Dell Inspiron I530-120B
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|
|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.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
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.
Expandability inside the Dell is basic, and in line with what we expect in a system in this price class. You get a single PCI Express graphics card slot, a quarter-length PCI Express 1x slot, and two standard PCI inputs, although one is occupied by a 56K modem. All four RAM slots come occupied, but you do have room to add a second internal hard drive.
Like all of its systems, Dell covers the Inspiron I530-120B with a one year parts and labor warranty and 24-7 toll free phone support. This is also on par with the rest of the industry. You can also find help on Dell's Web site, which has system-specific support, driver downloads, FAQs, and other features.
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Dell Inspiron I530-120B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB Samsung 7,200rpm hard drive
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.8GHz AMD Phenom X4 9100e; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Pavilion a6700y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.8GHz AMD Phenom X4 9150e; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia Geforce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 500GB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion a6750y
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9650; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 750GB, 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive