TechSpot

Dell Dimension 4600 review

By xtimmmyx
Jul 18, 2006
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  1. Well i guess you could say this has been a 3 year review in the making. In this review im going to point out many of the Ups and Downs to buying and owning a Dell PC. The technical specifications for the system that was tested (initially) are listed below.

    CPU: Intel P4 2.4 GHz Processor
    Memory/RAM: Dell, 2x 128mb Dual DDR SDRAM
    Motherboard: DMI(Dell) with Intel NetBurst, and basic Intel Chipset
    GFX Card(initial): GeForce 4 64mb GFX Card
    CD/RW Drive: NEC 1100A DVD CD/RW Combo drive
    Hardrive: IBM Deskstar 180 GXP 74gb HDD
    Network Card: Intel Pro/100
    Floppy Drive Included

    Now my first thought when recieveing this computer in 2003 when i first recieved it from Dell was "what a waste of $1500!" Yes thats right, a whopping 1500 dollars was spent on this machine, that at the most was sporting the top of the line processor? Only a guess at its most powerful component. It wasnt exactly a buff gaming PC at all, but it ran BF1942 very well at the time, since it was the big game that me and my clan played. The tech support was great for someone who had no idea what they were doing, but not for someone who does, and at this time they offered Tech support for when your computer was hacked. Now, im not going to totally flame Dell's PCs because it is still a reliable pc. It has run (Literally) nearly non-stop for these three years, cutting it off only to reboot, and maybe the occasional overnight shutdown. Very reliable PC for long term use.

    Now, I am going to however give an opinion on Dell's decision to move its tech support to India. It is very difficult to understand these people and you often spend 10 minutes spelling every word said. Which in turn led to Dell's policy of Saying things like "ok now that's, D for dog, E for eel, L for long, and L for lap, correct?". Something that was all too common from their tech support agents. Nonetheless, 95% of the time when you hung up your phone, the problem was solved. I am going to state that if for ANY reason you reformat your hard drive, and go from windows XP Home to Professional, Dell will no longer give tech support for your computer, which is ridiculous if you ask me.

    Ok on to the computer itself. Most of their higher end (usuallly 4600 and up) PCs are relatively upgradeable. EX: about a year about (2 years after purchase) I was sick of 30 minute load times from games like BF2 and stuff like that so i decided to upgrade the memory and get a new GFX card. I then was abrubtly forced to return all the items i bought because you can ONLY buy the GFX card and RAM from Dell. Which is a total rip-off considering the most wonderful Newegg. But i was satisfied with my Nvidia Geforce 6200, and the 512mb more of ram i bought for it. The computer now runs relatively well and has so for a long time. It runs UT2004 flawlessly (besides the occasional jerky movement every hour or so when many characters are firing on the screen at once, but that issue has been traced back to the processor's inability to process the information, long story...), and is able to run Photoshop in a smooth manner.

    Recently i saught to Overclock my CPU for the reason stated above. It turns out that it is IMPOSSIBLE to overclock a Dell PC, without first replacing the motherboard all-together. Another reason i will never purchase a DELL PC. But for the average casual gamer/PC user this is overall great computer. It has trouble runnign next gen games like morrowind and stuff though. Overall i am satisfied with the Computer over the past 3 years, but am yearning to build a new PC. As a matter of fact, Im selecting the Thermaltake Armor Series case with the 250mm side fan :-D.

    Coclusion:
    Pros: Good PC for family use, or the average user. Very Very quiet, and reliable. Runs windows very well. Upgradable.

    Cons: Bad PC for Gamers, Modders, Programmers, or anyone that likes to tinker with things. HDD Size is smaller than advertised (advertised as an 80GB)

    Final PC Upgrades:

    GFX Card: BFG Tech. Nvida GeForce 6200 OC xAGP
    RAM: Dell 2x 128mb 2x 256mb Dual DDR SDRAM


    Hope this helps someone.

