Many in the IT industry would have us believe that laptops and tablets are the only business clients that matter anymore, but desktop PCs still have a valuable role to play in most companies.
One example is Dell's Vostro 460, a workhorse PC aimed at smaller businesses that want a computer with enough performance for productivity applications, but with plenty of scope for expansion to meet future requirements.
The 460 is part of Dell's Vostro line of laptops and desktops specifically tailored for small to medium business (SMB) customers, and offers all the features required for running business applications at a reasonable price (starting at £299), but without all the bells and whistles you might expect to see in a multimedia PC for consumers.
Despite this, the Vostro 460 models are based on Intel's new Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 chips, and pack in a decent amount of processing power. Buyers should also note that for some Vostro 460 configurations, a monitor is not included in the price and must be added as an optional extra.
Our review system was shipped without a monitor by Dell, so we were unable to judge the quality of the display options available. A number of configurations are available from Dell's web site, and buyers can customise these if they so desire.
Our machine was configured with a Core i5-2500 processor, a quad-core chip clocked at 3.3GHz, plus 4GB memory, a 500GB hard disk, DVD-RW drive and ATI Radeon HD5450 graphics adapter. However, the memory can be expanded up to 16GB, while hard disk options go up to 3TB.
This specification delivers ample performance for most business applications, the Vostro rated at 4.9 under the built-in Windows Experience Index in Windows 7. This was actually tied to the score of the graphics card; the processor, memory and hard drive subsystems all showed impressive individual ratings.
However, the key aspect of any system for small business buyers will be its included software. In this respect, the Vostro 460 is not much better than many other PCs, coming with just the Office 2010 Starter edition of Microsoft's popular application suite and a handful of Dell utilities.
Office 2010 Starter consists of reduced functionality versions of Word and Excel only, and is really intended to replace Microsoft's ageing Works software for home users. However, it does provide basic capabilities that a startup company can use until it is established and able to justify the cost of a more fully featured productivity suite.
In terms of technical support, Dell backs every Vostro with a telephone helpline and a one-year collect-and-return warranty as standard. Customers can also opt to pay for Dell's Pro Support service, which provides 24x7 access to technical support. Dell also offers on-site system setup for a fee.
The latter is not really required for the Vostro 460, which requires little setup other than unpacking the system and plugging it in.
In operation, the Vostro is almost silent, only a faint noise coming from its internal fans, while the system itself looks business-like in Dell's signature black styling.
The form factor of this Vostro is a chunky tower that looks quite imposing when sitting on a desktop, but can always be slipped out of sight beneath a desk, if required. Buyers for whom desk space is at a premium may wish to consider Dell's other Vostro models, some which are available in much more compact system units.