In a world where smartphones are being hailed as the next big thing in computing after laptops, desktop PCs might seem rather anachronistic – a throwback to the 1990s when beige was the most popular colour in offices.
The OptiPlex 5050 Micro PC is part of Dell’s new range of OptiPlex models, one which comprises of a traditional tower, a small form factor offering, and this pint-sized PC.
The 5000 series is sandwiched between the more affordable 3000 series and the higher-end 7000 series, and with prices starting at £559 ($720) excluding VAT it’s as expensive as the Vostro 15 5568, a mid-range business laptop. The review sample that was sent to us is the most expensive model at £659 ($845).
Dell engineers have managed to cram a lot of hardware into a 1.17-litre chassis. At 36 x 178 x 182mm, the 5050 Micro is a bit bigger (and thicker) than a DVD case, and a weight of only 1.18kg (without a hard disk drive) means that it will sit comfortably behind most monitors such as Dell’s own UltraSharp U2715H.
It can also be deployed easily and a dozen of these will certainly fit in a drawer. As expected, the chassis is a tool-less one which can be opened within seconds; it is as solid as the previous generations of OptiPlex models.
There are plenty of gaps at the front and back of the PC to ensure a good airflow and keep components cool. The Foxconn fan is quiet enough to be used in most offices and is the only moving part if you opt for an SSD.
There are plenty of ports to satisfy demanding system administrators: these include six USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI and a DisplayPort, one Gigabit Ethernet connector, two audio inputs, one connector for a WLAN antenna and a proprietary one for the 65W power supply unit (19.5V, 3.34A).
The 5050 Micro has been engineered in such a way that it is compact and yet versatile given the proviso that you pair it with the right accessories – all-in-one or vertical stands, VESA mounts and there’s even a DVD enclosure to fit it under a desk.
The 5050 Micro series employs the same base hardware, namely an Intel Core i5-7500T processor and a BTX motherboard. The CPU is a 14nm quad-core Kaby Lake model with four threads, 6MB cache, a 2.7GHz base clock speed and a 35W TDP.
It runs with integrated graphics – the processor’s Intel HD Graphics 630 – clocked at 350MHz with support for up to three external displays (and 4K at 60Hz).
There’s a single 8GB Micron memory module (DDR4 2400MHz non-ECC), and that will have a negative impact on the 5050’s performance as memory bandwidth is halved and there’s no option to add more RAM.
A 128GB SATA M.2 SSD from Hynix, an Intel Wireless 8265 802.11ac wireless card (that offers Bluetooth), along with a standard keyboard and mouse round off the component/peripheral list.
Note that legacy port adaptors are available during the customisation process and there are no card readers. Also, you can save a few pounds by deselecting the input peripherals.
Furthermore, you can slot in a 2.5-inch hard disk drive, and the system runs Windows 10 Pro. Dell throws in a 30-day trial of McAfee Small Business Security and a free copy of CyberLink Media Suite Essentials, a multimedia software package that does data backup and video playback.
Doubtless it’s no surprise to learn that this is a powerful and capable device, but its performance is slightly hampered by the lack of dual-channel memory.
The OptiPlex scored highly on the 10 test benchmarks we ran, thanks to a combination of a high core count and high base clock speed, something that laptop processors don’t usually offer due to power constraints.
Its four cores manage to deliver the sort of firepower that only desktops can offer within a set power envelope and budget.
The graphics subsystem isn’t too shabby as well, which means that you will be able to play fairly recent games at decent enough frame rates.
Driver, BIOS and firmware updates are also made easier thanks to the bundled Dell Command Suite which allows for flexible and automated system management.
Dell offers deployment options at checkout which include imaging, BIOS settings, asset tags and asset reports at its most basic, adding 24/7 onsite migration, data migration and 30-day post-deployment support and training credits with the premium tiers.
The competition in the world of enterprise micro PCs consists of the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q, the Fujitsu Desktop Esprimo D556/E90+, the Acer Veriton N4640G and the HP ProDesk Mini 400 G3. All four have fairly similar configurations and care packages but the HP is the cheapest of the lot.
The Dell OptiPlex 5050 remains quite a capable desktop, but even considering that it carries a three-year next business day delivery, it comes at a steep price. The outlay is higher than a mid-range laptop like the Dell Latitude 3380, which swaps the more powerful CPU and extra ports for an integrated battery and a Full HD display.
That said, we love how compact and powerful this PC is, and we suspect that Dell could go even smaller by providing a totally enclosed, non-serviceable chassis similar to the Voyo V3 Mini PC.
This could make servicing easier (you just need to swap them out) and reduce the number of SKUs – but on the other hand, it would reduce flexibility when it comes to SKUs and eliminate any expansion space.
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