Dell Inspiron 530-115B review: Dell Inspiron 530-115B

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The Good Fastest desktop in its price range; large hard drive; decent amount of upgrade room.

The Bad Limited variety of external ports; slower PCs with similar specifications available for less.

The Bottom Line This Best Buy-version of the Dell Inspiron may look unremarkable, but thanks to its fast Intel CPU it's also the best performing desktop PC in its sub-$600 price class. Other budget PCs might have fancier bells and whistles, but we like this desktop for its cheap speed.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Dell's Inspiron 530 may be the best PC deal on store shelves. Thanks to an aggressive CPU and hard-drive selection, this $599 desktop outclasses its competition, delivering the best performance we've seen in a desktop for less $600. It also provides an instructive lesson regarding processor speed versus processing cores and what you get from each at this price. If speed isn't your primary concern, you can find PCs with comparable or better features for less. If you're looking for fast, affordable performance, the Inspiron 530 is a bargain.

Back in April, we reviewed the Inspiron 530 in a different configuration available from Dell's online store. This one comes off the shelf of Best Buy, and as such, its features cannot be customized prepurchase.

Like most lower-end PCs, the Inspiron 530 offers little in the way of fancy extras or groundbreaking new technology. Its design is thoroughly standard, with the exception of its hard-drive cage. Unlike most PCs, where you slide the hard drives in and out like a cartridge, the hard drives in this system mount flat against an internal panel. This design causes no operational difference, and like most budget desktops, you still get room to add an extra internal hard drive.

  Dell Inspiron 530 Gateway GT5692
Price $599 $569
CPU 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8450
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip 256MB (shared) AMD Radeon 3200 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 640GB 7,200rpm 500GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

We'll compare the Inspiron 530 with the Gateway GT5692, a system with a triple-core AMD CPU we reviewed a few months ago. Among the features the two have in common, each comes with 4GB of RAM, 64-bit Windows, and integrated video chips. And while the Gateway is $30 cheaper, it has a significantly slower CPU, as well as a smaller hard drive. The Gateway's Gigabit Ethernet jack is an advantage if you transfer a lot of large data files over your home network, but for most single system network traffic, the Dell's 10/100 network jack is fast enough.

What we like most about the Inspiron 530 is its fast Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 dual-core processor. At 2.66GHz, its clock speed is faster than almost any other PC in this price range. You may have heard that with dual-core and quad-core CPUs out there, clock speeds matter less these days. To a certain extent that's true. But horsepower will still get you some benefit, especially when everything else in its class is significantly slower.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron 530

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron 530

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron 530

CineBench test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Dell Inspiron 530
Acer Aspire X3200
Gateway GT5692
HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f
Dell Inspiron 530s

We expected the Dell would outperform the Gateway on certain tests, but we admit we're surprised at both the multitasking and the CineBench multicore CPU scores. Both of those tests tend to favor core volume over processor speed. It seems that because of its much higher clock speed, the Dell was able to overcome any performance benefit the 2.1GHz triple-core AMD chip provides the Gateway. The Inspiron 530 is easily the best-performing PC among systems we've tested in the $450 to $600 price range over the last few months.

Keep in mind that we haven't reviewed every system in this price bracket, and more recent PCs have hit store shelves since we wrote about the Gateway GT5692. The Gateway DX4710-05, for example, has similar specifications to the Dell, including the same hard drive for $509, but with a slower Intel CPU. That system is attractive if you care more about features than performance. We'll be reviewing that model and a newer PC from HP in the next week or so.

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