Dissecting A Dell Deal. . . .

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Update: The cheap 3.2GHz option is no longer available, but this is the second time Dell has had that. Quite possible it will happen again in the near future.

You can find the core details and instructions on the deal, along with a link to an FAQ on the motherboard here. You may also want to look
here from those who bought this system a month or so ago, here for a Dell forum on this type machine, and here for some newsgroup comments.

Basically, you can get a barebones PIV system with a 3.2GHz CPU, and 875P motherboard for $498 plus applicable sales tax after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this system:

Pros

  • You get a 3.2GHz PIV, a dual-channel Canterwood motherboard, a decent hard drive plus the rest of the system for less than the current Pricewatch cost of a 3.2GHz PIV.

    Cons

    Video Card Not Included You’ll have to buy your own, and it should be noted that AGP is not officially supported by Dell on this mobo (though current video cards seem to be fine).

    Memory Extra To maximize one’s savings, one needs to minimize the RAM that comes with the system. For instance, if you choose two sticks of 128Mb RAM rather than one, you lose the $100 mail-in rebate. You’re effectively paying #100 for one 128Mb stick of RAM. So you’ll have to buy RAM elsewhere at a reasonable cost, which should be included on the bill. It would be ludicrous to try to run this kind of machine with just 128Mb of RAM. What most will end up doing is buying a pair of sticks, and discard the 128Mb module.

    The machine is also meant to use ECC, though non-ECC apparently works.

    One Year Warranty Those interested in this kind of system tend to be awfully interested in warranties, too. One year, parts and labor. You want more than that, you pay extra for it.

    250 Watt Power Supply The video issue is a bit compounded by the power supply. It’s supposed to be a good power supply, but combine a 3.2GHz PIV with a high-end video card, and at the least, you’re not leaving too much room for anything else. On a positive note, the machine does use a standard ATX power supply.

    No OS This machine at this price comes with no operating system bundled in, so should you want to be legitimate, you’ll have to buy that retail rather than as part of the package.

    No Overclocking None, zero, zilch. If you feel the need to overclock anything you buy, this is not for you.

    No SATA RAID It has SATA ports, but it uses the simpler Canterwood chipset which doesn’t provide SATA RAID.

    No monitor, of course.

    Conclusion

    This is one of those deals that are good for some people, but not others. No doubt there will be a flood of 3.2GHz processors on eBay, or machines will have a slower processor substituted and sold to Joe Sixpack-type friends and associates.

    On the other hand, there are hidden costs people should be aware of before they buy. That’s what this article is all about.

    It may seem odd for an overclocking site to talk about an unoverclockable machine, but there are two types of overclockers: those who overclock as a means to the end, and those who overclock as an end in and of itself.

    This machine is meant for those in category one, or more precisely, those on the fringes of the overclocking world that want to go to heaven but don’t want to die. This system gets buyers most of the economic advantage of overclocking without actually having to do it.

    Overclocking is supposed to be enjoyable, not terrifying. If it’s too scary for you, get this instead.

    Ed

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