I DEEM THIS DELL DESKTOP (AT $429) A VERITABLE STEAL

Dell™ Inspiron 3000 (i3847-3846BK) Desktop Computer With 4th Gen Intel® Core™ i3 Processor

DELL DESKTOP PIC

Pros: Manyfeatures, such as: 8 GB DDR3 RAM; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i3-4130 dual-core, “4-way-processing” CPU; crisp HDMI digital video; 1TB-capacity HD; wireless connectivity; Bluetooth 4.0 interface; 8 USB ports; 8-in-1 media reader; Windows 8.1 64-bit OS; etc.

Cons: The preinstalled 8 gigs of RAM isn’t expandable [but most consumers will never need more]. The keyboard’s nothing special [hence I’ve substituted Microsoft’s ergonomic “Sculpt” model.

 

Around November 2005, I bought my prior PC—a Compaq Presario SR1620NX “Windows XP” Desktop—which continues to function (barely) adequately to this day (though only because I added, by 2008, 1GB of RAM to its measly 512 MB of original, preinstalled RAM). Unfortunately, Microsoft’s vital, intermittent “security updates” for Windows XP will soon cease (on April 8). Therefore, last weekend at my neighborhood Office Depot store, I nabbed the subject of this review–which was briefly and luckily on sale for only $429 but regularly retails around $500.

This Dell desktop PC seems more than sufficient for my “average” purposes. First, it was relatively affordable. The last time I spent much more than $400 for a PC was in 2000, when I shelled out roughly $900 for an ostensibly “deluxe” HP desktop model that abruptly died just three years later. The moral of that story is—when it comes to computers–you don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes buying “middle-of-the-road” (as opposed to leading-edge) componentry ends up being the most logical compromise for a judiciously frugal consumer. That said, going to the opposite extreme can be unwise: My ensuing (2003) dirt-cheap eMachines desktop expired after a mere year and a half, and the moral of that tale is “don’t count on longevity from an (entry-level) eMachines PC.”

By contrast, the abovementioned 2005 Compaq desktop, for a middling “$409” (not including my aforementioned, roughly 50-dollar upgrade of its original RAM) delivered nearly nine years of decent service; and my expectation is that this similarly priced Dell desktop will deliver a comparably big bang for my buck.

The dual-core i3 processor, according to Intel, features their Hyper-Threading Technology that enables each core of the processor to work on two tasks simultaneously. Thus this Dell PC can provide excellent performance for multitasking. I must say that switching from my old Win XP PC to this Dell—and then switching temporarily back to my Compaq PC of yesteryear—has readily highlighted the differences in performance. No, this Dell doesn’t implement an Intel “i5” (much less a leading-edge “i7”) processor; even so, when it comes to speed and power,  this “4-way-processing” CPU is very respectably “close enough” to its costlier Intel siblings’ performance benchmarks.

The hard drive’s generous capacity of 1 terabyte (1000 GB) strikes me as a case of overkill. The majority of consumers will never require even half that much HD space.

This desktop includes one “tray-loading” optical disc drive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs. Moreover, directly beneath that drive there’s a matching, empty bay into which you could easily install a second such disc drive.

Since so many peripheral devices nowadays connect via “USB,” it’s good that this Dell desktop includes enough such ports. There are two “USB 3.0” ports on the rear panel; and there’s a total of six “USB 2.0” ports (two behind a closable door on the front panel; and 4 on the rear panel). Of course, if you end up needing even more ports, external “USB hubs” are cheaply and ubiquitously available.

Fortuitously, this Dell Inspiron 3000 desktop perfectly interfaces with the Dell (model S2440L) 24-inch flat-panel LED monitor that I bought last year (to replace an early-2006, 19-inch CRT that had gradually died). Since that Dell LED monitor boasts HDMI connectivity but came with only a VGA cable, I initially tested the latter analog connection with this Dell PC’s analogous VGA port. The result was “satisfactory.” Nonetheless, I wasted no time buying an HDMI cable (almost 13 bucks at Walmart) and, upon connecting it to this PC’s HDMI port, I was gratified to behold the resulting 1080p digital video, which was noticeably sharper and brighter. Thus, after an initial bit of fiddling with the monitor’s brightness and contrast controls, the onscreen text seems optimally easy on my eyes.

Physically, this sizable-yet-wieldy Dell desktop PC, which was “assembled in Mexico” and whose case is suitably constructed of (mostly) steel, is, thankfully, much more lightweight (17.4 pounds)—and somewhat less tall (14 & 3/8”)—than my 2005 Compaq desktop (15.5”).

