Dell Dimension C521

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Dell Dimension C521
  • Dell Dimension C521
  • Dell Dimension C521
  • Dell Dimension C521
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5


  • Slim design, media card reader, quiet operation


  • Single hard drive bay, limited expansion options

Bottom Line

The Dell C521 is a reasonable performer for the price. On top of the 17in LCD, keyboard and mouse, the inclusion of a media card reader accommodates the growing use of digital cameras with home computers. Test results indicate it will work well for most office or home tasks and any performance shortcomings could at least be improved by a RAM upgrade down the track.

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For under $1000 the Dell C521 comes with a 17in LCD screen, keyboard and a mouse, making it a complete package that's ready to go from the moment it's delivered. As a budget option we were reasonably happy with the performance of this AMD-based machine, and as Dell units are built to order this system can easily be expanded to better fit your needs.

The compact design makes it ideal for cramped working conditions and the case can be positioned upright on its side or laid flat like a DVD player. The clean white chassis has a silver fascia, which houses a few helpful devices for a diversity of uses. In our budget model a DVD-ROM is installed, though this can be upgraded during the purchase for a small additional cost. Two USB ports as well as both audio and microphone ports are easily accessible at the front. One of the nicest additions though is the inclusion of a 13-in-1 media card reader for transferring your photos to the PC.

We ran World Bench 5 to see how the system performed. The PC completed all but the MusicMatch WAV to MP3 conversion test due to an error with the benchmark software. For this reason, an overall World Bench 5 score was not obtained. However, individual results show that that it was above average in performance across most of the essential software tasks, such as using Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Media encoding tasks and the multi-tasking test showed less impressive results. However, the installed AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU is a good piece of hardware and upgrading the base systems 512MB of RAM to at least 1GB would likely bring a welcome performance boost in these areas. We also encoded 53 minutes of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files using Cdex, which the Dimension C521 completed in one minute 59 seconds. This time indicates that the C521's encoding capabilities should be fine for most peoples music encoding needs.

The system includes a GeForce 6160LE integrated graphics chip, a simple graphics solution not aimed at gamers or high end rendering, but a score of 4622 in 3DMark 2001 SE shows it can handle some older games at least.

There's only one PCI Express and one standard PCI expansion slot for upgrades, but the clip-in system on the rear panel makes this an easy task for quick changes even if you're doing an upgrade for the first time. Due to the size of the case only one hard drive slot is available. Increasing your storage space will require an external storage option or a replacement hard drive. Dell has used an AMD BTX motherboard. Although only a DVD-ROM is installed in the system, it is a SATA DVD-ROM, the first system we've seen with one of these. A passive heatsink on the CPU is cooled by one single case fan. This fan also pushes air across the chipset and out of the case. This configuration results in a fairly quiet operation.

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