Top 10 budget desktop PCs
Aimed at the value conscious consumer, these budget desktops will tackle your computing needs -- without breaking the bank
DX-4200-11 Review, by David Murphy, PC World September 10, 2009
CPU: Phenom X4 9550; CPU speed: 2200GHz; Graphics adapter: ATI Radeon HD 3200; Monitor: No; Hard drive size: 750GB; WorldBench rating: Fair
Lots of storage and memory
Subpar general performance
Unplayable graphics for gaming
The $599 (as of 8/23/09) Gateway DX4200-11 seems like the perfect value PC for anyone on a tight budget. It's a decently powerful general-purpose PC that offers solid connectivity and upgradability compared with a number of other systems at or below its price. But if you can afford to splurge a bit more on your machine, you'll find competing models that can blow the performance of the DX4200-11 out of the water.
Billed as a system that's supposed to "take your multimedia for a high-powered, blazing-fast spin," the DX4200-11 has a 2.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 9550 processor that offers little in the way of superfast performance. The rig's 6GB of DDR2-800 memory is welcome, especially considering that the installed 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium can make full use of the available memory. In addition, the system has 750GB of storage (minus, of course, the Vista elements) in the form of a single Seagate hard drive. While a few value PCs have hit the 1TB storage mark, 750GB is definitely in the upper tier of capacity for a budget system.
The DX4200-11's integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics failed to produce playable frame rates on any our gaming tests. What a tease--I'd almost prefer that the system not be able to run games at all. On our WorldBench 6 suite of tests, Gateway's system put up a mediocre score of 87. In contrast, the $519 HP Pavilion a6710t and the $499 Acer Veriton X270 both scored 98, while the $699 Micro Express MicroFlex 82B achieved a mark of 117.
The internal wiring job is acceptable, neither overly messy nor neat and tidy. The chassis is filled to the brink with screws, however, adding one more step (or, sometimes, many more steps) to your upgrading process. That said, you can place up to five more hard drives in the system, along with one additional 5.25-inch device (I would have preferred a little more balance). The system also supports the addition of one PCI Express x16 device, one PCI Express x1 device, and one PCI device. It's a good deal of upgradability for a system at this price; the DX4200-11's main competitor, the 82B, offers a similar number of free connections and bays (though a slightly different assortment).
I was surprised to find a substantial variety of connections on the rear of the PC, namely four USB ports, one gigabit ethernet port, one FireWire 400 port, integrated 7.1 surround sound, and an HDMI port. The front of the system has two USB ports, a single FireWire 400 port, and a multiformat card reader. The omission of a high-speed storage connector such as eSATA is the DX4200-11's sole weakness in this department. Though the connectors on the front of the case stick out a bit, that's only because the rest of the appealing black and gray chassis hides the two 5.25-inch bays beneath stealth coverings. The design emphasizes the elegant, minimalistic look of the chassis, making this PC an attractive addition to your under-the-desk décor instead of an eyesore.
PC World's test system came bundled with a keyboard featuring media controls that pull double-duty with the existing function buttons. Other than that, the keyboard is as nondescript as the included mouse, a two-button model distinguished only by its partly glossy covering and scroll wheel.
As far as value PCs priced about $600 go, the Gateway DX4200-11 is close to ideal, but not quite there.