Dell Dimension 4550 Review

Reviewer: Joshua Jones
Category: 
Systems
Model: 
4550
Price: 
$1088

One day I was surfing Dell's website to help a friend purchase a new computer and I stumbled across this baby. I know that I did not need a new computer. I had just built myself an Athlon 1700+ XP based system earlier this year.

But when I ran the price I just couldn't say no! No reasonable computer nut could. Here are the Specs:

System as Tested

  • Pentium 4 2.4Ghz CPU with 533MHz system bus and 512K L2 Cache
  • 512MB DDR333 SDRAM
  • 64MB DDR NVIDIA GeForce4™ MX Graphics Card with TV-Out
  • 60GB Ultra ATA/100 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • 16x Max DVD-ROM Drive
  • 40x/10x/40x Max CD-RW (Free Upgrade!)
  • Integrated Audio
  • 15 in (15.0 in viewable) E151FP Flat Panel Display (Free Upgrade)
  • Integrated Intel® PRO 10/100 Ethernet
  • Dell® Quietkey® Keyboard (I have a Logitech Wireless Keyboard)
  • Dell® 2-button scroll mouse (I have a Logitech Wireless Mouse)
  • 3.5 in Floppy Drive
  • New Harman Kardon® HK-206 Speakers (I use my BOSE System)
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition (Replaced with RedHat)
  • Microsoft® Works Suite 2002 w/Money Standard (OpenOffice)
  • 3 Year Limited Warranty plus 3 Year At-Home Service

Impressions

I was pretty impressed at how well Redhat 8.0 installed onto this computer. It even recognized my flatpanel. The only major problem I had was that the integrated audio is not support in the current Linux kernel. I grabbed 2.4.19 (now it is 2.4.20), patched it with an AC (Alan Cox) patch and was able to get the sound working. I have been running a stable system for about a month now and have not run into any problems.

As far as looks go Dell systems are not the prettiest. For a mass produced system I think they look rather good, grey and charcoal. At least it is not a boring biege! I like having USB ports up front.

I am still working on getting the DVD drive to play movies. I personally don't care about it but it would be nice to know it works. The CD burner works like a champ. I use both Arson and Gnome Toaster to burn CD's. Although the GeForce 4 MX isn't the best card on the market it is Linux Friendly and allows me to play the latest games. Unreal Tournament 2003 looks great and runs like a champ!

The LCD flat panel is not top of the line but it gives me sharp images (no ghosts) and is fairly bright. It does its job rather nicely. I wanted a space saver and it was a free upgrade. Looks like I won there! The speakers just plain suck. For business audio they are great. For gaming and music just chuck them. I ordered them so I could have a spare set. I just plug my system into my home entertainment center. That way I can really get the bass thumping.

The onboard Intel LAN card is Linux friendly. It also came with a modem which I doubt is Linux compatible. If it is let me know. I use a BSD gateway anyhow. The 512 MB of DDR is great but I could use 1GB of it. I love the 533MHz front side bus. My laptop has a 400MHz FSB and I can definately tell the difference. I may get the bug to upgrade to a larger CPU though.

Summary

I do not have any benchmarks for this system. I can guarantee you that it is fast, especially if you tweak the kernel. It has given me no trouble yet, running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am happier with this system than my Athlon XP system (now a server). I really believe that I got great bang for the buck! Since I mostly purchase Dell computers at work I know that they are really reliable. I have also helped family and friends purchase Dell computers. All have proved extremely reliable, despite some of them running Windows ME. I was a bit irritated that the sound would not work under a standard kernel. The 2.5 line or an AC patch will cure that problem.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • Linux friendly
  • Great value
The Bad - Cons
  • The onboard sound does not work. Patch it or get a Soundblaster
The Ugly - Problems
  • Patch the kernel to get the sound running
The Verdict - Opinion
  • Great system. I love it.

Innovation: 
2/5
Performance: 
5/5
Compatibility: 
4/5
Cost / Value: 
4/5

17/20

Overall score


Category: 
Tags: