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Nice. Usage of Windows 8 is OK for entry level users but problematic for enthusiasts
on November 30, 2012
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This is a typical consumer minitower with Windows 8 installed (a regular version, not a pro version but you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $70). IMHO Windows 8 is OK for regular users, but can be problematic for power users and enthusiasts. So try any Windows 8 PC without touch screen in store, before you buy this model. A similar model can be bought with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 (see model Dell Inspiron i660-6029BK). For long time Windows users Windows 7 is a safer bet. My feeling is that Windows 8 does not provide return on investment in learning a new interface for those who do not have a touch screen.
This model uses built-in Intel video. There is also a similar model with NVIDIA GT 620 (i660-4032BK). The latter is better for gamers. Does not matter for anybody else.
The tower has one free bay for an additional harddrive, but just two memory slots on the motherboard (both used by 4 GB RAM sticks). It has two USB 3.0 ports which is very important for photo-enthusiasts and for backups of your data. Large drive guarantee that you will not run out of space for a long time (although photo-enthusiasts would be better off by buying additional mirrored USB 3.0 drive or installing the second drive into computer).
Like other consumer oriented Dell machines it is very well built and piano-black looks very attractive on the table (I would say not worse then more expensive OptiPlex 9010 which would be competing Dell offering).
It has regular analog VGA port and HDMI port. So it can support two monitors configuration (you need a cable to convert HDMI to DVI for older monitors to connect the second monitor).
The PC also has a slot for SD cards, for which you often pay extra on other Dell models.
Due to Windows 8 installed booting is very fast (actually instead of full boot Windows 8 simply wakes up from hybernation to cut time). Please note that it has secure boot enabled so to create dual boot environment (I did not tried this myself) you need to disable it first. You might need the second harddrive too. Speed of browsing is limited by speed of your Internet connection. As it has i5 CPU it can perform multiple tasks simultaneously without sweating.
Windows 8 installation makes it more like consumer-oriented appliance that a traditional multi-purpose Windows machine to which line of Microsoft OSes from Windows 3.1 to Windows 7 used to belong. Now there is distinct flavor of Apple-style closed ecosystem. Which many entry-level users might like and enjoy, but which annoy power users and Pc enthusiasts. Tiles that are automatically updated on a new "full-screen" start up screen are actually pretty cute and default installation is populated with Amazon, Ebay, Weather, Finance and other tiles.
If you are a computer science student or just a hobbyist which like to tinker with OS and hardware you might be better served by a similar model with Windows 7(i660-4032BK) which actually is priced lower, or by OptiPlex 9010 which also can be bought with Windows 7 and recovery disks. The latter (OptiPlex 9010) allows hardware mirrowing of hard drives.
But for a regular consumer this is a perfect desktop which will serve 3-5 years without problems. Please note the Windows 8 provide good built-in free virus protection (Windows Defender). I would delete McAfee trial that Dell preinstall as IMHO it's useless and represents Windows insecurity tax which security companies try to force you to pay, but your mileage may vary. In any case do not pay for extension when the trial expire, as built-in protection (Windows Defender) is adequate for most consumers and for those it is inadequate Mcafee will be inadequate too. In view of complexity of modern malware you are better off using a second PC dedicated to financial and other important trasactions instead of paying AV companies for illusionary protection.
Another important thing for consumer is that recovery from virus infections can be much easier due to built in ability of Windows 8 to restore the default configuration. This is a feature of all PCs with Windows 8 installed not only this one.
Note: Keyboard supplied with the machine looks very nice and is adequate for occasional typing. If you spend long hours typing you better change it to more professional keyboard like Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. The same is true about the mouse provided with the tower.