    Tim
  2. AMDIsTheBest010

    AMDIsTheBest010 TS Rookie Posts: 546

    Well every HD is smaller than advertised. b/c of formatting drops it down about 2-3GB right away, then WinXP is installed, then the recovery partition os created. My eMachines PC has an 100GB HD, right after i powered it on he first time, i only have 86GB free.
  3. mopar man

    mopar man TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 1,492

    Actually, you have to buy only ram from Dell. The Graphics card will work as long as is is xAGP. Just pointing that out.
  4. iana

    iana TS Rookie

    No bad review, it delivers extremely competitive performance in a well designed and affordable bright white case.
  5. thewickedpicket

    thewickedpicket TS Rookie

    Good review though i have had (and continue to have) more nightmares with dell than i care to mention.
  6. mica3speedy

    mica3speedy TS Rookie Posts: 205

    good review. As for the ram, you don't need to get that specifically from dell either. As long as you get a decent brand of ram, ones that tend to be highly compatible such as kingston, and match the speed of the ram you are replacing you should be set.
  7. cosmos100

    cosmos100 TS Rookie Posts: 82

    Had my Dell for about 3 years and it's a very reliable PC, I've never had any major problems and I bought RAM from elsewhere for an upgrade and it was fine, didn't make a grumble over it.

    Dell support is known to be poor as for you're annoyance at not offering support when your OS changes from home to pro, there is a reason behind that, if your OS is changed then you don't get supported because you have changed the factory settings of the computer, it didn't come with it or dell dis't sell it, they won't help - it's a fair system for when *****s mess around with there computers and expect tech support to clean it up (Rant over).
  8. capt. carib

    capt. carib TS Rookie

    I like Dell and thanks for the thorough review!
  9. hackmiester

    hackmiester TS Rookie

    freakishly similar

    Hey there, I am in almost the exact situation you described in your postijng. I have a Dell 4600 with the original 128 mb video card. My kids now are buying games that require video cards that support T&L. The problem is that in 2003 T&L was new and the cards had not yet had it as a standard technology. So like you I went out and purchased a new video card. The problem I am facing is that the games are not recognizing any of the memory on the card. I purchased a BFG Tech nVidia 6200 OC with 256 mb and x8 AGP. The system sees and recognizes the card, but the game does not see the memory ands so will not start up. I have also run dxdiag from a command prompt and it indicates the amount of memeory as n/a. Dell offered little help with a solution. The card and the game manufacturers both offered great help but to no avail. I have installed the game on another computer and it worked. So I know the game is not the problem. My basic question is can the 4600 support a higher end card and if so can you provide details or is the system just to limited in other ways such as the mother board, etc.

    Thanks much for any help anyone can give.
  10. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Yes the Dell can support a higher end card, but only for an AGP slot...
    You need to use software that will tell you if your power supply is good enough, as some AGP card are too demanding. Generally, you will need to upgrade the power supply to a steady output model of a 500 watt unit.
    The Dell 4600 was built as an office machine that could also do photo editing and such. It was never intended as a gamer.
    The big problem with the Dell 4600 is that they used three different very bad hard drives... Samsung, Maxtor, and the strangely deficient and early failure model of the Western Digital WD800. If you do not upgrade the hard drive away from those three hard drives, nothing else is worth the effort.
  11. Obi-Wan Jerkobi

    Obi-Wan Jerkobi TS Maniac Posts: 592

    Exactly why I didn't buy my next pc from dell.

    1.) Vista: Absolutely Not, not on a pc this weak.

    2.) Intel GMA: Pfff, please. :p

    3.) Upgrading without losing the Warrenty: Oh, If I cant do that, then I'll just close the browser tab and go to google.

    I use my Dell Dimension 4300 today just for fun(And most importantly to not kill my pc in the process of something.) :D
     
  12. Edwin Phate

    Edwin Phate TS Rookie Posts: 180

    you dont have to buy ram from dell I bought a dimension3000 like 3 years ago and upgraded the ram they said i had to buy from them but i made them tell me the exact type of ram and i went out and bought it myself from newegg
  13. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Yes, New Egg, Directron, Zipzoomfly, Outpost, Tech Depot, Crucial, Frys, and several others sell nearly all the memory that Dell does, at equal or higher quality, and substantially lower costs. When they are out of a particular line, usually Dell is out as well... which is rare. If you cannot buy for less than half of the Dell prices, you haven't looked very far.
  14. Quantex_rox

    Quantex_rox TS Rookie Posts: 152

    Wow, we still have a dimension 4600. We built ours a little better than you did though.