The included USB mouse functions fine and feels at least satisfactory, if not quite as absolutely ergonomic as the best mouse I’ve ever grasped.

And the included, typical, USB keyboard will perhaps satisfybut not necessarily delight–the majority of users. Its shallow, chiclet keys’ tactile response is, arguably, “okay.” That said, I myself find any “standard” (non-ergonomic) keyboard configuration well-nigh unusable for comfortable touch typing with accuracy and speed. Hence, for my prior PC, I’d long substituted a fully ergonomically sculpted Microsoft “Natural Elite” keyboard whose configuration helps prevent/ameliorate symptoms of carpel-tunnel syndrome, which I would somewhat manifest after protracted use of any “ordinary” keyboard.

In this vein, I initially tried using a generic “USB-to-PS2” adapter to attach my approximately ten-year-old, white (Natural Elite) Microsoft ergo keyboard (which has no USB plug). However, upon powering this Dell PC back on, I disappointedly saw that that “adapter” approach totally failed (absolutely zero keyboard-connectivity/functionality resulted). Hence I recently bought–via Amazon–a more recent (“Sculpt” model), black version of Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboard using its own USB dongle. The latter Microsoft product is proving not only satisfactorily functionally but also gratifyingly stylishly compatible with this Dell PC.

Since getting this PC, I’ve done lots of web-navigating (via an average cable-broadband connection), and such things as lengthy videos (via YouTube, etc.) run smoothly and gratifyingly. You can have more than a few windows open simultaneously with no significant slowdown in functionality, and multitasking of word processing and other “office” applications poses no problems whatsoever. Along with the “Internet Explorer 11” web browser, I’ve routinely simultaneously run sundry common desktop applications, such as the word processor, spreadsheet, and database included in the freely downloadable “LibreOffice 4.2” [because my formerly used (Win XP-compatible) “Microsoft Office 2000” won’t work with Win 8.1, and I’m loath to pay Microsoft “lifelong” rent for a more recent edition of their present-day “Office”]. However, I’ve not been using this PC for such potentially highly video-resources-demanding stuff as advanced graphical/video processing or cutting-edge videogaming.

You’ll surely appreciate this PC’s quietness. Unlike my prior, 2005 Compaq desktop PC–whose “fan hum” and (especially) “hard-drive noise” could be somewhat audible in a quiet room–this new Dell PC is virtually silent. Thus, whenever I want to know if the hard drive’s busy, my ears tell me nearly nothing, and I must glance at the pertinent little front-panel-light indicator.

It’s also worth noting that this PC’s preinstalled Windows 8.1 (unlike the nefarious Windows 8.0) not only makes it easy to default-boot to a traditional “desktop” screen (instead of a newfangled, controversial “tiles” user interface) but also resurrects the long-familiar, mouse-clickable “start” button. With a modicum of initial tweaking, Windows 8.1 will have the majority of longtime desktop-PC users feeling reasonably happy and comfortable.

Bottom line, at less than $500 this Dell desktop model should more than suffice for the majority of judiciously frugal and reasonably tech-savvy consumers whose PC-usage requirements are less than “leading-edge.”

***

ADDENDUM:  “Product Features” List (thanks to BestBuy.com):

4th Gen Intel® Core™ i3-4130 processor
Features a 3MB cache and 3.4GHz processor speed.

Intel® Core™ i3 processor
Features smart 4-way processing performance for HD quality computing. Intel® HD graphics are built into Intel’s smart new processors.

8GB DDR3 memory
For multitasking power.

Multiformat DVD±RW/CD-RW drive
Create custom DVDs and CDs.

1TB Serial ATA hard drive (7200 rpm)
Offers spacious storage and fast read/write times.

Intel® HD graphics
Feature integrated video memory for lush images with rich detail. HDMI output enables simple connection to an HDTV or high-definition display.

8-in-1 media reader
Supports Secure Digital, High Speed Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMediaCard, MultiMediaCard Plus and xD-Picture Card formats.

2 USB 3.0 and 6 USB 2.0 ports
For fast digital video, audio and data transfer.

Built-in Dell Wireless LAN (802.11a/b/g/n)
Connect to the Internet without wires.

Bluetooth 4.0 interface
Easily link with other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a cell phone or MP3 player.

Built-in 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN
With RJ-45 connector enables quick and easy wired Web connection.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit operating system preinstalled
Provides a stable platform for word processing, Web navigation, gaming, media storage and more.

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