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Quality, Style, and Reliability
easy to set up and use, quiet running, upgrades well worth the small cost
getting used to Vista, but that's me
Ease of use
Value For Money
Memory / capacityExcellent
Range of Extra FeaturesExcellent
Instruction manualVery useful
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It finally happened. The time had finally arrived when our trusty seven year old Compaq died and required resurrecting via yet another reformat. Though it worked well, it was woefully our of date, and money allowed it, so we decided to splurge on a shiny new PC for me and pass the dinosaur on to my son. We decided to go with Dell, as the prices looked good, financing was easy and on extremely reasonable terms, and we had heard good things about them for years from friends and family who owned them (including hubby, who snagged a free Dell lappy during the AOL promo). We looked over the various models the Dell web site had to offer, and decided to customise this particular one.
I love to play games on my PC, so I was not willing to settle for the basic onboard graphics that came as standard, so opted to upgrade that bit to the optional ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics card. With 256 of power, the graphics are clear, sharp, and utterly beautiful. When playing SimCity 4, my old PC ran a bit sluggishly when responding to my scrolling across the landscape, with the graphics slowly filling in from grid squares as I wandered across the vista. No such issues with this here. Clear images, and the buildings and trees flow seamlessly as I glide across my map. Of course, having a good graphics card meant that we needed a worthy monitor to view it on, but while I did not want something flashy, I knew I did not want something tidgy either. So, a compromise was reached and I chose to upgrade to the Dell 20 inch wide screen model. With its non glare screen and easy tilt to adjust stand features, it does the card justice. Its large enough view DVDs comfortably from seating several feet away, showing nice, clear images that make my TV seem as Flintstone vintage as it nearly is, but not so large that my desk looks overcrowded or that it shouts "Look at ME, I'm FLASH!".
Now, my old PC was not the most memory heavy and I had not managed to fill it up despite filling it full of my writings, downloads, and game files. We decided though that since the family was growing up, and all in it would be using it, that it would be wise to upgrade the memory that was offered as well, preventing unnecessary opening of the case later to add it in ourselves. We added the maximum amount of memory that was offered, and I have to say that what was there quite stunned me. It is, to put it non technically, GI-NORMOUS. Likewise the size of the new hard drive, 640 GB to our previous 80 GB made me stare. I have no idea what we shall do to use up all that space, but hey, previous experience tells me that if it is out there, programmers write to take advantage of it, so we took the bite to save us hassle later.
The basic version of the 530s comes with Windows Vista Basic. Ha, hubby got fooled by his wallet into not upgrading with his free lappy the first time, and regretted it, paying to upgrade the Vista afterwards. Basic lacks a lot of functionality one takes for granted with Windows, like being able to watch pod casts. This in mind, we elected to get Windows Vista Ultimate, and it is pretty good, though I am still getting the feel of the OS, having been used to XP all this time. The basic 530s also comes with a free trial of McAfee Security centre, and you can upgrade to a paid subscription or opt for Norton. We did neither, and as soon as this baby was set up, removed the MacAfee and installed the Comodo Pro and AVG we have been happy to use for the past several years.They work fine with this version of Vista, just be aware that if you opt for Zone Alarm you must specifically download the Vista version of Zone Alarm though for Vista or you will find the installation aborts. Also, Vista Ultimate is 64 bit , so ZA is a no go for that version (hence the Comodo Pro, another free, high quality firewall).
One of the things that I am not entirely complacent with though is the DVD drive. It works great, but I find it a bit niggly installing a DVD or cd rom in sideways, as we bought the slimline case version. The disc sits looking slightly proud of the indentation it is supposed to sit in, put seems to go in alright without any problems. The sideways installation of the drive is necessary because of the slim line case, which is so overall sleek and petite that I can overlook this foible and no doubt will become quite used to it. It runs quietly though, and the optical drive has had no issues reading older DVDs that are lightly scratched. The other drive is the 19 in 1 media card reader, with no other open bays, so you cannot easily place a second DVD drive in. This is no big deal though as the old PC has two DVD drives, so one can easily be pulled out and placed in an external case for those rare occasions when we have need of it. It is not that big a deal, and quite honestly, looking back I can count on three fingers the last time I required two drives at once.
