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We investigate full-field detection-based maximum- likelihood sequence estimation (MLSE) for chromatic dispersion compensation in 10 Gbit/s OOK optical communication systems. Important design criteria are identified to optimize the system performance. It is confirmed that approximately 50% improvement in transmission reach can be achieved compared to conventional direct-detection MLSE at both 4 and 16 states. It is also shown that full-field MLSE is more robust to the noise and the associated noise amplifications in full-field reconstruction, and consequently exhibits better tolerance to nonoptimized system parameters than full-field feedforward equalizer. Experiments over 124 km spans of field-installed single-mode fiber without optical dispersion compensation using full-field MLSE verify the theoretically predicted performance benefits.