So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Dell Inspiron 545s slimline desktop PC
A classy Dell desktop that skimps on connectivity
- Good performance, attractive design, easily upgradeable
- Outmoded graphics card, not much in the way of connectivity
When it comes to processing power and overall performance, the Dell Inspiron 545s is a reasonable proposition for the asking price. However, it lacks ports that some users might consider essential. All in all, an average effort.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
The Dell Inspiron 545s is a slimline desktop PC designed to give your peers and workmates fashion envy. Sleek, shiny and aggressively colourful, it falls into the same ‘look at me’ camp as Apple’s curvier offerings. It will serve as an office desktop or a general purpose PC for the home — though gaming is not its forte. It’s also a little stingy when it comes to connectivity, with no FireWire, eSATA or VGA outputs (some versions don’t even come with HDMI). Nevertheless, it remains a reasonable PC for the asking price, showing decent results in our benchmarks. If you need something for casual everyday use, it’ll get the job done.
When we first laid eyes on the Dell Inspiron 545s we were a little surprised by its size. Measuring 433x106x378mm and weighing in at 7.3kg, it’s fairly obtrusive for a slimline PC. Unlike some other models we’ve tested — such as the MSI Wind Top AE1900 (MS-6638) and HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A — it doesn’t leave much room on your desktop for superfluous knickknacks. [Is there any other kind? -- Ed.] On the plus side, this helps to keep the system nicely ventilated and frees up room for additional components. (Four memory slots are included on the motherboard, along with a 16x PCI Express card slot, two standard PCI slots and a 1x PCI Express slot.) Adding to its versatility, the Inspiron 545s can be laid either flat or vertically – though it takes up a chunk of room either way.
The Dell Inspiron 545s comes in a range of eight colours, although you’ll need to pay an additional $45 for anything other than black. It’s actually only the faceplate that gets the colour treatment, with the rest of the PC remaining dark and boring. Consequently, we’re not sure whether the fancy finish is worth the additional dosh. The Dell Inspiron 545s also comes with a 20in widescreen flat panel monitor, which wasn’t sent out with our test unit. A mouse, USB keyboard and pair of stereo speakers are also included in the price tag. While nothing to write home about, they all did a workmanlike job.
Like most desktops, the Dell Inspiron 545s can be custom built to suit your particular needs. The version we tested came with a dual-core Intel E2220 CPU running at 2.4GHz, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, a 750GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card. These are sturdy specifications for a slimline desktop in this price range: it will be able to multitask and edit images effortlessly and will also make a capable edit suite for HD video (but only if you’re using USB — more on this later).
Dell has also included the option to add a Blu-ray reader for a $275 premium. This is an enticing extra, though we would have liked to see a BD burner offered too. As it stands, you can only use the Inspiron 545s for watching BD discs. The unit’s multimedia leanings are let down further by its sparse connectivity: VGA, FireWire and eSATA are all conspicuously absent. This means you’ll need to purchase an adaptor for older monitors, while MiniDV-based video is out the window. Whether this will affect the average user is debatable, but it’s definitely something to be mindful of. Otherwise, the Dell Inspiron 545s comes with the standard array of connections, including six USB 2.0 ports (two in front, four on the back), Ethernet, 7.1 HD audio and an HDMI output (microphone and headphone jacks are also naturally included).
In our benchmarks, the Dell Inspiron 545s gave a reasonable, if predictable, performance. In our WorldBench 6 test suite, it received an overall score of 88. It will be able to multitask while running Windows Vista without breaking much of a sweat (mind you, the same thing could be said about most all-purpose notebooks). In 3D Mark 06, the Dell Inspiron 545s returned a score of 1780. Again, this is nothing to get too excited about. If you’re keen to play the latest 3D computer games, we’d recommend upgrading the ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card to something a little beefier (just ensure it fits inside the case before you buy it).
All up, the Dell Inspiron 545s is a reasonable offering that ticks most boxes on the casual shopper's wishlist. By the same token, it's completely unremarkable in most respects.
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