(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Performance is a bit less clear in this comparison. The 20-inch iMac comes in at $1,199, (although with only a 250GB hard drive) and outpaces the Gateway and the Dell on all but the multiprocessor Cinebench test. Decent 20-inch LCDs run about $200 right now, so buying the Gateway plus a new monitor would run you $950. That's a much better deal than the iMac, and the Gateway gives you more storage. If you're serious about content creation, however, the iMac looks more appealing due to its speed.
Compared with the Dell, the Gateway's performance is more or less identical. The Gateway has the edge as a gaming system and for multitasking, but the Dell fares better on our video-editing test. That's likely due to its faster CPU. If you need that raw horsepower for video processing (and you're not considering a true video-editing system), then the Dell is a better choice. As an all-around system, the Gateway gets the edge, not least because of its larger hard drive and room for more memory down the road.
If you're inclined to make upgrades, the DX4200 leaves you with relatively few options. With four occupied memory slots, you'll need to throw at least two sticks away to upgrade further. You get room for one PCI card and one small-size PCI-Express card, as well as room for another hard drive. That's a decent amount of room to grow, just keep things reasonable. The puny 300-watt power supply can only handle so much.
Gateway protects the DX4200 with a standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty. If you want longer protection, you'll need to arrange it with your retailer, which is generally not a good idea. Gateway's toll-free, 24-7 phone line provides call center help, and you can also refer to Gateway's Web site for driver downloads, FAQs, and system-specific info. The BigFix application that comes with the system gives you some self-diagnosis and updating tools as well, in addition to facilitating remote control tech support.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 9550; 6GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI RAdeon HD 3450 graphics card; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 384MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.