When it comes to buying an office workstation I have always believed that there are only 2 manufacture options – Dell and HP. Both offer a massive range of systems to suit just about any needs that a home or office user has.

Today though I’m going to be reviewing the Dell Optiplex 360, the Optiplex range are very well suited to both personal and office use but their focus is around performance and reliability. Let’s take a look at the in’s and out’s of them and see if there worth the price tag.

Exterior and Design – The Optiplex 360’s come in two flavours – the full size desktop version and the smaller form factor version. Both designs are quite basic but at the same time they are nice enough. The front panel houses usb ports and the DVD drive as well as a plastic grill. The big advantage of the Optiplex 360’s design is the easy to remove case which makes any hardware changes very easy to do.

dell optiplex 360 front

The workstations themselves are quite lightweight weighing in at around 10kg for the desktop version and slightly less for the smaller form factor version. All in all the Optiplex 360’s won’t look out of place on most desk’s and are quite modernised with some practical features thrown in for good measure.

Specification and Performance – As with all Dell Workstations you can customise the specification to suit your needs. As standard you will be equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo running at 2.93GHZ. This should be plenty of power for most standard applications and multi tasking within an office environment. You won’t have any trouble running office applications, email and web browsing together. The standard spec also includes 2GB of DDR2 memory running at 800 MHz with 4GB being the upper limit. Once again you should find this amount fine unless you are using several memory intensive applications at once (think Visual studio, Photoshop and Dreamweaver together).

dell optiplex 360 base

As for storage you will get a standard 300GB hard drive (sata running at 7200rpm) which should give you plenty of room for your applications and files. With storage being so cheap nowadays though this shouldn’t be a concern for many.

The standard graphics cards with the 360’s are Intel Media Accelerator 3100’s with the option of Ati Radeon 256mb cards as an optional upgrade. The 3100’s are fine for general media use and will even stretch to playing a few games, but of course if you’re buying a workstation you should be working, right? 😉

The rest of the hardware is as it should be, a 1GB Broadcom network card and onboard sound. Pretty standard stuff really. All in all the Optiplex 360’s are good performers, I ran several tests with many applications and put them under pressure and they coped quite well. If you are planning on doing heavy multi tasking then you might consider the optional memory upgrade, it is the cheapest way to get the best possible performance from these workstations.

Having used several of these I have had no hardware related issues whatsoever, of the hundred or so that I have rolled out I have had no dead units and no hardware failures up until now (fingers crossed!). So these are certainly reliable systems.

Value for money – Buying a single unit of these will cost you somewhere in the region of $590 for the basic system. You can get optional upgrades for just about everything and this can soon start rolling the price up. For most scenarios I would only recommend the memory upgrade if you want to the keep the price down. The price itself is quite competitive and for the performance and spec you get I would say its good value for money.

As with everything it’s always worth shopping around for and you might find some great deals on these, going direct to Dell might also be an option and if you’re looking at ordering a large amount then you should expect a quite healthy discount.

Overall the Dell Optiplex 360’s are nice little workstations, they will suit most home and office users who use their machines for general work usage, word processing, excel, web browsing, email, graphics and so on are all handled well by them. These machines aren’t really recommend for gaming but with that being said they are still capable of playing some of the older games out there. Reliability is a big plus with the 360’s and in my experience with them I have had absolutely no hardware issues at all.