Dell Inspiron I530-120B review: Dell Inspiron I530-120B

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MSRP: $650.00

The Good Strong single-application performance well-suited to large-batch media file conversion; respectable amount of internal upgrade room.

The Bad Multitasking performance from dual-core CPU loses out to quad-core systems that only cost a little more.

The Bottom Line Dell's Inspiron I530-120B is a fine workaday desktop, but we find it could use some more excitement. It has its strengths, and its features are reasonable for its price, but we wish Dell had done more to differentiate this desktop.

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6.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 8

Review Sections

We recently matched this $650 off-the-shelf Dell Inspiron I530-120B against a $560 HP Pavilion a6700y. The results weren't good for HP. But as that HP looked subpar compared with the slightly more expensive Dell, we can make a similar charge against this Dell system when we hold it next to HP's step-up retail model, the $710 Pavilion a6750y. Dell has a respectable offering in the Inspiron I530-120B, especially if you're focused on single-application performance. But if you're willing to spend just a bit more, you'll find that HP will provide you with a better all-around system.

Dell's white and gray cases for both its Inspiron 530 and Inspiron 530S lines have been around for almost two years now, and while neither is outright ugly, they're both starting to feel a bit plain. The DVD burner, a spare optical drive bay, and the media card reader sit tucked behind the front panel doors, in almost the same layout as both HP systems (whose black case has been around almost as long, yet somehow feels less dated). The only difference is HP puts the media card reader right up front on the face of the system, making it more accessible than with Dell's design.

  Dell Inspiron I530-120B HP Pavilion a6750y
Price $650 $710
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650
Memory 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 750GB, 7,200 rpm Seagate 750GB, 7200 rpm Hitachi
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking 10/100 Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless
Operating system 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1

You'll notice a few features differences between these two systems, but each is roughly what we expect to find for its price. With 6GB of RAM, the $650 Dell is arguably the poster child for cheap PCs with lots of memory. We say arguably because the HP gives you 8GB for just $60 more. In addition, the HP has a better complement of networking components. While we chided the HP Pavilion a6700y for including wireless networking when its performance was so mediocre, we don't mind Wi-Fi in the a6750y, because it doesn't feel like you're sacrificing anything to get it. As these are both midtower desktops, we don't think most of you will mind that the Dell lacks Wi-Fi, but for those of you who do want it, the HP provides a worthy alternative.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron I530-120B

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron I530-120B
HP Pavilion a6750y

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion a6750y
Dell Inspiron I530-120B

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Gateway LX6810-01
HP Pavilion a6750y
HP Pavilion a6700y
Dell Inspiron I530-120B
Gateway DX4200-09

Comparing these two systems head-to-head gives us a nice illustration of the benefits of dual-core versus quad-core processors. With the 2.5GHz Intel dual-core chip in the Dell, you can expect fast performance in single applications like iTunes and Photoshop. If you know you'll be converting large batches of media files, for example, the Dell is the best pick in its price range, even better than the $780 Gateway LX6810-01. For more general-purpose computing, however, with several different programs open at once, the HP has a noticeable advantage thanks to its affordable quad-core CPU from AMD.

We mentioned that the Dell features only wired networking, and that's fine, but we wish it had a bit more in the way of external ports. You get the standard complement of analog audio and USB 2.0 ports on the back, but no FireWire, and no eSATA or HDMI jacks. The HP at least has a FireWire input and a DVI video port. The Dell is VGA video output only, so you'll need a DVI-to-VGA adapter if you only have a DVI cable for your monitor.

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