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The Dell Dimension E521 is your basic, no frills desktop PC. Of course on Dells website you can order with some customisable options, but on the whole it won't make too much of a difference.
Mine came with Windows Vista Premium installed when that particular OS was still in it's infancy, but earlier versions had the option of XP. On the hardware side of things it contained the AMD Athlon 64 dual core processor, DVD-RW writer, 1GB of RAM and 150gb hard disk. The peripherals were not much of a surprise with standard keyboard and mouse, however the 17inch LCD monitor is good.
Now with regard to the operating system ,despite the early bugs with Vista, once you have installed all the patches, then the system runs pretty well. However, this PC will not support Linux or BSD so your limited in your choice there. After six months the mouse ceased to work and needed replacing. Also the graphics card that comes with this desktop is not brilliant, so if you are looking to play graphics intensive games an upgrade is going to be your first order of business.
The big bugbear for me however, is the processor. It's slow. Really slow and it cannot handle multiple tasks. It really does take you back intime while you are sitting there waiting for the processes to be complete to the faint whine of your PC whirring away in the background.
Ergonomically speaking, you're going to need a bigger boat. It is big and it is bulky. If you've got a confined space to work with then you sjould probably prepare for accidents. Either wacking your knees against it or worse still leaving the CD drawer open. It won't close once powered down either.
On the plus side, upgrading is very easy and can be achieved with a minimum of expertise and cost. It is useful on a day to day basis as a home PC and can handle the basics needed. Businesses should avoid. The monitor is a great selling point, espescially at the price but that processor will drive you mad. If you're thinking of buying second hand, then ensure all the latest patches have been installed.
When my husband was alive, one thing he loved to buy was a computer. So much so that when he died, we had 7 computers in the house, which is testament both to how much he loved buying them and also to how loathe he was to dispose of them.
Over time I started to offload them one by one - including two earlier Dell Dimension models. However the E521 was the very last computer he bought and as a result was the one I decided to keep as the sole desktop computer in the house once I had moved my daughter on to a laptop.
My husband purchased the E521 in 2007, and it's an easy on the eye machine, if somewhat bulky.
At the time Dell were still offering a choice of XP or Vista for the operating system and given we had concerns about bugs in Vista and compatibility issues with other hardware, he decided to opt for XP.
As with all Dell machines, you can choose from various options for your spec, and this was no different.
My husband, despite working in IT for 30 years, wasn't actually very good at checking out the brass tacks of what makes a computer powerful or not and what captured his eye with this machine was the large hard drive and the fact it came with a 19" widescreen TFT monitor.
When I think of how he chose computers compared to how I do it, I will just say he had a very male trait of having his head turned by the superficial at the expense of practicalities!
So I already said my husband was drawn towards the size of the hard drive - and at the time 250 GB was considered rather massive. Of course two years on it's now pretty much the norm, but that's computers for you.
The processor is an AMD Semtron 3400+ 1.8 ghz and there is 1 GB RAM - which is fine for XP but a bit paltry for Vista.
The desktop came with a standard Dell wired keyboard and mouse, and the widescreen monitor that caused my husband to salivate so much.
When this computer first arrived from Dell, I was given the task of setting it up. My husband was quite an impatient man and while he was very good with software, when it came to hardware he had a habit of messing things up. Usually his mistakes were caused by his refusal to read instruction manuals so over the years I ended up dealing with hardware far more successfully than him due to the fact I have far more patience and had been taught the importance of user manuals by my father.
Given I was setting it up using XP and I had set up two other Dell desktops in the past, I found it all very straightforward and reasonably quick.
Dell make things very easy for you by having the vast majority of software pre-installed and the Dimension E521 was no exception. It came with a free trial of McAfee, and some other software, some of which was helpful (such as My DVD for burning and watching DVDs) and some which was less so (AOL). It also came with Microsoft Works which I eschewed in favour of Office.
I inherited the machine when it was about 9 months old following the death of my husband. I had planned on keeping my Dimension E520 but it was far slower and only had an 80 GB hard drive which was rapidly filling up, so that went on eBay and the E521 became the main household computer.
I have now been using this machine on a daily basis for over a year and whilst there are some features I love, there are others which drive me nuts.
The biggest issue for me is the processor - it is, quite frankly, too slow for the machine and it can infuriate me. Shutting down can be a laboured process but starting the machine up is even slower and could try the patience of a saint. When I compare how long this machine takes to start up in comparison to my daughter's Dell Inspiron laptop, it's a bit like asking a tortoise to go up against Usain Bolt. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration and I am just becoming as impatient as my husband in middle age!
The 1GB RAM is adequate most of the time, however if I am editing photographs and surfing the net it cannot cope and grinds to a halt. I only tend to edit photographs of items I am listing on eBay but it has a habit of extending an already tedious task beyond my patience levels.
To be fair however I can usually run a few programs at a time reasonably satisfactorily and I could, of course, increase the RAM up to 2 GB if I so chose to.
The CD/DVD rewriter drive is, however, excellent, and I have burned several CDs and DVDs quickly and without problems.
I also like the fact there are two USB ports at the front of the machine - these are particularly useful for connecting other devices to the computer such as my mobile phone or iPod. There are another 4 ports at the rear of the machine.
The hard drive is only about one third full, despite the fact I have well over 6,000 songs on my iTunes and a couple of thousand digital photographs stored too, along with a smaller number of short video clips and the usual stuff like correspondence.
Visually the desktop looks pretty bulky, but then again I think only Apple have managed to make desktop computers look sexy. The widescreen monitor, which is what I spend far more time looking at, is the sexy part of this set - it is framed in silver and whilst at first I found it strange surfing the web in widescreen, now I couldn't imagine it any other way.
The computer came with one year's free support from Dell but we didn't have to use it. You can pay extra when purchasing from Dell for an extended warranty but my husband was inherently opposed to any kind of extended warranty and declined to buy one.
Two years is a long time in the world of computer ownership and whilst this machine has served me well I have started saving up to replace it with a laptop.
Desktop computers take up far more space and lack the flexibility of a laptop and I often feel I am chained to the desk by this machine, although I do have a small Samsung laptop I can use if I want to surf the web elsewhere in the house.
However whilst I am saving, I am in no real rush to buy as I am fully aware of the fact the "normal" spec is increasing all the time, and at an incredible pace, so I'd rather wait and buy something that is a marked improvement on what I have rather than buy something that offers more of the same.
I am also very aware of the fact that this machine works very well for now and as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" - so for now it will remain the place I come to every day when I want to see what is happening in the worldwide web, type a letter, listen to music, look at or edit photos, or dare I say it, write a review!
This review has been published by me under the same user name on ciao.