It’s difficult to position Dell’s Inspiron 530/2583 within our chart. It may have come in fifth place, but there’s a sense in which it hasn’t really been running the same race: it’s the slowest performer for office applications and it’s a non-starter for games, but it also costs £70 less than its rivals.

We don’t all need the ultimate in performance, and the Dell Inspiron 530/2583 comes with by far the most comprehensive software package for getting the novice user up to speed – including getting set up on the internet.

Once you’ve gone through the initial setup, the Dell Inspiron 530/2583 presents you with a desktop festooned with icons and a handy application dock, providing almost Mac-like access to your favourite programs.

The Dell Inspiron 530/2583’s 19in AOC monitor is a tidy-looking but basic display that goes well with the gently curved silver styling of the system case. A useful bank of four USB ports and a pair of audio connectors sit concealed behind a sliding panel on the front of the Inspiron’s case.

However, if you’re more interested in getting the best hardware for your money, you may be a little disappointed with the Dell Inspiron 530/2583.

The 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4700 is a little faster in terms of core speed than the 2.53GHz model found in the Mesh Pulse 8600 GT, yet the Dell Inspiron 530/2583 is considerably slower in our WorldBench 6 tests. This is due partly to it having only 2GB of RAM compared to the Mesh's 4GB and the fact that it’s of the slower DDR2-667 type. The onboard Intel graphics also fall far short of what you’ll need to play even basic 3D games.

The Dell Inspiron 530/2583’s tiny system case is a great space-saving design, but it’s also very cramped inside and not really designed for upgrading. However, there’s a pair of spare memory slots and space to upgrade the graphics card, should you get bitten by the gaming bug later on.

Budget desktop PCs: chart ranking (Nov 08 issue)

  1. Arbico Elite 8595
  2. Chillblast Javelin
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 850
  4. Mesh Pulse 8600 GT
  5. Dell Inspiron 530/2583

>> Next page: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Budget desktop PCs: buying advice (Nov 08 issue)

Processor: Even at this price, you can find some extremely fast processors. Among the excellent, affordable chips available, Intel’s superb Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice – two of the systems in this chart feature it. Prices should drop now that the E8600 has become available.

Lower-cost alternatives include the E7000 and E4000 series of chips, although these offer weaker performance at any given clock speed.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB of RAM is almost a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it. The bulk of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. And check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage:
You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 320GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later. If you’re planning to upgrade hard drives internally, make sure you’ve got enough free drive bays in your system case.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB at once, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for some of the new 22-speed models.

Flat-panel: PC manufacturers have to make compromises to squeeze machines into this category and often start with the monitor. But you don’t want to spend all of your computing time looking at a poor-quality display.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good enough at this price. Look for a monitor with a digital DVI or HDMI connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one too.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for £300 or £400, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. Nonetheless, the best machines in this category come with decent cards.

You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50fps if you’re going to be playing games – 70fps or 80fps is better still. The fastest chip in this price range is the GeForce 9800 GT, but including one may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 9600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, but they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.0 games. They’ve got plenty of pace to tackle today’s games.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price. Most motherboards have decent built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer), but most people will be happy with stereo two-channel audio. You won’t necessarily get separate speakers or a sub at all.

Dell Inspiron 530/2583: Specs

  • 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4700
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Dell Inspiron 530 motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in AOC N19WB (0.258mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • integrated Intel GMA X3000 graphics (games scores: Crysis = 0fps
  • Fear = 4fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 9.0
  • one-year in-home warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 97
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4700
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Dell Inspiron 530 motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in AOC N19WB (0.258mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • integrated Intel GMA X3000 graphics (games scores: Crysis = 0fps
  • Fear = 4fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 9.0
  • one-year in-home warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 97

OUR VERDICT

The Dell Inspiron 530/2583 might be considerably slower than the other systems here, but it costs a whopping £70 less, is perfect for novice users - and there is some room for upgrades later on.

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