Dell Vostro 260 MT
3.1GHz Intel Core i5-2400, 4GB RAM, N/A display, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dell's Vostro PCs are a traditional and safe bet for small and large business users, but Dell's established reputation and well-regarded warranties are a reassuring option for home users, too. The Vostro 260 looks very generic, with an extremely plain interior. It's fairly quiet, but the CPU fan makes irregular high-pitched whines that we found extremely irritating.
The version of the 260 we reviewed has a 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-2400 processor, so it's hardly surprising that it came very close to the references scores set by an i5-2500 system in our benchmark tests. It scored 95 in every test, making it more than capable of handling any application on the market.
If you want to play 3D games, you'll need to add a graphics card, as the processor's integrated Intel HD Graphics won't get you very far. We were able to play HD video and a game of Plants vs. Zombies, but our 3D titles wouldn't even run. There are VGA and HDMI outputs, so you can have a pair of monitors if you prefer a dual-headed desktop.
There are two memory slots, which are occupied by one 1GB and one 2GB DDR3 modules giving a total of 3GB. The system comes with a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, so you can easily upgrade to the motherboard's maximum 8GB of memory if you replace the existing modules with larger ones. The system comes with just a 500GB hard disk, but we now expect at least 1TB from a typical desktop system, particularly at this price. There's only limited room to expand the PC's storage, with space for only one additional 5.25in drive and one more 3.5in hard disk. The motherboard has only two free SATA ports, too.
There are three vacant PCI-E x1 slots, perfect for adding USB3 or extra eSATA ports. There aren't any PCI slots, but we can't think of any important cards that are only available with that older connection standard. There's also one PCI-E x16 slot, which you can use to upgrade the system's graphics capabilities. The 300W LiteOn power supply should be able to power a modest graphics card, but it doesn't have any appropriate power connectors, so you'll need a Molex-to-PCI-E power adaptor.
There are two USB ports at the front, alongside a memory card reader that can handle almost every format we can think of. At the back, there are another six USB ports, along with a set of 5.1 analogue surround sound outputs. You'll also find mic and headphone ports at the front.
The PC comes with Dell's usual one-year collect and return warranty, plus a 15-month licence for Trend Micro's Worry-Free Business Security suite and starter version of Roxio Creator. If you're not a gamer, but are instead looking for a plain and simple PC suitable for running a wide range of applications, then the Vostro 260 MT fits the bill and wins our Budget Buy award.