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Dell Dimension 2350 review: Dell Dimension 2350

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The Good Big features, small price; speedy DDR memory; above-average hard drive and monitor; six USB ports, including two in front; generous support policy.

The Bad Poor graphics performance; no AGP slot; basic mouse and keyboard.

The Bottom Line Dell has once again redefined the budget-PC standard, packing features and finesse into a system that's priced well under a grand.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Support 8

Review Sections

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.
The Dell Dimension 2350's case remains unchanged since its predecessor, the 2300-series model. It's a short, attractive, black-and-gray tower that looks equally at home on a desk or on the floor.

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.
It's easy to get inside the tower--just turn one captured thumbscrew and slide open the side panel. But you won't need to enter very often, since this system offers ample exterior expansion opportunities in the form of six USB 2.0 ports. Two of these reside conveniently at the front of the tower, albeit too far down and so deeply recessed into the bezel that they can be difficult to access. There's also a headphone jack on the front of the tower--a convenient amenity that every PC should include.

USB six-pack.
Dell went above and beyond the call of entry-level duty in outfitting our Dimension 2350 test system's core hardware. In addition to its 2GHz Pentium 4 processor and 256MB of 266MHz SDRAM, the system includes a 7,200rpm, 60GB hard drive and two speedy optical drives: a 16X DVD-ROM and a 48X CD-RW. Budget buyers, you can knock off some of the system's price by choosing either a 1.8GHz P4 or a 2GHz Celeron processor. Memory ranges from 128MB to 1GB, hard drives from 30GB to 120GB, giving you plenty of options to strike that delicate balance between performance and price.

DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives.
Our 2350 test system arrived with Dell's top-of-the-line 17-inch CRT monitor, a flat-screen model that impressed us with its bright, glare-free design. Text looked decidedly coarse, however, at 1,024x768 resolution, indicating that this isn't the ideal monitor for a lot of work with large spreadsheets. Don't fret, though: Dell provides a dozen displays from which to choose, including CRTs from 15 to 21 inches and six LCDs from 15 to 19 inches. And our bundled three-piece Harman Kardon speaker system, complete with subwoofer, lends the bass and boost needed to properly enjoy music, movies, and games.

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)
BAPCo SysMark2002 Rating  
SysMark2002 Internet Content Creation Rating  
SysMark2002 Office Productivity Rating  
Gateway 500S (2.0GHz P4, 266MHz DDR SDRAM)
144 Matrix 2600 (1.8GHz P4, 266MHz DDR SDRAM)
Dell Dimension 2350 (2.0GHz P4, 266MHz DDR SDRAM)
ABS Bravado 2230 (Athlon XP 2200+, 333MHz DDR SDRAM)
Dell Dimension 2300 (2.0GHz P4, 133MHz SDRAM)

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)'s 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)'s 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
ABS Bravado 2230 (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460)
6622 Matrix 2600 (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460)
Gateway 500S (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440)
Dell Dimension 2350 (Intel 845G/GL)
Dell Dimension 2300 (Intel 845G/GL)

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses'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)
Quake III Arena  
ABS Bravado 2230 (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460)
11 Matrix 2600 (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460)
Gateway 500S (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440)
Dell Dimension 2350 (Intel 845G/GL)
Dell Dimension 2300 (Intel 845G/GL)

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.

System configurations:

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 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

Gateway 500S
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.

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