CNET

CNET EDITORS' RATING   Reviewed by: Rich Brown 

3.5 stars | Very Good        Reviewed on: 11/23/2010

Dell Inspiron One 2305

The good: Superior design; Blu-ray and HDMI input make it a complete digital media hub; discrete graphics card lends gaming capability.

The bad: Not as fast as other all-in-ones in its price range; maddening Dell DataSafe pop-ups.

The bottom line: Dell's higher-end Inspiron One 2305 has everything we'd look for in a home entertainment PC. It's not the fastest computer out there, but it's capable where it counts, and even plays some games. Forgive Dell's intrusive bundled backup software and you'll walk away with one of the better Windows-based all-in-ones available.

Review:

Dell's second major attempt at an all-in-one desktop, the Inspiron One 2305, impressed us for a number of reasons. First, its clean design makes it perhaps the best-looking Windows-based all-in-one. Second, our USD $1,149 review configuration offers that strangely elusive combination of both a Blu-ray drive and an HDMI input. And thirdly, it also features simple, relatively effective touch software. We can't recommend it for anything beyond basic productivity due to its comparatively slow performance, and we also wish Dell had left off the annoying DataSafe pop-up software. Overall, Dell's new all-in-one is a far savvier contender than its XPS One's effort of a few years back. We recommend this new model to anyone looking for a standalone home entertainment PC.

Apple's iMac retains the design crown among all-in-ones, but the Inspiron One is a close second. In contrast to the stark, aluminum-and-glass iMac, the Inspiron One has a sturdy, friendly-looking plastic shell that looks more like an AV device than a computer. It achieves this effect by minimizing the exterior ornamentation and by the near edge-to-edge design of the below-screen speaker. The result is a system that advertises its audio and video capabilities through its very appearance. The only thing we don't like about this system's design are the two stubby plastic feet underneath the screen.

As Sony originated a couple of years ago, the Inspiron One 2305 comes with, among other AV connections, an HDMI input. You also get VGA and composite video ins, which together comprise this system's AV-input option. We love video inputs on all-in-ones, because they let you easily extend the large display to cable boxes, game consoles, laptops, and other devices. It also means you don't have to purchase a second display, which is a major benefit for those looking to install a media hub in a den, a dorm, a kitchen, a bedroom, or some other space-constrained location. Other all-in-ones have this functionality, but not all of them (even at the USD $1,000-and-up price range).

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Image

The Inspiron One 2305 also joins competing all-in-ones in offering touch input. Dell's implementation of touch is a bit subtler than others. Rather than first launching a dedicated environment from which you'll run touch-specific applications, Dell has added a carousel to the bottom of the main Windows 7 desktop screen with a variety of touch-based mini apps. From this carousel you get touch-based tiles to launch audio and video players and image-sharing programs. It also links you directly to Dell's support pages, and you get one tile set aside for up to four of your own Web links. You get a couple of games, the requisite note-taking application, and the option to add tiles via a touch app loader.

We like Dell's integrated touch approach compared with the more ham-handed touch environments out there, particularly those on the Gateway and Acer systems. (HP, with its TouchSmart PCs, still leads the way in desktop touch, though, at least as far as the software is concerned.) With the Dell, it's easy and fast to just walk up to the system to play music or launch a video file. You can also ignore the touch capability, and the carousel altogether, by shutting it off.

One of the most remarkable things about the Inspiron One 2305 is that it starts at USD $599. At that price you still get the 23-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution display, although it lacks touch input, the HDMI, and other AV inputs, and includes much slower computing parts than our review unit. To add the touch screen you need to jump to the USD $699 baseline model; for touch plus the AV inputs you need to begin with the USD $799 baseline model. Our USD $1,149 review system represents the highest-end tier, and the only one with a Blu-ray drive. Dell may be able to pass on some cost savings with this bundled approach, but the downside is less configurable. Don't care about a quad-core CPU? If you want Blu-ray, you don't have a choice.

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Review Table

While that bundling might seem frustrating, the USD $1,149 Inspiron One 2305 still offers competitive features next to other all-in-ones in its price range. This Dell joins other Windows-based, 23-inch all-in-ones in making Apple and its 21.5-inch iMac look stingy for its price. Dell also enjoys the fastest graphics card in its price range, as well as the most system memory. It's also the only one of the three systems to offer a Blu-ray drive, although you can find the faster, Blu-ray-equipped Gateway One ZX6951-53 for USD $999. That Gateway lacks HDMI input, however, limiting its home entertainment potential.