The Dell keyboard and mouse we opted for are the wired ordinary sort. You can upgrade to various others, including optical, but I have a personal pet peeve with the wireless gadgets going kaput on me in mid use and running about finding who put the batteries where after they last got the pack out.We do use rechargeables, but can anyone remember to put things back in the drawer I have allocated for the charger, the uncharged, and the container for recharged ones ready to go...NO. I have to hold my hand up and confess I am also one of those guilty parties.
Now, this PC does not have a TV tuner card and not wishing to put one in, and only using this for the occasional DVD viewing, it was decided to go with the basic Dell A225 speakers. I have to give them kudos here as I was a trifle worried about making that choice. In the past, basic speakers have either been tinny or just fine. Luckily, Dell went for quality and these little speakers produce quality sound.It's not surround sound, or HD sound but it has utter clarity and doesn't squeal, squelch, hiss, crackle, or pop. The lack of buzzing is much appreciated, I can tell you! The speakers did not let down the 7.1 channel high def sound card as far as my untrained ear could tell, so I can only imagine what the upgraded entertainment centre speakers would provide.
If ordering this from Dell so that you can customise it; the option is there to have a modem, no modem, a router, or a wireless network card. Already having a wireless network set up via a modem router, we opted for the internal PCI wireless network card. This came ready to go, and after following the super easy instructions plugging the few wires between the monitor, PC tower case with colour coded ports to match the plugs that went into them, the power outlets, was ready to go with just the little antenna needing to be screwed onto the rear. Switching on the PC, it booted up ready to use, and informed me a network was available to connect to. Giving it the network pass code to log on to our home network, all that was then necessary was the installation of our Internet provider's software and the printer drivers for our pre-existing printer.Well, that and uninstalling the MacAffee trail and dl the replacements. Other software included Microsoft Works 9.0, though you can opt to upgrade to MS Office. I did not wish to do this as Open Office works just as well, is free, and compatible with existing Office documents. Dell considerately included discs for all the software and drivers that are installed, with the Vista product key in an unobtrusive sticker on the top rear of the tower, should we ever have to reformat. Hopefully that will not be for quite some time.
The PC runs quietly and shows a quick response to requested commands thanks to the Intel dual processor inside (Intel core 2 Duo E8400 to be precise). It's slim profile and the lack of bulk with the flat panel monitor means my desk not only looks less crowded, but I have more actual space. That's really nice, as my desk is a vintage 1950's oak desk, so having more of it to look at adds to the pleasure. Adding to the unobtrusiveness of the tech is the two drive doors, which conceal the DVD drive and the 19 in 1 media thingmabob. Stylishly silver faced with glossy white sides, black mouse, keyboard, and black with silver monitor, stand, and speakers means it matches the rest of my desktop gear, those being the current "in" colours seemingly for office ware. My stapler, Skype phone and Canon all in one printer therefore match, giving a harmonious overall effect that pleases without dominating the room it is placed in.
You can pick up the bog standard of one of these from Tesco and other places who have bulk purchased for reselling, but to take advantages of the upgrade options and whatnot, you have to order directly from Dell. This doesn't mean you pay more. In fact, this PC was £70 off, and spec for spec, was better value that other models we saw elsewhere, Dell or not.When purchasing, you can request financing and get an instant answer, or pay in full just as you would with Tesco. Dell famously build their PCs one order at a time, and despite ordering on a Sunday evening, come the Friday morning my PC was not only built, but delivered to my front door.Each step of the way I was able to track the status of my order, so I knew the moment a worker began putting the PC together, to when it was packed, then placed on a lorry, arrived at the distribution centre, and picked up by the courier, who then rang me to arrange for delivery.he entire process was as simple as could be, from ordering, to set up, to use. My seven year old finds it simple to use and navigate as I do, so I am sure this is going to be one item that was well worth the investment. For the upgraded specs we put in, expect to pay about £719.99 including VAT and delivery. That may sound like a lot, but really it is amazing how much cheaper electronics have gotten in price, as seven years ago we grabbed a great deal on our PC, and it's price tag was double that. Good value, and high quality.