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Spring 2010 retail desktop review roundup: $500 to $600

Results of our retail budget desktop review roundup for spring 2010

The results are in for the budget desktop segment of our spring 2010 retail laptop and desktop review roundup, and kudos to Gateway, whose $549 Gateway DX4831-01e earned 3.5 stars and an Editors' Choice award as well as our overall recommendation for the category. HP's Pavilion p6310y came in second place with a three star review. Dell's Inspiron i545-1125NBK pulls up the rear with two stars.

You can see all the systems in the $500 to $600 category here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why did we like the Gateway so much? It offers the best combination of price, performance, and features in the category. Its 2.93GHz Core i3 530 CPU gives you the fastest performance on single apps among its competition and as well as strong multitasking capability. A 1TB hard drive is the largest in any system costing less than $599, and the breadth of its connectivity--from HDMI and FireWire to eSATA and USB 2.0--lets you use more devices with the Gateway than almost any competing desktop.

For Gateway's competition, the $509 price point was dismal. Dell in particular seems to either have misjudged the retail budget desktop market or decided not to care about it given the utterly weak Inspiron i545-1125NBK, which brought a Pentium Dual Core CPU to a Core i3 fight. More embarrassing is its minimal, dated motherboard that has only a VGA port for video and only a few USB 2.0 jacks to go along with its 5.1 audio and Ethernet input. HP's Pavilion Slimline s5310y wasn't much better.

Although it's not available at brick-and-mortar stores, an honorable mention goes to the Gateway's slim tower cousin, the SX2840-01 available from various online retailers. Offering essentially the same configuration as the DX4831-01e in a slim tower package, the SX2840-01's blend of size, features, and power make it perhaps the perfect living room PC. This system is also $549, and it's essentially the newest version of the SX2800-01 that we raved about throughout the latter half of 2009. Like that older model, the SX2840-01 is an Editors' Choice winner as well.

We have the midrange retail desktops on deck next, so look out for our recommendation from the $600 to $850 price range coming shortly.

More info:
Budget retail PCs compared