With its budget Dimension 2350, Dell seems hell-bent on redefining the phrase "You get what you pay for." Indeed, it's hard to believe that you can buy a 2GHz Pentium 4 system with a big hard drive, plenty of RAM, and a pair of optical drives for less than $900. Dell even sweetens the deal with a 17-inch, flat-screen CRT monitor, six months of free America Online, and a few other appreciable perks. Better still, Dell has replaced the pokey 133MHz SDRAM from its 2300 line with speedier 266MHz DDR SDRAM, which helps make the 2350 a competitive performer in its class. Graphics are still a sore spot, however; the 2350 is best for e-mail, Internet surfing, and light office chores.
Short and sweet.
Of course, the squat design doesn't afford much room for expansion, at least not up-front: the 2350's two 5.25-inch drive bays arrive occupied; we'd prefer a free 3.5-inch drive bay inside for a second hard drive. Thankfully, the 2350 keeps a slot free for a second SDRAM module and has a pair of open PCI slots. The only real expansion letdown is the lack of an AGP slot, which severely limits your options for installing a better graphics card. As you'll read in our performance evaluation, poor graphics is the 2350's chief detriment.
|There isn't a free optical bay for expansion, just two free PCI slots.|
DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives.
Though generously equipped in nearly every respect, the 2350 comes up short in two important areas: the mouse and the keyboard. Dell's mouse has just two buttons and no scroll wheel--an inexcusable omission for any modern PC, regardless of price. As for the keyboard, we found it to be very comfortable, but we'd gladly pay a few dollars more for volume and CD controls and quick-launch buttons. Dell does offer an enhanced keyboard and a Logitech optical wheel mouse as added-cost options, however.
The 2350 comes with either Windows XP Home or Pro (our test unit had the Home Edition) and a sparse software bundle provides the essentials, but that's it. Dell Picture Studio for image editing, Norton AntiVirus 2002 for virus protection, and the WordPerfect Productivity Pack for word processing and spreadsheets. (The latter also includes Quicken New User Edition.) Unfortunately, while Dell can upgrade you to either version of Microsoft Office, the more suitable (for a budget box) Works Suite isn't an option. Application performance
Prior to the release of the 2350, the 2300 series came populated with much slower 133MHz SDRAM. This was Dell's attempt at differentiating its 2300 line from its midrange 4550 line, but there are better ways to do this than sacrificing a system's performance. Thankfully, Dell has finally smartened up. By integrating 266MHz DDR SDRAM into the Dimension line's system design, Dell has greatly improved the line's performance capacity. We tested the 2GHz P4 version of the 2350, and its overall application performance was a whopping 20 percent faster than that of the the 2GHz P4-based 2300 with 133MHz SDRAM that we looked at not long ago. And unlike previous iterations of the 2300 line, the 2350's application performance is finally on a par with that of other systems in the same CPU class.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
3D graphics and gaming performance
While the 2350's application performance is finally up to snuff, the same cannot be said of the system's 3D graphics performance. Budget systems are rarely the right choice for someone who's looking to play games and educational titles with heavy-duty 3D graphics demands. That's because most budget systems use integrated graphics solutions, which typically lack significant 3D graphics power. Unfortunately, the 2350, with its integrated Intel 845G/GL graphics engine, is no exception.
3D graphics performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro Second Edition, Build 330. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16- and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.
3D gaming performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low- to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
ABS Bravado 2230
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP 2200+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460 64MB; two Maxtor D740X 40GB 7,200rpm; Promise MBFast Track133 Lite RAID
Ajump.com Matrix 2600
Windows XP Professional; 1.8GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm
Dell Dimension 2300
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel P4; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; integrated Intel 845G/GL 48MB (shared memory); Maxtor 6L040L2 40GB 7,200rpm
Dell Dimension 2350
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated Intel 845G/GL 64MB (shared memory); Maxtor 6Y060l0 60GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel P4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 128MB; Maxtor 6L080J4 80GB 7,200rpm We wouldn't expect a system priced at less than $1,000 to have a warranty longer than one year. What do you know, that's exactly the duration of the Dimension 2350's standard parts-and-labor policy. However, Dell ups the ante by including onsite service in that coverage, as well as lifetime 24-hour toll-free phone support. You can also purchase a variety of extended warranties and support plans, including accidental damage protection and Express Tech Support, which promises faster phone response. All told, Dell's service package is an excellent value for a system in this price range.