capsule review

Dell Dimension E520

At a Glance
  • Dell Dimension E520

    PCWorld Rating

The Dimension E520 may look like its cousin the E521 on the outside, but inside it's a different beast. It has a faster processor, more memory, a bigger hard drive, and a dedicated graphics card that makes it a more desirable proposition for a wider range of activities. But it's also more expensive at $989 (as of November 6, 2006) versus $489.

For the higher price, you get above-average components--including a 200GB hard drive and dual optical drives (a dual-layer DVD burner and a DVD-ROM drive)--and reasonable performance. The system contains a 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor and 1GB of RAM, and it achieved a respectable WorldBench 5 score of 105. That's well above the average mark posted in our roundup of cheap PCs, but it's 29 percent lower than the 148 turned in by the Micro Express MicroFlex 66B.

Still, the E520 is not for gamers. Its nVidia GeForce 7300LE graphics board generated hit-or-miss graphics performance; our test games were playable, barely, at 1024 by 768 resolution. For example, at a resolution of 1280 by 1024 pixels, the system achieved frame rates of 24 frames per second on our Doom 3 test and 32 fps on our Far Cry test.

Like most sub-$1000 PCs, this system doesn't leave you much room for expansion. Housed in a standard Dell Dimension midsize tower case; our test configuration provided a single internal 3.5-inch bay, and two expansion slots (one PCI and one PCI Express x1).

The system is Vista-capable, according to Dell, which offers Vista upgrade information on its site.

Richard Baguley

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Midpriced Windows Media Center PC has strong performance and solid features for the price.

    Pros

    • Equipped with large hard drive
    • Has dual optical drives

    Cons

    • Only one vacant drive bay
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