Easy component access, Multiple locking options. Excellent choice of mounting peripherals. Remote management compatibility.
Pricey as configured. No USB-C ports.
- Bottom Line
The Dell Optiplex 5050 Micro is a strong performer that fits almost anywhere, making it an excellent choice for large companies deploying an army of tiny desktop PCs.
The Dell Optiplex 5050 Micro (starts at $579, $964.20 as tested) might not have much room for internal expansion, but with the help of a few optional extras and its diminutive stature, it can blend into pretty much any modern workplace. It's equally at home mounted to the back of a flat-panel display or sitting on the corner of a desk to show off its industrial—if not industrial chic—styling. It's expensive for a Core i5-powered PC, but its case is easy to open and it has remote management and other IT-friendly features that will appeal to large corporations looking to deploy hundreds or thousands of business desktops.
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Secure, Yet Easy to Open
The Optiplex 5050 is a tiny desktop, measuring just 7.2 by 7 by 1.4 inches (HWD). That's about the same size as the Apple Mac mini and a bit larger than the HP Elite Slice, which is designed to be used horizontally and thus measures 1.4 by 6.5 by 6.5 inches (HWD). The Optiplex 5050 can be installed in several configurations, from sitting upright on a tabletop with the help of a $19 vertical stand to the configuration of this test unit, which is installed in the $99 Dell Micro Form Factor All-in-One Stand along with a 24-inch Dell monitor. While all this versatility is convenient, it means that large IT departments may have to add significant room in their budgets for mounting accessories if they're replacing a fleet of full-sized desktops.
The All-in-One Stand comes with a nifty locking cage to prevent people from unplugging and stealing wired keyboards and mice if you install them in a publically accessible location. The cage's design matches the industrial-looking plastic grille that makes up roughly two-thirds of the PC's front. The rear of the PC hosts the ports, which include three USB 3.0 slots, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors, an Ethernet jack, and the power port.
The cage also includes a cutout for an external antenna that boosts the range of the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking. I experienced problem-free web browsing without the antenna in the crowded nest of wireless devices that is PC Labs, but you'll likely want to install the antenna for good measure if you need to stream video or audio over long distances or in a packed office. Front ports are located below the power button and hard drive access indicator, and they include headphone and microphone jacks, as well as two USB 3.1 ports. There's no USB-C port, an unfortunate omission given the PC's cost and the increasing number of hard drives and other peripherals that support the standard.
Like all Optiplex PCs, this one is designed to be easy to upgrade. Sliding the metal cover off is as simple as removing a single screw. Inside, everything that you can upgrade is handily accessible without tools. That includes the SATA and M.2 ports for hard drives, as well as the two DIMM slots for memory. My review unit has a 256GB SATA SSD and two 4GB memory modules, which are hidden beneath the fan and heatsink cover. The Optiplex 5050 can power up to three external displays thanks to an optional second DisplayPort connector. Don't expect to add a discrete GPU, since the micro form factor leaves no room for full-height or even half-height expansion slots. Once you replace the cover, there's a lock slot to make sure no one can open it again, and yet another Kensington lock slot next to the first one to secure the chassis to a desk or table.
As a business desktop, the Optiplex 5050 comes with IT-friendly software and firmware features that make remote management and security easier. These include Dell's own tools for managing automatic driver, BIOS, and firmware updates, as well support for the similar Intel Standard Manageability suite. Other than a CyberLink media app, the Optiplex 5050 is mercifully free of bloatware, a nicety that will simplify setup for small businesses that aren't using their own custom disk images to overwrite unwanted software. It comes with Windows 10 Pro standard, but you can downgrade to Windows 7 on the same license. Dell covers the PC with a three-year warranty, including onsite service after remote diagnosis.
My test model comes with an optional Dell wireless keyboard and mouse, which connect seamlessly via an included USB receiver; no setup is required. Both are fine for basic computing, but neither feels as sturdy as the higher-end wireless peripherals included with other Dell business PCs, including the Precision 5720 All-in-One. The mouse has a single piece of plastic that serves as both left and right buttons as well as the palm rest, and must be removed to replace the single AA battery. You can opt for a wired keyboard and mouse instead, which are slightly cheaper and can't be stolen as easily if you lock the cage on the All-in-One Stand.
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Budget More for Performance
At just less than $1,000, this Optiplex 5050 configuration is on the expensive side for the components you get, which include an Intel Core i5-7600T CPU running at 2.8Ghz with Intel HD Graphics 630. Compare that with its predecessor, the Dell Optiplex 9020 Micro, which included an Intel Core i7 for roughly the same price when we tested it in 2015. Still, the Optiplex 5050 scored well on all of our productivity benchmarks. It particularaly excelled on the Photoshop manipulation test, completing our lineup of image-editing tasks more than two minutes faster than the Asus VivoMini VC65 and the HP Elite Slice. The tiny Dell scored 3,462 on the all-encompassing PCMark 8 test, which approximates editing spreadsheets, videoconferencing, and other tasks that business users are likely to perform every day. That's better than both the Asus and the Elite Slice, and only slightly worse than the better-equipped HP Z2 Mini G3 workstation, which scored 3,721.
Users of tiny business desktops with integrated GPUs shouldn't expect to play intensive games on them, and that's true of the Dell Optiplex 5050. On our Heaven and Valley gaming benchmarks, it performed much better than its Optiplex 9020 predecessor, but it still failed to meet the 30 frames per second threshold required to play the latest games even at medium graphics quality settings. If you need better graphics performance from a tiny PC, the HP Z2 Mini is the clear winner here, with its Nvidia Quadro GPU helping it achieve more than 70fps on the Heaven and Valley tests at medium settings.
Like most Dell business PCs, the Optiplex 5050 can be configured with a wide variety of Intel processor options, which range from a Pentium G450T on the low end to a Core i7-7700T on the high end. Given the PC's high price, cost-conscious small businesses interested in keeping their systems for more than a year or two would do well to chose the more powerful Core i7 while sticking with the base levels of memory and storage, both of which can easily be upgraded should the need arise later on.
An Army of Optiplexes
The Optiplex 5050 deserves praise for its admirable computing performance and IT-friendly features, including easy remote management, a wide variety of installation options, and easy access to internal components. For large corporations deploying hundreds of PCs that already have contracts with Dell, those features are likely to outweigh the fact that the Optiplex 5050 quickly gets expensive when you max out the CPU configurations. Small businesses working with more constrained budgets and without an IT staff will want to take a hard look at alternatives like the Asus VivoMini VC65, a slightly cheaper option lacking remote management features that they might not use anyway.
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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