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Anyone that has read my Dell Dimension XPS D and R series post knows that I have a large soft spot for the Dell Dimension series. Here were going to look at the 4100, one of the final PC’s in the Dimension series to sport the classic beige case style before moving on to the black/grey rounded P4 cases that currently litter thrift store electronics sections.

The 4100 seems to of been released sometimes in the very early 2000’s. Although I do not know for sure the exact factory configuration these shipped in mine is a good example of something period correct.

d41001

The 4100 uses the same case as some of the older models in the Dimension line such as the XPS R450 I looked at in the earlier article mentioned above. I do like these case designs and I think they give a unique look. There are two 5 1/4 bays at the top for things like CD drives and two 3 1/2 bays below those plus another 3 1/2 bay for a floppy or zip drive below that. I also like how these Dimension series cases are thinner then average PC towers of the time so they tend to be able to fit into smaller nooks.

d41002

The rear ports from the motherboard are very basic with no built in video or audio which is typical of some of the Dimension series. This was because they generally were sold with higher quality add on video and sound cards rather then built in A/V. Mot serious PC enthusiasts now and then preferred expansion card video and sound as opposed to built in options which you were stuck with and were generally of lower quality to save on costs.

Built in we have the basic two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse as well as one serial and one parallel port and two USB ports. The number of ports is adequate for the times but I feel it gives the back a rather sparse look.

removing the side cover is very simple and only involves removing one thumb screw and pinching the latches with a pull back.

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Here we have a view of the motherboard fully populated with expansion cards from when I first brought it home. Notice the nice space for a vertical hard drive near the front of the case where a typical PC speaker or fan may go.  I like this and it’s a nice use of space allowing for more open bays if you want to add more hard drives, ect… The drive that came with my 4100 is a 40gb drive and I believe this was likely the original drive that came stock with this PC.

d41004

Here we have a view of the motherboard without any expansion cards as well as having that fan shroud removed which diverted air flow from the case fan down over the CPU for cooling. Like the rest of the machine this motherboard looks relatively sparse and is very similar to the motherboard used in the older D and R series just with no ISA, one less RAM slot and a socket 370 CPU rather then the older slot 1 CPU type. The lack of an ISA connector does hurt this machine in terms of using it as a DOS rig as older DOS era games tend to get along much nicer with ISA sound cards. The AGP port supports 2x and x4 AGP cards.

1) CPU – The CPU that originally was installed in this machine was 1.1ghz Pentium III Celeron. The Celeron line was seen as more of a budget friendly entry level CPU and was basically a cut down “Coppermine” Pentium III . The 1.1ghz model ran on a 100mhz front side bus as opposed to 133mhz for many “full” Pentium III’s and also only had half the L2 cache on-chip (128kb vs 256kb). Thankfully the motherboard is capable of supporting all but the later Tualatin Pentium III’s so replacing the Celeron with a standard “Coppermine” Pentium III is a simple CPU swap. I swapped mine out with a slightly slower clock rate but higher performing 1ghz Pentium III. All I had to do was swap CPU’s and the computer knew without having to make any adjustments. Even with the 100mhz slower clock rate on the Pentium III chip I received noticeable performance gains due to the higher 133mhz FSB and double on-chip L2 cache. I also used a later Pentium III 1ghz chip which incorporated an integrated heat spreader. There is no performance difference with these chips but I prefer the heat spreader as it seems to make the CPU’s a little more durable during installation.

Bechmarks

1.1ghz Celeron

3DMark 2000 – 3513

3DMark 2001SE – 1874

1ghz Pentium III

3DMark 2000 – 4321

3DMark 2001SE – 2023

d41005

There is also no fan cooler directly mounted on the heatsink as in this design the case fan is used with a plastic shroud that diverts the air flow down and onto the CPU. Above image is with shroud removed.

2) RAM – Total memory officially supported is 512mb of PC133 SDRAM. I currently have one 512MB PC133 stick of RAM installed in the image below but I had no trouble at all installing a second 512mb PC133 stick and running things completely fine under Windows 2000 Pro.

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3) The 4100 motherboard continues to use the Dell proprietary PSU connector as you can see directly behind the RAM slot. Adapters can be found cheaply on eBay though for well under $10 so you can use any AT  PSU. Also behind the RAM are two IDE connectors and one floppy connector.

Lastly I want to talk about expansion cards. I believe the sound and video cards That I found installed in this PC are the stock cards that this machine was sold at retail though configurations may have varied.

The machine I bought came with several connectivity cards installed such as a modem, ethernet and wireless adapter. Unfortunately I had heavy stability issues initially with this machine until I removed these cards. This was likely caused by driver conflicts but since I didn’t plan on using these cards anyways they were just eating space.

d41007

Video – The video card was a Geforce 2MX.

d41009

This was Nvidia’s entry level budget card for the Geforce 2 line and was cut down feature and performance wise from the standard GF2 cards. That said it is still a capable card and offered good performance for the price point offering hardware T&L as well as dual monitor capability.

Sound – lastly we have the sound card installed.

d41008

This is a Creative CT5807 and is a very basic budget card. It lacks a joystick port which to be honest were phasing out at the time in favor of USB gamepads but is just very sparse in features. for output it simply offers line out/in and mic. it gets the job done but not to exciting.

Its fairly obvious that between the Celeron CPU, Geforce 2MX and budget sound card that whomever built or ordered this PC back in the day was doing it on a budget. Despite this the great thing about the Dimension series is that they were very easy to upgrade. I was able to boost performance very easily with a CPU swap to a full fledged PIII and swapping out the video and sound cards would be a breeze. Even though I’m not a fan of OEM builds from the mid 90’s up the Dimension series has always appealed to me. I love the look of the case and relative ease to get inside. I would certainly recommend the 4100 series as one of the final “beige box” Dimensions for a retro gamer. The lack of ISA slots hurt DOS games but with the right upgrades it still makes a great rig for late DOS, win 98 and early XP gaming.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m not surprised the PCI modem and WLAN cards could cause problems for you. I used to occasionally find they were the cause of machines not powering up or booting properly, and the software for many internal modems was often problematic as well. The best solution was usually to remove the card.

    I’m surprised that Geforce card doesn’t have a heatsink. I had a similar card with a heatsink (passive) that ran quite hot. I can’t imagine what that one must be like. Perhaps it’s running slower than my card was to keep the temperature under control.

    Sparcie

    • Did you have the MX version? my other PCI geforce 2mx also lacks a heatsink. I do know the regular GF2 and GF2 Ultra I owned did have a heatsink and I think a fan if I’m not mistaken.

      • Yes, but it was an AGP version instead of PCI, perhaps that was part of the reason it needed the heatsink. AGP delivers more data than PCI does.


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