Dell Vostro 460 – 2nd Generation is a speedy business desktop equipped with Intel’s recently launched Sandy Bridge processor. It starts at $529 (as of March 10, 2011), but our review configuration–which came with a 21.5-inch widescreen monitor–is priced at $1393 ($1163 sans monitor). The system we reviewed packs a decent feature set, including an Intel Core i7-2600 processor, 4GB of RAM (upgradable to 16GB), and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
Designwise, the Vostro 460 is nothing special; it’s housed in a black plastic minitower case with a smooth, simple front. This is par for the course for machines aimed at small businesses, which tend to eschew the fancier designs of consumer models. The front of the minitower sports a shiny Dell logo above a small, silver power button, as well as a door that slides down to reveal four USB ports, one USB 3.0 port, and headphone and microphone jacks. The PC also has a DVD drive, as well as an additional unoccupied optical bay with a preinstalled eject button.
The rear of the machine offers an additional five USB ports (four USB and one USB 3.0), an eSATA port, an S/PDIF-out, gigabit ethernet, 7.1 surround sound, a VGA connector, and an HDMI connector. That’s right: This desktop has no discrete graphics card, and Dell is relying on the Sandy Bridge processor’s improved integrated graphics to hold the fort.
The keyboard and mouse are simple and match the chassis; both peripherals are, unfortunately, wired (USB). The flat keyboard features matte-black keys that offer good feedback. Since the keys are smooth, typing quickly is a little difficult if you’re unaccustomed to the shape; the keys are widely spaced, however, making typing errors a little less likely. The two-button mouse is smooth, rounded, and comfortable to use, though it did feel somewhat small to me (and I have small hands).
Our test model came with a 21.5-inch widescreen monitor. As displays go it’s fairly matte, with a 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution and good contrast. Its off-axis angles are not very good for a matte screen, but at least it doesn’t throw reflections back at you. The display is a little too wide for my taste (note that this monitor is nearly twice as long as it is high), but that’s a matter of personal preference. The monitor has a black, squared-off bezel with sharp corners, and lacks a Webcam. Five small buttons–a power button plus four context-sensitive soft keys to adjust the monitor’s settings–sit along the lower-right side.
As for performance, the Vostro 460 does well for its category. It earned a WorldBench 6 score of 156, which puts it just above our second-best performer, the Maingear F131 (with a mark of 152). It’s still pretty far behind our top performer in the mainstream-PC category, the MicroFlex 25B, which received a WorldBench 6 score of 188.
Although the Vostro 460’s Intel i7-2600 CPU does its job in terms of general performance, graphics performance is another story. The Vostro 460 doesn’t come with a discrete graphics card, relying instead on the Core i7-2600’s integrated graphics. In our Unreal Tournament 3 graphics performance tests, the Vostro 460 managed to eke out only an unplayable 14.8 frames per second at a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels with high quality settings. It wasn’t until we scaled the resolution down to 1024 by 768 that we got a reasonably playable frame rate of 37 fps (on high quality settings).
While that kind of result is what we expect from the integrated graphics of Sandy Bridge processors (the Polywell Poly ITX-H6700 performed similarly in graphics tests), the technology is no match for a decent discrete graphics card. Still, it’s acceptable for playing HD video and streaming media online. Media-encoding tasks have also been improved, thanks to Intel’s Quick Sync technology. (For more information about Sandy Bridge, check out “Lab Tested: Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs Deliver Blazing Speed and Energy Savings.”)
Gaming isn’t likely to be high on a small business’s list of priorities anyway, so feel free to ignore those results if you’re just looking for a number-cruncher. If you’d like to toss your own discrete graphics card into the Vostro 460, however, you can: Just unscrew the left side of the chassis, and you’re in. The interior of the Vostro 460 is a tad messy, but workable. Though wires are held together with twist ties and haphazardly scattered about, the case has enough room for upgrading. The chassis sports two 5.25-inch bays (one free), two 3.5-inch bays (one free), three PCIe x1 slots (two free), and one PCI slot. So although you won’t be able to transform this PC into a dual-graphics-card gaming rig, you have sufficient space to install an extra card, and perhaps another hard drive if you’re up for it.
The Dell Vostro 460 is a full system at a reasonable price, and it performs well. If you’re seeking a fast performer to get work done, the Vostro 460 is worth a look–but you can find speedier, sexier systems for less. The Micro Express MicroFlex 25B, for instance, is faster, offers a discrete graphics card, and starts at $850. It has severely limited hard-drive space (just 300GB), and it lacks peripherals and Windows 7 Professional; but as fixer-uppers go, it’s a relatively inexpensive option.