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Dell Dimension 4700 for Home review: Dell Dimension 4700 for Home

Dell Dimension 4700 for Home

Bill O'Brien
9 min read
Review summary
More than just a minitower for the masses, Dell's new Dimension 4700, boasts a slew of new technology that should keep it happily humming atop your desk for years to come. The Dimension 4700 is built on Intel's forward-looking 915G Express chipset and features DDR2 memory and the PCI Express (PCIe) expansion-card interface. Prices for this midrange PC start at less than $1,000 and can climb higher than $4,000 when you begin selecting upgrade options. Our $1,496 test system included a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 530 processor, 512MB of DDR2 memory, a spacious Serial ATA 160GB hard drive, and a crisp 17-inch LCD. Gamers and power users looking for a midrange bargain will want to add a graphics card after purchase; our test system relied on Intel's new integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 900 chip, and Dell offers but one graphics card, ATI's low-end Radeon X300 SE. For most mainstream users, however, the Dimension 4700 is an attractive proposition for basic home and business tasks. The Dell Dimension 4700 uses the same minitower chassis as the Dimension 4600, Dell's mainstream home PC. Although it would be too harsh to call the case ugly, the bland black-and-gray design that we've seen for the past few years doesn't exactly cry out to be placed at the center of attention. Fortunately, since it measures 15 by 7 by 17 inches (H, W, D), this inconspicuous computer lends itself to easy placement under a desk.
If you plan to get your hands inside the box, you'll appreciate the rear-panel latch that lets you remove the side panel faster than you can with any other system. With a minitower case, however, you'll find the interior a bit cramped. For example, the placement of the hard drive is less than convenient. The two 3.5-inch drive cages are positioned so that the drives sit upright and are stacked on top of each other, so you can't simply slide the drives out; you need to unscrew and remove each cage entirely. Home users who might not regularly crack the case open won't care too much, but this cumbersome process won't go over well in a small-business environment if--for the purposes of security, adding more storage space, or easy maintenance--quick removal is a necessity.
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You can see the hard drive cage sitting on its end on the right side of the case.

Thankfully, accessing the rest of the components is easier. The two standard PCI slots, one 16X PCI Express (PCIe) slot, and one 1X PCIe slot are unobstructed by cables, and all are unoccupied except for a standard 56Kbps modem card. With relatively competent audio and video chips integrated into the motherboard, this self-sufficiency demonstrates the versatility of Intel's mainstream 915G Express chipset. Even without dedicated graphics and sound cards, the Dimension 4700 delivers all of the features necessary if you're using it for day-to-day home computing or in a small-business setting. And with four DIMM slots (two of which were unoccupied in our test system), plus support for PCIe graphics and faster Pentium 4 processors, the Dimension 4700 can become an even more powerful system down the road with a few component upgrades.
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Too bad the molded front-accessible 3.5-inch drive bay won't accommodate a media-card reader.

On the outside, optical drives fill both of the front-accessible 5.25-inch drive bays, and although there's an empty 3.5-inch bay, the front panel is designed to accept a standard floppy drive but not a media-card reader. Along with standard legacy ports on the rear panel, there are also six USB 2.0 ports. You'll find an Ethernet jack that supports both 10/100 and Gigabit connections, plus audio jacks to connect up to a 7.1-speaker system (although you'll need to switch the function of the microphone jack in the BIOS to activate an additional outgoing channel). On the front panel, are a headphone jack and an additional pair of USB 2.0 ports, providing easy access and plenty of room for connecting devices such as your digital camera or MP3 player. The Dell Dimension 4700 comes with almost all of the basic features you'd want in a basic home or office desktop computer. Built on Intel's new mainstream 915G Express chipset, our Dimension 4700 review unit featured an Intel Pentium 4 530 CPU (clocked at 3.0GHz), 512MB of new DDR2 PC3200 system memory, and Intel's new integrated graphics solution--dubbed Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900. All of these new parts offer improved performance over that of their predecessors, and considering that Dell bundles the Dimension 4700 with a generous 160GB hard drive and a quality, 17-inch LCD monitor, you get a lot of PC for only $1,500. Even more exciting: because the 915G Express chipset supports the new PCI Express expansion cards, you can transform the Dimension 4700 from a utilitarian workaday computer into a powerful PC for gaming, home entertainment, or other advanced functions.
The new GMA 900 graphics chip is a vast improvement over the previous integrated video chip, Intel Extreme Graphics 2 (see the performance section for our test results). The only problem with the chip, as with any integrated part, is that it needs to share the system memory--as opposed to a graphics card, which comes with its own. Our Dimension 4700 test system contains 512MB of memory, so you shouldn't run into trouble with day-to-day applications used for browsing the Web, sending e-mail, word processing, or working with other productivity software. If you have your eye on Doom 3 or Half-Life 2, you'll definitely want to take advantage of the 16X PCI Express (PCIe) slot and purchase a dedicated graphics card. Dell offers a low-end ATI graphics card on the Dimension 4700's configuration page for an additional $54, but serious gamers will want to shop around for a more powerful option.
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The black 16X PCI Express slot is just begging for a graphics card.

