The Dell Dimension E510, like its progenitor the Dimension 5100, is a well-priced, decently powered option for family computing. Like the Dimension 5100, the E510 adds modern essentials such as a BTX motherboard and a 64-bit CPU that should keep you from having to replace your system for a few years. You can configure a Dell Dimension E510 for a cost as low as $729, but our test system included the Media Center version of Windows XP, dual TV tuners, two-piece speakers, and a 17-inch LCD, among other upgrades, that brought the price to a still reasonable $1,154. Even so, the Dimension E510's lack of a dual-core CPU makes the trim Dell XPS 200 a better option performancewise. And if you want the expandability of a midtower case, the AMD-based mainstream HP Pavilion d4100e is a better choice.
We liked this case when it first came out with the Dell Dimension 5100, and the same applies to the Dimension E510. The case is cast in an attractive silver-and-white design, and a removable side panel makes accessing the internal components easier than ever. The insides are well organized, so it's easy to switch components or reach the sole free PCI slot or the two free RAM slots.
The E510 is a quiet operator, even when performing noisy tasks such as ripping or burning CDs or DVDs on its double-layer, dual-format DVD drive. The reason is its BTX motherboard and what Dell calls its QuietCase technology, which provides better air circulation through a novel cutout section behind the front panel.
Our test system used Intel's 3GHz Intel Pentium 4 531 processor, giving the midpriced PC 64-bit processing capabilities. With its not quite cutting-edge CPU, the Dimension E510 turned in predictable, if uninspiring, performance scores. Its compact cousin, the Dimension XPS 200, also has a 3GHz CPU, but that one is a dual-core Pentium D 830, which gave the XPS 200 a 17 percent advantage in CNET Labs' BAPCo SysMark 2004 benchmarks. The single-core AMD-based HP Pavilion d4100e, powered by a 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+ CPU, had the same 17 percent edge. (Subsequent to our testing, Dell stopped offering the Pentium 4 531 as an option. The closest current option is the Pentium 4 630, which offers double the L2 cache (2MB) and the same 3GHz clock speed and 64-bit capability.) The supplied 128MB ATI Radeon X300 SE video card is underpowered for serious 3D gaming, although you can upgrade to the Radeon X600 SE for only $23. To its credit, the Dimension E510 was able to run Half-Life 2, while our XPS 200 test system (with integrated Intel 950G graphics) could not. Still, 13.4 frames per second (fps) isn't what you'd call playable. Dell's higher-end XPS 400 uses an Nvidia GeForce 6800 3D card to churn out 64.5fps on the same test.
Our test system also featured a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive, 512MB of 400MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and a dual TV tuner. The 160GB drive seems skimpy for a Media Center system, and at 250GB, even the largest hard drive offered is really too small for a PC that will be recording lots of television shows. At least Dell gives you the strong option to back up all of your data. Starting at an additional $160, you can add Dell DataSafe, a dual hard drive RAID 0 configuration (two 160GB for $160, two 250GB for an added $250) that comes with handy software to help you protect your data.