The Dell Inspiron i580-5108NBC is an ideal match for users with computing habits that lean toward general applications like simple Internet surfing, word processing, and light media editing. Its 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 560 CPU is well equipped to handle applications like iTunes and Photoshop, and it excelled against the competition in a multitasking environment as well. Dell includes a decent 3D graphics card for casual gaming, but keeps the system affordable with an $830 price tag. If you haven’t figured it out by now, we recommend this versatile system for shoppers on a flexible budget that want more functionality than what a low-grade budget computer can offer.
Unfortunately, spending the extra money for this i560-5108NBC will net you the same basic tower case that you get on the cheaper Inspiron i560-4000NBK, but we’re not complaining too much. The simple black finish is elegantly subtle, if not a little bland, especially compared with a competing Asus tower. Aesthetics aside, the PC’s front panel offers quite a bit of utility via a media card reader with two USB ports and a couple audio jacks, in addition to a dual-layer DVD burner on top and an additional optical drive below.
For $70 more, the HP Pavilion Elite HPE-112Y and its AMD CPU gives you two more physical cores than the Dell, but it steps down to a 2.8GHz clock speed that hurts its capability to compete in all four performance tests including the multithreading Cinebench test that usually caters to systems with more cores. HP includes a Blu-ray drive as a consolation prize, and though it’s a reasonably well-rounded system overall, we think most general PC shoppers will favor the faster Dell.
The Dell i580-5108NBC jumps to the front of the pack in single applications, like the iTunes and Photoshop tests, as well as the multimedia multitasking test, thanks to its relatively new Intel Core i5 560 chip, another dual-core processor similar to Core i3 that can shift to a four-threaded design when needed. The only test where Dell steps out of first place is the single and multicore Cinebench test, where its faster processor isn’t enough to outgun the HP Pavilion Elite p6320y’s four physical cores, although this score should only sway your decision if you use video-encoding programs that demand full use of a multicore chip.
The i580-5108NBC also offers plenty of connections on the motherboard to satiate the majority of mainstream computer users. The Nvidia GeForce 220GT discreet graphics card should suffice for casual gaming on lowered settings, although hardcore gamers will need to upgrade to enjoy the latest games at a playable rate. There’s also room inside the case for another PCI card and hard drive, but we’re miffed to see FireWire and eSATA missing from the external ports; it’s not the end of the world, but it’s worth noting that you can find them on the less expensive Gateway DX4831-01e. Regardless, the back of the tower supports a variety of displays with VGA, DVI, and an HDMI port. You also get a handful of USB ports, Ethernet, as well as the standard fare of 7.1 analog audio jacks.
We don’t typically recommend a midtower like the i580-5108NBC in the living room, but we certainly appreciate the option that the HDMI port provides. We connected the PC to an HDTV via HDMI and it played full 1080p HD movie trailers from Apple.com as well as full-screen HD video from sites like YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, and Netflix without a glitch.
According to our power consumption tests, the Dell Inspiron i580-5108NBC will cost about $1.88 per month to operate over the course of a year. The Gateway DX4300-15e and the two HP systems trend on the more expensive side, but Dell manages to keep its energy costs relatively low. Though the system still doesn’t earn an Energy Star certification, the cost savings should still come as a boon to eco-minded shoppers.
Dell offers the industry standard year of warranty coverage out of the box, as well as 24-7 toll-free phone support. The system itself comes with a few programs for system monitoring, and the Dell Web site gives you access to a variety of desktop support features including manual downloads, FAQs, and live chat support.