Taking a look around the inside, as my enthusiast roots always compel me to do, we find quite a peculiar layout with the hard drives hanging sideways down the nearside and a huge gap behind them. I’m guessing the gap is there to promote better airflow, and consequently cooling, but I can’t really see that it would make that much of a difference. In fact, the case could easily have been made a few inches shorter without much effort and without making things too hot.
Elsewhere the insides conform to a very typical layout and if you do fancy upgrading (outside the warranty of course) you shouldn’t have any problems. However you won’t find any quick release mechanisms, hinged drive bays, or any other labour saving devices to aid you.
The system we were sent for review uses Intel’s E6320 CPU, which runs at 1.86GHz and has 4MB of L2 cache, a motherboard based on Intel’s P35 chipset and 1GB of PC-5300 DDR2 RAM. This lot will be plenty for most people and the only thing I might do would be to double up the RAM to 2GB.
Graphics come courtesy a discrete nVidia GeForce 8600 GT card, which is a pretty good match for a cheap home user PC. It will play all current games, the onboard video processing will make HD video playback a breeze, and let’s not forget it will power the oh-so-wonderful Windows Vista Aero desktop. If you really don’t think you’ll be playing any games then you can opt for basic integrated graphics and save yourself £94 (a rip off for an 8600 GT as it happens) but don’t, whatever you do, be tempted by the 8300 GS. Though it will run modern games, they will be so slow as to be unplayable.
Included in the price of the base system is Microsoft Works 8.0 which is fine for most home users’ word processing and spreadsheet needs and you can of course add full versions of Office if you’re willing to stump up the cash. You don’t get any security software free but for as little as £24.99 you can add McAfee Security Centre 8.0 with a 15 month subscription.
Interestingly, given Dell’s recent announcements saying it will offer Linux preinstalled on its PCs and it will restart selling PCs with Windows XP, only two operating system options are available on the website. It’s either Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate for you and me – not even Vista Basic is on offer. That said, I would probably recommend Vista Home Premium to the average user anyway, it’s just nice to have the choice sometimes.