A few months back, I left my public sector role. I had to return my notebook and desktop computer, of course, and so a top priority was to replace them. For myself, a notebook is everything, and I remain ecstatic over my Alienware M17x R3 purchase. It's simply an awesome piece of hardware, and it's served me brilliantly.
I just reminded myself, though, that I never reviewed the desktop computer (I'm glad I took my time, though, as time has changed my opinion for good reason, as you'll see). I suppose that the simplest reason is that I don't use it - it's primarily used by the rest of the family. I had to have a desktop PC to work from home previously, to satisfy OH&S requirements, but otherwise I'm perfectly happy to use my notebook. The same is largely true with my wife and children - unbelievably, they each have notebooks, leading me to reminisce on "ye olde days" when the first computer we had was a Commodore 64, plugged into the lounge room TV - computer usage was a pure luxury.
Nowadays it's essential, and this is underscored by the strong emphasis on computing that my daughters' school shows. I actually resisted giving my girls computers for quite some time, not wanting to "push" them down the same path as myself ... but they proved to be enthusiastic computer users. Luckily, I was able to get away relatively cheaply - the Tech.Ed 2009 netbook has passed down from eldest to youngest, and the eldest now uses a second-hand notebook (larger screen et al), bought at a very decent price.
But the need for a desktop PC remains, and they love the touchscreen all-in-one form factor. The work PC that I had had was a HP TouchSmart All-in-One, which was fairly nice, but way outside of my budget. I was able to pick up the Inspiron 2320 All-in-One - a brand new model - from Dell for around $1,000 less ..with better processor, better video, and essentially the same specifications otherwise - except no Blu-ray. Blu-ray wasn't the end of the world.
The specifications were as follows;
Inspiron One 2320
2nd Generation Intel Core2 I7-2600S Processor (2.8GHz)
8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM(2x4GB)
23"1920 x 1080 (Full HD) WLED Touch Screen
1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M GPU
Internal 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 with Intel Wireless Display and Bluetooth 3.0HS
2TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
8X DVD+/-RW with Dual Layer Write Capabilities
Dell(TM) Wireless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse Bundle
Integrated TV Tuner with remote control
Integrated HD WebCam
Integrated 5.1 Stereo Sound
Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
3-Year Hardware Warranty
Quite a decent specification generally, and the NVIDIA GPU was a welcome addition - much like the Alienware notebook, there's onboard Intel HD Graphics, and the Switchable Graphics feature allows the OS to use the "best" GPU for a given task. The GT 525M is hardly the best NVIDIA GPU around, but it's at least a major improvement over Intel's own.
I did, however, find that the specification was extremely rigid in contrast to the notebook ordering process. By and large, it was essentially a fixed configuration once you'd decided on the 'base' features desired. I would have happily paid the small upgrade cost for Blu-ray, had it been offered - but it wasn't. Equally, I wouldn't have gone with Windows 7 Home Premium if there'd been a choice - even though I could easily do the same SKU change process as I did with the Alienware.
What is really, really aggravating though is the complete lack of the "optional" AV board as a selectable configuration in Australia. This AV board - which I believe has the part number D4V54 - should really be included by default, or at least selectable. Dell Australia, it seems, has chosen to completely omit the board though. This, sadly, makes the 2320 a dead duck when it comes to use as a media center or similar.
I'm sure that if you had something compatible with Intel Wireless Display - I don't - then it might be less of an issue. But to be frank, the lack of HDMI, VGA, RCA, and fibre optic I/O ports - which is a result of excluding this - makes it all too easy to shake your head at the stupidity. I'm fairly sure that - like with the majority of Dell parts in Australia - it's damn near impossible to buy them after the fact from Dell themselves. Stupidly, the board's only worth about AUD$20.
I haven't been able to use the TV tuner, as the study has essentially no reception (and no external antenna access). But I could certainly have used the 2320 when our main TV died, if I'd been able to do HDMI in from our TiVo. Without the AV board, though, there was no chance, and I wasn't about to unplug the TiVo to get an antenna signal.
I can purchase the D4V54 board elsewhere - sadly, there's no documentation to confirm that this Inspiron 2305/2310 board is definitely the right one for the 2320 - but until I'm getting regular pay again, that's not too likely. Regardless, this is an area that Dell always seem to shoot themselves in the foot. Their after-sales capabilities are somewhere between woeful and non-existent - but then, I could say the same of HP and others, too. They're by no means alone, but they may well be the most consistently awful.
The 2320 is fine for day to day computing. What I've seen of the TV tuner capabilities is fine too. The touch screen is nice, bright, and responsive. The overall PC performance is excellent - but has the same caveat as I found with the Alienware; DON'T replace the Dell-supplied Intel HD graphics drivers with Intel's generic (and more up to date) version. This will disable the switchable graphics capabilities, or in other words, the generic drivers will lock you in to using Intel graphics ONLY.
From a usage perspective, the family have no complaints. It works, and generally works well. The wireless keyboard and mouse work well, although you have to have a USB dongle attached for the mouse to work. They're quite comfortable and reliable.
If the Inspiron 2320 included the AV board, or at the very least made it easy to add during the purchase and/or purchase as an after-market upgrade, I would happily recommend it. As things stand though, I'd have to stop short. It's not the PC. It's what it lacks, and the fact that Dell could have easily addressed this.
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