Too cool for school, but not the office
There's no doubt that Dell's Vostro line-up of PCs is good-looking. The 410, in particular, is black and svelte, with glossy trim and concealed ports. It's easy to forget that this is a PC that is essentially aimed at the small to medium business market, because it looks like it would fit in nicely in a home environment.
- Standard ATX case, quad-core CPU, four USB ports on the front, looks stylish
- Could use more PCI Express slots, runs 667MHz RAM instead of 800MHz, doesn't have eSATA, USB ports are not flush with the front panel and could be awkward to use if the unit is placed at floor level
This PC is worthy of consideration if you want something zippy and good-looking, not to mention easy to maintain and upgrade, for the office.
Price$ 1,890.00 (AUD)
It doesn't just look good; it's also a functional PC, with four USB 2.0 ports, as well as a media card reader and audio ports located on its front panel. Meanwhile, the inside of the case sports a standard ATX form factor. There's no upside-down motherboard, topsy-turvy drive bays with clippie things or anything else proprietary. That means if it ever breaks down and it's out of warranty, you can easily work on it with a screwdriver, and without having to get back in touch with Dell to procure parts.
However, unlike a custom-built system from your home-grown PC shop down the road, the Vostro 410 probably won't have all the modern conveniences that you might require. This might be OK for a business environment where upgrades may occur every time Haley's comet passes the Earth, but we'll dwell a little on it as we think home users might also be interested in this PC.
While its motherboard is of the full-sized ATX variety, it is still reliant on numerous PCI slots. It has three of these slots, and the same number of PCI Express slots. Its biggest PCIe slot houses an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT-based graphics card, and there are two PCIe x1 slots underneath it. Chances are you might not need to use a PCIe x4 or x8 slot during this PC's lifetime, but we think one more long PCIe slot should have been included. We do like the fact that Dell offers an 802.11g wireless card (although we do wish there was a draft-n offering), which makes it ready for hooking up to a wireless network straight out of the box.
Dell has done away with IDE ports on this motherboard (DG33A01), which is based on Intel's G33 chipset and I/O Controller Hub 9, but still includes a floppy disk controller. There are eight ready-to-use USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, as well as six SATA ports, and all of them were occupied in our test machine, which was decked out with four 160GB hard drives (WD1600AAJS-75PSA0) but not in a RAID array. We also got a DVD-ROM drive along with a DVD burner. Luckily, Dell machines are customisable, so you can decide the amount and type of drives you want installed.
The computer features an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU that runs at 2.4GHz, and it has 2GB of DDR2, 667MHz RAM. There are two free slots for expansion, but the 410 ships with the 32-bit version of Windows Vista, which won't recognise more than 3GB of RAM anyway.
The Vostro 410 breezed through our WorldBench 6 applications, scoring 105, and it would've been even faster if the drives were set up in a RAID 0 array. It also recorded a time of 1min 6sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, which is bang on the money for its CPU. Basically, all you need to know is that this system will easily handle office applications, even photo and video editing suites, and with its GeForce 8800 GT card it won't burden your system RAM; it will also let you run a few games when you've got some downtime.
It's worth noting that the 8800 GT is very much last year's technology. A card based on the 9800 chip would offer more grunt, but for this there is Dell's XPS range of PCs, which are aimed at gamers instead of businesses (unless your business is games, of course).
As for comfort, the system ships with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is weirdly shaped and it has media controls, which are probably unnecessary for a business environment. Meanwhile the mouse is even weirder: its buttons are not separate to the main body of the mouse, and the design of the mouse itself is long and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the left-click button refused to single-click, forcing us to do a little troubleshooting. The best part about these two devices is their wireless nature, which is handy in an office environment. We just wish they were more comfortable.
Heat shouldn't be a problem for this machine. It has one 12cm extraction fan at the rear and venting at the front near the hard drives. A fan at the front wouldn't go astray, especially if you opt to install four hard drives. However, for most businesses one large fan should be enough. The rear fan, along with the power supply, CPU and graphics card fans, combine to produce very little noise at all, apart from a slight whirr, and the Western Digital drives in our test machine are quiet by design.
The machine will consume 80-90W of electricity when idle, and 17W when switched off but still plugged in to an outlet. Our test configuration costs $1890, but this is with two 320GB drives instead of the four 160GB drives we tested it with, and it also comes with a 20in Dell E207WFP LCD monitor. The price includes delivery and Dell can also recycle your old monitor for free.
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