This is the first of what will probably become a series of reports on one lone (and slightly loony) person's adventures in trying to squeeze all the power he can out of a commercially built machine.
After being reduced to screaming incoherence more than once by the limitations of my rather elderly Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 7170, a five year old Pentium-166 machine, (which has eaten its C: drive twice in one month!) I decided that despite living on a small medical pension of $650 a month, I needed a new machine. So.. I call around. To Gateway, Compaq, and Dell.
Gateway offered me $2000 (US) in credit, but insisted that THEY choose my machine for me. BLEAH! A pizza-box with NO expandability, and everything depending on USB ports. No legacy ports (They BRAGGED about it!) and few slots. "Don't worry, if you need a larger hard drive, just buy a USB drive," they said. Feh.
Compaq didn't even return my call.
But Dell, however.. $5000 in credit, adjustable monthly payments, and I could pick and even _design_ my own machine. So Dell just got themselves a customer, and I got a new computer and a monthly bill of $41. Heh.
I've had my Dell Dimension 4100 for about a month now, and being a writer, I thought I'd do a short review of my experiences with it.
First, the machine itself. I chose a P-III/800 Mhz machine. Being disabled and on a medical pension, I cut, cut and cut some more to get the essentials as powerful as possible, and skipped the rest. No keyboard, monitor, mouse, network card, no DVD drive, and I chose the Sound Blaster Live! Value card, as well as the ATI Rage video card with 16 megabytes of memory. I don't play games that require cutting edge video, and after years of military service, my hearing, while serviceable, isn't as picky either.
In return, by settling for less in these areas, and a smaller (10 gigabyte) hard drive, I was able to get the 800 Mhz chip, 128 megabytes of memory, and a CD-ReWriter and still keep the monthly payment at $41.
Now that I've outlined the limits (and limitations) of this machine, let's take a look at my experiences.
Dell doesn't like people fiddling with the core elements of their machines. The BIOS is limited, extremely so. You can alter a few of the basics, but things like the clock multiplier, the Front Side Bus speed, and a number of other things simply aren't accessible from the normal BIOS menu.
Memory is likewise limited. Only two memory slots, and the Intel 815e chipset is rather picky, or so I've been informed. Other people I've spoken with tell me it gets cranky if you go over 512 megabytes of RAM. Given that I have 128 megs on a single DIMM, I hadn't noticed. Heh.
The OEM motherboard is nice, clean, and reasonably free of clutter. Some of it is inadvertently obscured by the wind tunnel-like shroud over the CPU that's intended to direct the airflow through the CPU heatsink.
The IDE cables have little plastic grippers on them, making them easy to connect and disconnect from drives, a nice touch. A second such touch are the unexpected (but appreciated) black plastic covers over the spare power connectors.
The Adventure Continues.....