The Little Virtual Capable Machine from Dell

Jun 20, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Small footprint; powerful processor.

Cons:Limited expandability.

The Bottom Line: The small foot print of the OptiPlex FX-160 together with its powerful Atom processor and flexible chassis make the PC ready for virtualization duties, or work as a desktop PC.

Ah, the technology refresh.  Every three or four years or so, a business has to go through one of these.  In our case—or my businesses case that is—we are replacing 1800 or so older Dell OptiPlex 200 series desktop with smaller, ready-to-be virtualized Dell OptiPlex FX-160 Atom-processor based desktop computers.

Virtualization is in, at least for the time being until come next “buzz” technology comes along to replace virtualization as the it technology of the moment; remember cloud computing? 

Virtualization involves more than servers, however, true virtualization includes workstations as well.  That is where small footprint machines like the Dell Optiplex FX-160 come into play. 

The 411

The Optiplex FX-160 is a small footprint desktop computer without full-sized hard drive.  In fact it is so small that a standard 3.5” SATA drive will not fit into the chassis.  If you insist on installing a hard drive then the Optiplex FX-160 will accept a 2.5” SATA hard drive or a solid state drive of the same size.

The Intel Atom is a line of ultra-low-voltage x86 and x86-64 CPUs designed in 45 nm CMOS.  The Atom processor was designed to mainly in netbooks, Mobile Internet devices and small foot-print desktop designed for virtualization.

Dell designed the OptiPlex FX-160 to support either a Virtual Remote Desktop thin client environment or a On-Demand Desktop Streaming environment.  The lithe workstation is built around the Intel Atom processor family, which helps reduce the power footprint of the desktop, but also may limit the unit’s processing power. 

Gone are expansion slots, internal and external so forget about CD-ROM’s and DVD players.  The OptiPlex FX-160 is fitted with (6) USB ports as well as standard PS/2 ports for muse & keyboards.  Standard VGA and Digital video ports are fitted on the back of the unit, but the unit is missing audio outputs, although a standard microphone and headphone ports can be found in the front of the unit.

We ordered the units with 2GB of RAM which is over and above the recommended minimum for running Windows 7, or a VDI environment.      
My Thoughts
We have been using the Optiplex FX-160 to replace full size desktop computer at outlying locations.  We opted to fit them with 80GB 2.5” SATA drives while we prepare the environment for desktop virtualization. 

The Intel Atom processor is plenty powerful enough to run Windows XP and a suite of other applications that are a part of our standard image loud-out.  In addition we have installed 2GB of Ram in each (up to 4GB can be installed), and mated them with 19” flat screen monitors.

The small foot print of the Optiplex FX-160 together with its powerful Atom processor and flexible chassis make the PC ready for virtualization duties, or work as a standard desktop PC.

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