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More on the Dell Optiplex 780

Not a great deal of time today, but I realized I left out an important fact about the Dell 780, and presumably the other USFF machines in the same case like the 980: The all-in-one mount is not VESA compatible, and will only take Dell monitors. The all-in-one mounts for the two earlier USFF case styles (SX270 and SX280) took any 10cm VESA monitor. The flipside is true, too: More recent Dell monitors are not VESA compatible, and use the same proprietary tab-and-button mount as the 780-family all-in-one mount. Be careful when you’re assembling a refurb system. Not everything from Dell fits everthing else from Dell.

That said, if you’re going to use a Dell LCD monitor, Dell has a very nice amplified speaker bar that clips securely to the bottom edge of the monitor. It’s the AS501, and you can get NOS units from eBay for $15 shipped. All of the Dell UltraSharp monitors that I have here provide a 5V barrel jack on the back of the monitor to power the AS501. Very good fidelity, and certainly sufficient volume for puttering around your office or workshop. The 780 contains a tiny internal speaker, roughly equivalent to the one in the SX280, but it’s not good for much beyond notification sounds.


  1. Bob says:

    I have been considering using one of these (optiplex 780 usff) as a home theater pc. There is a lot of controversy on the web about whether a displayport to hdmi adapter will pass sound through to a TV.

    Do you have any experience with that? Have you been able to hook up a TV to one of these?

    Any other thoughts on usefulness as a HTPC?

    1. Well, I’m really not into TV that much, so I don’t have any relevant experience on HTPCs. But any time you use an adapter in a media streaming situation you’ve got some risk of something getting lost or gummed up along the way.

      So I’d be hesitant. A couple of things to explore:

      1. Intel’s Next Unit of Computing box, which is a sort of do-it-yourself Mac Mini for Windows. It’s tiny, and silent, and uses HDMI rather than DisplayPort. You can trick out a very solid system for about $350 if you shop hard. Lots online; google around. I may replace my wife’s 780 with one of these, as desk space is scarce for her.

      2. I haven’t done this myself, but I’ve seen a lot of people use the Raspberry Pi as a media server. The new RPi 2 has a quad-core ARM CPU and a GB of RAM, so I doubt there’s much chance of a media task bringing it to its knees. The board is only $35. Of course, you have to add a box and a power supply and some sort of mass storage (it takes Micro-SD cards) but you can do it cheaper than a NUC and there’s lots about it online.

      I don’t like nor trust DisplayPort and will not buy any more machines that use it.

      Good luck and feel free to come back and post another note here telling us all how it worked.

    2. Mike Badgley says:

      Jeff, I have a few old 780’s sitting around that I want to use the DisplayPort output (only) with a DisplayPort to DVI passive adapter. But we cannot get thing to give us any video out with this setup. Any suggestions?

      1. I use a stock DisplayPort to DVI cable. Not sure if that’s a passive adapter or not, but it’s never failed to work for me, and I now have 4 Dell 780s in various places. If multiple boxes fail to work, that suggests the adapter is either faulty or somehow not compatible with the Dell hardware. This is the cable I use on all 4 machines:

        It’s 3 feet long. I could use a 2′ cable (and in one case even an 18″ cable) but have not found one yet. Good luck with it!

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