We have the Dell OptiPlex 7090 Micro as the next unit up in Project TinyMiniMicro. This will mark the last unit of the 10th/11th gen Intel Core units we are likely to look at for some time. With that, we get to see what are the upgrades compared to the previous generation and discuss where Dell stands in relation to its primary competition from HP and Lenovo in this market for 1L corporate desktop PCs.
Project TinyMiniMicro Background
In Project TinyMiniMicro we are purchasing a large number of these devices from different sources. While a standard STH review is of a new product, these TMM nodes occasionally have specs that differ from what one would expect. In all of these pieces, we are going to talk about what makes the nodes unique. We are now well over 40 different nodes to increase diversity. We are testing these on a more circular economy/ extended lifecycle basis to see how they can be deployed after their initial use as corporate desktops. As always, we have a video version of this article.
We recommend opening this video in a YouTube tab, window, or app for a better viewing experience.
For our $735 (before tax and after a partial refund), we received a node with an Intel Core i5-10500T, 8GB of memory, WiFi 6, and a 256GB NVMe SSD. We had originally hoped to get a Core i7-10700T since the unit was advertised as a Core i7, but we found that we had a Core i5 instead sparking that refund. We even got an embedded Windows 10 Pro license which would have cost us around $140 alone. We also got a wireless keyboard and mouse with the unit, a welcome upgrade over the wired units that come standard with most of these PCs.
This is part of our series where we are taking a look at some of the newest 10th-11th generation ~1L PCs on the market. With our TinyMiniMicro series, we understand that there is always going to be tension. Older units are less expensive, but unlike buying an old hammer, we get significantly more capabilities and features in new versions. As a result, we have been broadening the base. We have already reviewed the Lenovo ThinkCentre M80q Tiny, M90q Tiny, M90q Tiny Gen2, M75q Gen2 Tiny, M75q Tiny Gen2 (Ryzen 5000 update), and the HP EliteDesk 800 G6 Mini 65W, and 35W version in this generation with the 805 G6 review finished and in the publishing queue and the 805 G8 on order. At this point, we have a fairly good understanding of how these systems stack up.
We are going to go into a quick hardware overview, then into the key specs. We are then going to talk a bit about performance and power consumption before getting to our lessons learned from these units and our final words.
Dell OptiPlex 7090 Micro Hardware Overview
The Dell OptiPlex 7090 Micro is around 1L in size and uses an updated front design compared to the Dell OptiPlex 7070 Micro and OptiPlex 7060 Micro we reviewed previously, and similar to the OptiPlex 7080 Micro.
We still get a power button, headset port, and line-out port on the front of the system. As with the 7080 Micro we also get a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port. The big change, and one of the most significant of this system, is that the Type-C port is a USB 3.2 2×2 port that runs at 20Gbps. Hopefully one day we can get a low-power 10GbE adapter with some offloads and utilize that bandwidth. For now, that is mostly going to be the port for high-speed external SSDs.
On the rear of the unit, we get two DisplayPort outputs. Some competitive systems have HDMI and DisplayPort which we probably like better for connecting without an adapter to televisions. We get two USB 3.2 Gen2 and two Gen1 Type-A ports for four total. Dell has an optional slot that one can configure as blank, or get various serial or display outputs. We did not get anything configured in this port. We will note the rear of the units with PCIe GPUs has a different layout in order to accommodate those GPUs. We are also going to talk about this expansion a bit more in our Key Lessons Learned section later.
Networking is provided by a RJ45 connector. This is an Intel i219-LM NIC which is important. This configuration is valid for Intel vPro so we need to use this NIC. Given we are seeing on the Intel NUC 11 Pro Review Tiger Canyon NUC11TNKi5 and other systems 2.5GbE, this does feel a bit old even as the current generation since we are in the middle of an update to 2.5GbE in the desktop industry. Intel is now on (at least) its third revision of the Intel i225 NIC silicon, so perhaps that is the reason. Still, we wish that we could get something faster than 1GbE as WiFi is pushing those speeds already.
Inside we have a fairly typical Dell Micro layout. The CPU and memory are on top with the storage on the bottom.
Our unit came with the blue 2.5″ hard drive/ SSD tray. This is a tool-less solution that one can use to install a SATA drive into the system. Dell has the easiest 2.5″ tray in the industry at this point, and a lot of that has to do with the SATA connector.
A SATA drive in the try connects to a hard-mounted SATA data and power connector which is a significant upgrade over the HP and Lenovo units that use proprietary cables. This hard-mounted design means that Dell’s implementation is much easier than HP’s and slightly easier than Lenovo’s. It also means, however, that Dell needs a different chassis and motherboard for options with a dGPU, in this generation an AMD Radeon RX 640.
On the bottom of the unit, we have our storage and WiFi expansion. On either side of the WiFi module, there are two M.2 SSD slots. Our unit had a 256GB Western Digital M.2 2230 NVMe SSD installed. It is inexpensive and lower power, but if you want higher performance or capacity, there are other options. We will note that if you have an 11th gen Core processor, you can use one of these M.2 slots with a PCIe Gen4 SSD. One could, for example, use this inexpensive 256GB SSD as a boot drive and then have a larger and faster Gen4 SSD installed for data and applications.
In this system, we had the WiFi option, specifically with the Intel AX201 WiFi 6 and Bluetooth connectivity. WiFi is optional, and Dell has options for other radios, but our advice is to get the Intel AX201 solution installed from the factory. It is much easier than adding this later.
Since we did not have optional rear I/O, the internal I/O headers are present, but not used.
Under the top fan and shroud, we have memory and the CPU. Memory can be up to DDR4-3200 in this generation. We have upgraded this unit to 64GB successfully. Although we have a single 16GB SODIMM here, we would suggest always outfitting this system with two DIMMs for dual-channel memory operation. To access the memory, one has to remove the fan shroud. This is tool-less but it takes longer than on HP or Lenovo 1L PCs.
Another upgrade in this generation is the move from the Intel Q470 in the 7080 Micro to the Intel Q570 chipset. Our system is a 35W TDP CPU unit, but Dell offers versions with 65W TDP CPUs that we expect have more robust cooling.
There is a small speaker in this system. Normally we do not discuss the speakers, but the image came back from Nikki who edited this photo with perhaps the funniest caption we have on STH, so it made the cut for this review.
Next, we are going to take a look at the key specs, and performance before getting to our power consumption and final words.