Dell Vostro 460 review

Barebones Sandy Bridge-based PC for business
Photo of Dell Vostro 460
£569 as supplied

Dell’s Vostro series is designed to offer small businesses a good specification for the money, along with ease of maintenance. The Vostro 460 sits at the more powerful end of the range, featuring a choice of faster Intel Core processors.

First impressions
The casing for the Vostro 460 system is compact at 14x7x17.5in. Dell touts it as offering ‘tool-less’ entry, but it actually requires a screwdriver to remove the side panel. However, the front can be removed by simply loosening a set of clips. Inside, add-in cards are secured in place by a simple retaining flap.

The Vostro looks smart and professional, and the sharp angles at the top impart an edgy, modern look. The top is flat so that you can place things easily on top and there’s an indented area so that small objects won’t just slide off. Doors on the front panel cover the optical drive bays, and the multi-card reader is capable of taking all current memory card formats, including the on-its-way-out Compact Flash. The power button is easy to find beneath the Dell logo.

Under a sliding door at the front you’ll find four USB ports, audio and microphone sockets, while at the rear there are five more USB ports, though one of these doubles up as an e-SATA connection. You’ll also find Gigabit Ethernet and a 7.1 channel audio out and SP/DIF. This means that you can use the Vostro as a DVD player with full surround sound capability. A Blu-ray drive is available as an option for an extra £50.

Core specification
Beating at the heart of this system is an Intel Core i5 2500 CPU – one of the new Sandy Bridge offerings. This is a quad-core CPU that operates at a default frequency of 3.30GHz per core and has 6MB of Level 3 cache. Individual cores on the chip can overclock on the fly depending on the workload, up to a maximum of 3.7GHz.

The Vostro 460 achieved a multi-core benchmark score of 15,887 in CineBench R10, and a PC Mark Vantage score of 9,936. This represents superb performance for a business machine at this price.

Dell has paired the CPU with 4GB of 667GHz memory, provided as two DIMMs, ensuring dual-channel operation and upgradability. However, as it stands they’d be little point adding more as the review system was supplied with a 32-bit version on Windows 7 Professional installed, which meant that it could only see 3.24GB of the installed RAM anyway. As 64-bit Windows is available at no extra cost, it seems strange that Dell decided not to use it.

Light gaming
While Sandy Bridge contains integrated graphics, Dell has supplied a dedicated card in the form of an ATI Radeon HD 5450. The Stalker: Call of Pripiyat gaming benchmark returned scores of 16.7fps, 21.7fps and 30fps for the minimum, average and maximum frame rates. This isn’t fantastic – but it’s still sufficient for light gaming. Upgrading options are relatively limited here though, as the 350W power supply won’t cope with anything too beefy.

At the rear of the card you’ll find a number of connectivity options with VGA, DVI and HDMI to choose from. We hooked up to an HDMI-only display using a HDMI-to-DVI cable and initially found that the Windows desktop was not filling the screen, leaving us with unsightly large borders around the image. It seems the ATI graphics driver underscans the image by default, and it took us a good while to find this option in the driver – something we wouldn’t expected we’d have to do.

Also included…
Storage is provided by a 500GB Western Digital WD5000AAKS – a 7,200rpm disk with a 16MB buffer. There’s room for a second disk inside too should the need arise.

The internal layout is well ordered, so it won’t be too hard to work inside the machine should it be required. There are three unused PCI-E ports, two of which are free for use.

Cooling is provided by a total of three fans – a small one on the graphics card, an 80mm fan mounted on CPU cooler and an extraction fan at the rear. The good news is that the system is very quiet in operation, so you can focus on your job rather than being distracted by your computer.

An unexpected bonus is the quality of the supplied keyboard. It proved perfectly comfortable to type on, and as well as a dedicated number keys off to the side, theres a number of actually useful shortcut keys running along the top above the F-keys, such as ones for opening Explorer, Calculator and media player controls. By comparison, the standard, wired optical mouse is uninspiring, but it does the job.

Company: Dell

Contact: 0844 444 4699

Positives
  • Impressive performance from a compact, quiet machine.
Negative
  • Choice of 32-bit Windows means not all installed memory can be accessed.

Verdict

The Dell Vostro 460 is a tidy, compact and speedy system that achieves its aims of affordable high performance computing in an easy-to-maintain system. Its look is unassuming, it's tidily built and pleasingly quiet in operation. It can cope with some DVD and gaming action, but its real strength lies in its suitability as a powerful machine for small businesses that's ideal for programming and design work.