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In this article were going to take a brief look at the Dell Optiplex GX110 which is a Pentium III based small form factor computer from the year 2000. The Optiplex series was generally focused toward small business as well as education markets so we’re not looking at a gaming rig though it may make a fast and stable late DOS or Windows 9x machine. The closest similar machine I can think of from the same time is the Compaq EN small form factor which I wrote about here.

As you can see above the GX110 is a small form desktop PC but it also came in a desktop and mini tower form factor. They also came in slot 1 and socket 370 form, this machine being the later socket 370 form. I would say the GX110 small form case is not as tall as the Compaq EN was but it’s not smaller by much. Unfortunately I no longer have the EN to directly compare. On the front we have a single button for power as well as a floppy drive and a CD-ROM drive though notice the CD drive is looking a bit odd with the eject button on the face plate but we will get to that.

On the back starting from left to right we have a parallel port with a serial port below it followed by two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, two USB 1.1 ports another serial port followed by the built in video port, Ethernet and finally three audio jacks for mic, line in and line out. Having a line in jack is nice as many of the small form factor PC’s I’ve looked at only have the mic and line out jacks.

Opening the case is very simple and you just pinch in two plastic side tabs on the sides near the rear of the case and lift the upper part of the case up and off.

Here is the inside with the riser card still attached. I currently have a Geforce 2 MX400 installed.

Here is the riser card removed though there isn’t much of interest revealed below it except that 3com chip which presumably controls the Ethernet.

The riser card here supports two PCI expansion cards but from what I’ve read Dell may of also offered an optional riser card with one PCI and one 16-bit ISA slot. If this is true those risers would of been optimal for a fast DOS build.

Now lets take a look at that CD drive.

So this machine does something I don’t see very often in desktop IBM PC’s and that’s use a laptop style CD drive. Now the obvious benefit of using a laptop style drive is you can have a smaller case and it also is lighter. You also can use a smaller floppy style power connector if you like that kind of thing. I find this a bit of a negative though since I find laptop style CD drives to be a bit less robust and more prone to damage. I also find them to be harder to replace as they aren’t uncommon by any means but desktop style drives are so much more abundant and can be found on any given day at a retail PC shop or used at a thrift where a laptop style drive may take a little more hunting to track down.

The hard drive bay is located under the floppy drive. Originally these models came with a variety of size options for hard drives but mine has a 40gb drive installed, it is likely this drive was added later.

Here we have a good view of the board. The board is based on the Intel 810e chipset which allows us to run a 133mhz FSB for our CPU but our memory is limited to 100mhz PC100.

1) CPU – The PGA 370 GX110 came with a few CPU options. I’m not sure what this one originally came stock with but it has been upgraded to a 1ghz Coppermine-EB Pentium III running on the 133mhz FSB. Just about any 100/133mhz FSB socket 370 Pentium III or Celeron should work just fine in this machine and any choice should be fine for a Win 9x or DOS setup though if you want to run things in higher resolutions or do some XP gaming a faster P III is recommended. There is an option is the BIOS to disable cache to lower speeds for earlier games.

2) RAM – The Optiplex GX110 can take up to 512mb of PC100 SDRAM via two slots. My machine currently has the max of 512mb using two PC133 256mb sticks. The PC133 clocks down to PC100 though depending on the RAM brand and specifications I have read of incompatibilities when using PC133.

3) Riser slot – This is the riser slot for the riser card we looked at earlier. It installs like just about any other expansion card though it has a little green plastic lever you want to raise before removing the card.

4) Floppy connector

5) IDE – Two ATA-66 EIDE connectors supporting up to four EIDE devices. Of course you only have room for three total drives unless you get creative with dual SSDs for hard drives.

6) CMOS battery

7) CD audio in connector for the on-board audio.

8) PSU connector

Sound – Built in sound is sound blaster compatible Analog Devices AD1881 soundMAX. It’s similar if not the same sound chip that was in my Compaq EN and although it’s okay for basic Windows sound its pretty terrible for DOS. A PCI Sound Blaster Live! or Vortex 2 based card would be a smart upgrade for one of the available slots.

Video – Video is Intel Dynamic Video Memory which seems to pull memory from the system memory. It’s passable for desktop use but if you actually want to use this system to run games a video card should be your first upgrade. A PCI Voodoo 3 would work great in this machine for Windows and DOS gaming but other later PCI cards would compliment the Pentium III CPU as well.

And that’s about it for the Optiplex GX110. As usual these Pentium III machines make great Windows 9x or late DOS gaming PC’s with a few tweaks and additions such as appropriate sound and video cards. As for the GX110 though I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it just because there are better options out there. Unless you really really need the small form factor or are in an area starved for Pentium III PCs and earlier era stuff. It’s just not that much smaller then other options like the Compaq EN which gave three expansion slots as opposed to two which can make a big difference when upgrading. In a pinch it works but keep an eye out for something nicer if you can.

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