Dell considers the Dimension 4700's 17-inch E172FP LCD one of its Value Flat Panels, but the monitor's 70-degree horizontal viewing angle, 25ms response time, and 400:1 contrast ratio rival the features of the high-end LCDs of just a few years ago. The specs also exceed those of most current value LCDs, which start with 350:1 contrast ratios and 55-degree viewing angles. The image quality--with crisp text and sharp graphics--was excellent in our tests, and that's a good thing because one of the two optical drives is a Samsung DVD-ROM drive, making this system well suited for watching movies. The other drive, an LG 48X CD-RW, accommodates music and data archiving. Our test system will give ample room to store multimedia files with its 160GB Maxtor 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive.
If you use this PC for home-entertainment pursuits, your ears will come up against Dell's three-piece, A425 2.1 stereo-speaker system. It's just 30 watts total, which is perhaps enough audio power to rattle a sheet of paper. At least the speakers deliver clean output, provided you don't crank the volume too high. Intel's integrated High Definition Audio chip supports up to 7.1-channel audio output, and you can find speaker upgrades on the Dimension 4700's online configurator.
The Dimension 4700's software bundle includes Microsoft Works 2004 productivity software, the Sonic RecordNow CD-burning application, and Cyberpower's PowerDVD LE for watching movies, in addition to Dell's Picture Studio 2.0 photo-editing software and its own branded version of Musicmatch's Jukebox music-management app. While we've seen more fully featured software packages, there's enough here to get you up and running with the Dimension 4700's basic functions. Application performance
The Dell Dimension 4700 is built upon Intel's new mainstream 915G chipset. Incorporating features such as an improved integrated graphics chip and support for new DDR2 memory, new Intel Prescott processors, and Serial ATA hard drives, the Dimension 4700 brings with it a host of new technologies that add up to a strong midrange performer. Compare the Dimension 4700 to the iBuyPower Back To School PC, and you'll get an idea of the performance edge that Intel's new chipset provides. The iBuyPower Back To School PC is almost identical to the Dimension 4700, except that the iBuyPower system is based on Intel's older 865G mainstream chipset. The Dimension 4700 achieved an overall rating of 175 on SysMark 2004, a 9 percent improvement over the Back To School PC's score of 160. Take a Dell Dimension 4700 back to school or to your home or office, and you'll find it's an able performer that's more than capable of running mainstream apps.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
The Dell Dimension 4700 is one of the first systems we've tested that uses Intel's new integrated graphics subsystem--the Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900. With a score of 51 frames per second (fps) on our low-end 1,024x768 Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark, the Dimension 4700 demonstrates a vast improvement over scores from systems using Intel's older Extreme Graphics 2 solution. By comparison, the similarly configured IBM ThinkCentre S50 uses Extreme Graphics 2 and managed to post only 13.6fps on the same test. If you're a casual gamer, you should be able to play most 3D titles currently on the market, with at least moderate detail settings. If you're looking forward to Doom 3 or Half-Life 2, we recommend upgrading to a PCI Express graphics card, because splitting memory between the core system operation and the graphics chip isn't conducive to smooth frame rates on advanced games.
3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X, respectively, during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
System configurations:
Dell Dimension 4700
Windows XP Home; 3.0EGHz Intel P4; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; integrated 128MB Intel 915G (shared memory); Maxtor 6Y160M0, 160GB, Serial ATA, 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Compaq Business Desktop dc7100
Windows XP Professional; 3.2EGHz Intel P4; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated 128MB Intel 915G (shared memory); 80GB Seagate ST380013AS 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive.
IBM ThinkCentre S50
Windows XP Professional; 3.0GHz Intel P4; Intel 865G; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated 64MB Intel 865G (shared memory); 40GB Western Digital WD400BB-23FJA0 7,200rpm hard drive.
iBuyPower Back To School PC
Windows XP Home; 3.0EGHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5200; 80GB Maxtor 6Y080L0 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive.
MPC ClientPro 545
Windows XP Professional; 3.2GHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5700 256MB; two 120GB Seagate ST3120026AS 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drives; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller. Dell didn't write the book on service and support, but you'll probably find its picture on the cover. From the Dimension 4700's huge setup sheet, which simplifies getting the system out of the box and onto your desk, to the user manual with its helpful hints and tips, Dell has practically cornered the market on user-friendly documentation. If you need to leave the paper world behind and have an Internet connection, Dell's Solution Center software whisks you off to its online support site, where you'll find driver downloads, troubleshooting FAQs, and plenty of other support features. The toll-free technical-support number is available 24/7.
The basic one-year parts-and-labor hardware warranty gives you next-day onsite service, although a visit by a technician needs to be approved by a member of Dell's support staff. Also available to home users is a nights-and-weekend package, wherein you can schedule an onsite service call when you're actually home. Business users are promised next-day onsite service. Both home and business users can opt to pay extra for accidental damage protection, onsite installation, and data migration service, including connecting your new PC(s) to your home or office network.

Dell Dimension 4700 for Home

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Support 8