With the dire news about Circuit City this week, our roundup of off-the-shelf desktops seems even more apt. We put our hands on 10 mainstream PCs earlier this month, between a few different price and product categories. All are fixed configurations, which makes buying and reviewing them easier, as accounting for various configurable options falls to the wayside. We were also happily surprised to find 64-bit Vista in all but the two lowest-end systems. (sorry Mac fans, apparently Apple doesn't know how to make "junk.") Of them all, we found four you'll want to check out first.
$400 to $500
Of the three systems in this price range, we liked Dell's $499 Inspiron 530s best. It's on the more expensive end of the scale, but it's also faster than PCs that cost $50 to $100 more. On top of its speed, we also liked its large 320GB hard drive. Unlike the eMachines and HP Compaq PCs (each $399), the Dell also includes 64-bit Vista, which, combined with its 4GB of RAM (the 32-bit PCs only have 3GB), will have a noticeable positive impact on multitasking and switching between applications. We hope to see wireless networking come to slim towers in this price range soon, but alas, this Dell does not include it.
Dell Inspiron I530S-114B… Read more
The machines are as different as any two Netbooks can be. The Acer runs Windows XP, the Asus runs Linux. The Asus has an SSD, the Acer a traditional hard disk. The Asus supports Wi-Fi N, the Acer doesn't. The smaller Acer machine has a weaker battery and was significantly cheaper.
But the picture above points out other differences (see a larger version of the picture).
The smaller Acer has a 9-inch screen, the larger Asus is 10 inches (approximately). Measuring the other sides of the triangle, the Acer screen is (approximately) 7.5 by 4.5 inches, whereas the Asus screen is 8.5 by 5 inches. Both screens have the all-but standard Netbook resolution of 1024 x 600, which means that everything is just a bit bigger and easier to see on the Asus machine. … Read more
If you're buying a budget computer, it's worth your time to look into the Compaq Presario SR5610f desktop. It's not far off from a barebones machine, and you don't get a ton of extra features, but the price is so low that it's hard to complain. You get a dual-core 2.5GHz AMD processor, 3 gigs of ram, an integrated video card, and a 320GB hard drive, which should be enough power to get you through the standard applications, stuff like word processing, streaming video, mp3 playback, etc...but you definitely shouldn't expect it … Read more