 1300 card. Our test configuration also included Dell's low-end 20-inch wide-screen monitor, the E207WFP; we didn't subject it to a formal evaluation, but it had no obvious visual flaws. The monitor does not allow height adjustments or swiveling, however.

Adding a discrete graphics card might help the system's overall performance, if only because it wouldn't steal from system memory. Our test system had plenty of RAM, but in our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests, the OptiPlex 740's score of 70 only barely beat an identically configured Lenovo 3000 J115. But while the OptiPlex earned a Superior rating for performance, it was competing only against the J115 and an HP Compaq dc5750--these three are the first Vista value systems we've tested. Compared with the power Vista systems we've tested, all of these systems are quite slow--the fastest Vista system we've tested to date scored a 129 on our benchmark.

You can opt for the base 24/7 tech support and next-business-day on-site warranty service, but Dell also offers same-day on-site service for an extra $154 on a three-year plan. Dell trumpets that its OptiPlex tech support lines are based in North America (unlike those for its Dimension products). The company offers a special deal that guarantees access to tech support in 2 minutes or less for $69 extra--but Lenovo promises 1-minute-or-less access at no extra cost with its systems. Dell scored average in nearly all areas of our most recent reliability and service survey, except for a below-average mark for its phone hold time (so perhaps that 2-minute deal is worth buying).

The OptiPlex 740 is far from the fastest Vista system you can buy, but its innovative, quiet case design makes it a top choice among business systems, especially if noise reduction is a priority for your office.

Alan Stafford

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At a Glance
  • Superb internal design makes this business system ultraquiet and very easy to work on. Same-day on-site service is optional.


    • Innovative case design
    • Very quiet


    • Integrated graphics models have VGA only
    • Some parts could be expensive to replace
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