We find the Dell a good deal overall, but its 2.4GHz AMD CPU keeps its performance down compared with other all-in-ones. In fact, according to our charts there seems to be an interesting bifurcation in this market segment between fast and slow all-in-ones. There's no clear line between speed and multimedia features. We mentioned the speedy, Blu-ray-equipped Gateway above. The equally fast Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112 outperforms the Dell and offers an HDMI input. What we'd love to see is an all-in-one at this price point that combines speed, Blu-ray, and HDMI input. We're surprised, no manufacturer has hit on that combination yet.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Review Bar Graph
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Dell Inspiron One 2305

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Review Bar Graph

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Review Bar Graph

We've included seven recent USD $1,000 or so all-in-ones in our charts to demonstrate the performance gap that has emerged. Only Acer and its Gateway subsidiary have decided to compete with Apple in terms of performance, and all three get their speed from full-speed Intel Core i3 desktop CPUs. Lenovo's IdeaCentre A700 comes in second with a mobile Intel Core i7 CPU, and bringing up the rear you have this Dell and the HP TouchSmart 310z, both of which use quad-core AMD chips, followed by Sony's pitiful Vaio J114FX, whose slow Intel Pentium CPU is a complete mismatch for this price range.

Though the Dell is on the slower end of the performance spectrum, it's still a reasonably capable PC for standard computing tasks. You won't want to use the Inspiron One 2305 for HD movie editing, but light-duty multitasking, image editing, and basic media file conversions will all be within reach. It was capable of playing every HD movie format we threw at it, and it handled the high bit-rate Blu-ray edition of "The Boondock Saints" with no stuttering. The discrete graphics card also makes this Dell a viable gaming PC. We were able to play Left 4 Dead 2 at full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, although even the recommended image quality settings were a bit jerky. Dropping the anti-aliasing and other settings solved the problem, and we expect you'll have a similar experience with most other PC games.

Should you take advantage of the Dell's various AV inputs, you'll find a dedicated input-switching button on the left side of the system, just under a pair of brightness control buttons. A pair of hard volume controls sits on the opposite side of the screen, alongside two USB ports, a pair of analog audio jacks, and an SD Card reader. On the back of the Inspiron One 2305 you'll find both coaxial and optical digital audio ports, a TV tuner input accompanied by an IR blaster jack, four more USB ports, and an Ethernet adapter. It's a little tricky finding the buttons on the side of the system without looking, but if that's the trade-off for the clean out-facing design we'll live with it. You can also use the volume dial on the included wireless keyboard.

Although we said that we like the Dell's relatively understated approach to touch software, we wish it had applied that same thoughtfulness to its Dell DataSafe application. DataSafe started as Dell's superfluous but easy-to-ignore online backup service, but it has apparently morphed into a nagging system-monitoring tool. Unless you turn it off, which involves closing multiple applications in the Task Manager processes window, you'll need to endure nagging pop-ups demanding that you back up your local data and, oh yeah, reminding you that you can also pay extra to upgrade the service. Worse, the pop-ups come with no obvious button to shut them down.

Dell, shame on you. After leading mainstream vendors by offering "bloatware"-free PCs a few years ago, we thought you were one of the few companies that understood how irritating this kind of software can be. We know times are tough, and that you have to look for new revenue where you can find it, but this DataSafe garbage is a step backward.

(All Prices listed in USD)

Dell Inspiron One 2305 - CNET Review Bar Graph

The Inspiron's high power consumption comes from a confluence of factors. AMD's Phenom II X4 CPUs have shown themselves to be overly power hungry for the amount of performance they provide. Add in the discrete graphics card, and we're not surprised that this PC draws as much power as it does. Expect to pay about US $3.50 per month in power bills to operate this computer, a comparatively high number considering its slow speed next to several other all-in-ones in its price range.

Dell's service and support compared well with that of its mainstream competition. You get 24x7 phone support, a yearlong parts-and-labor warranty, a variety of support resources online, and on the system itself via various diagnostic tools.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire Z5700-U3112
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Spring 2010)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.4; 3.06GHz Intel Core i3; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Dell Inspiron One Z2305
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 610e; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Gateway One ZX6951-53
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 550; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

HP TouchSmart 310z
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.53GHz AMD Athlon II X4 615e; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) AMD Radeon HD 4270 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Lenovo IdeaCentre A700 40244CU
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.73GHz Intel Core i7 740QM; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon Mobility HD5650; 1TB 7,200rpm

Sony Vaio J114FX
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Pentium P6000; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

©2011CBS Interactive Inc., a CBS Company. All rights reserved. CNET, CNET.com and the CNET logo are registered trademarks of CBS Interactive Inc. Used by permission.