    2.66ghz pentium 4, 512mb (2x 256mb micron ram,) AGP 8x Nvidia FX5200 128mb, Intel I865 chipset, 80gb 7200rpm IBM deskstar, Dell mobo. It was pretty fast back in 2003.
  15. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    512 MB is no longer adequate for good performance, if you are getting all the Windows Update downloads. Memory has never been cheaper for these Dells, but that will change soon as they have stopped making the PC2700 and PC3200. Upgrade now to save. But it is an excellent comptuter, otherwise as are the 4700, 8300, 8400, and similarly built Dell Optiplex GX240, GX260, GX270 and Gx280...
    Rugged and reliable way beyond the store boughts with the fancy paint that you find in most retail stores.
  16. Quantex_rox

    Quantex_rox TS Rookie Posts: 152

    As i said, it was fast back in the day ;)

    Actually, just ordered a 2gb Gskill kit for it, amazingly it supports up to 4gigs, which raises the question, can I put a 64bit os on a non-64 bit processor? If you can't (which i believe you can,) i think that means it could support the faster p4's with 64bit. IDK, but i am almost 100% sure you can put a 64bit os on a 32bit processor.
  17. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 10,716   +6

    Yes, you can put the 64 on it, as we have done with several 4600 and 4700 units, and get the full use of all Megabytes.
    When you use WXP, it will not access all 4 gb... some say 3 GB, some say 3.5... depending on the board... but on the Dell, we find it merely utilizes 3 GB well even if 4 gb are loaded..
  18. bfldworker

    bfldworker TS Rookie

    After reading everything, I have to say something. First I am someone who would rather build his own PC. But as the saying goes, you get what you can afford.

    When I bought my 4600 this past November (Used)I knew I was going to need some upgrading, Not to mention some serious TLC as this was in a work shop at a fabric store. I already knew about a issue with the PSU, so I went out and bought a Antec TruePower 750. But before that I tore it apart and cleaned every square millimeter. I took everything out of the case and hosed it out, let it sit outside in the Florida heat for 4 hours. Blew the dust off the board and pealed the dust out of the air duct fan, and then replaced it with a faster compatible fan. Cleaned the hardened dust out of the heat sink and pitched the PSU.

    Got on ebay bought a 3.2 Ghz P4 HT (Didn't think it would work, but I was wrong). While it is true that the CPU does have the ability to throttle down if it over heats, I am a true believer that if it does that too much damage can happen. Not to mention I like faster is better.

    I got rid of the geforce 2 MX 400 Video card and replaced it with a Radeon x1950 Pro with 512MB DDR3 put 4 gig of DDR 400 (I know it is faster then what the board can do, but it gives it a bit of elbow room)

    Soundblaster X-fi with a total of 1.2 TB of storage using the SATA and a Dual Layer HP DVD writer (PATA)

    I have Vista SP1 on it and I have a Windows Experience rating of 5.2. Which isn't stellar, but it is good.

    After all of that I can actually say that while the 4600 isn't the biggest dog on the block. With time and patience it can be a good challenger.

    BTW anyone who says you can't put a aftermarket PSU with a Dell Motherboard is full of crap. I have done it on a total of 5 Dell systems and no ill effects as of yet.
  19. Quantex_rox

    Quantex_rox TS Rookie Posts: 152

    Some really old p3 and early p4 and Dell Precisions used proprietary power connectors. There was good reason that they did though, it fed all the voltages the motherboard needs instead of just 12, 5, and 3.3v. That almost eliminated the need of capacitors and VRM's on the motherboard, which made them more reliable.

    Of coarse, if you need a replacement for those specific psu's, pc power and cooling sells some compatible ones.

    Also, ddr400 is the fastest the 4600's board can handle, so no worries there, they also support the fastest socket 478 processor w/HT. Those things can pump out heat, so be careful. When you replaced the rear fan, did you connect it to the psu or the motherboard? On our 4600, its a NMB, which are a really good fan company, but the motherboard only runs the fan up to about 50~60% speed due to noise. Those fans will really move a ton of air (upwards of 90cfm) at full honk, but will be loud.
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