Dell made a gaming PC that isn't an Alienware, and that isn't horrendously expensive.
What Is It?
The $1499-plus Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop is a fully kitted out desktop PC with some pretty substantial specifications — nothing world-bending for that middling price tag, of course, but a 6-core or 8-core AMD Ryzen CPU and a mid-range dedicated graphics card in AMD's RX 500 series or Nvidia's GTX 1060. There's motherboard space for a second graphics card, too, giving the Inspiron Gaming Desktop a clear upgrade path in the future for anyone wanting to keep its performance levels up with 2018's new gaming titles. You can also get a clear side panel for... $5.50 more.
And it's a package that gives good power for the price that you're paying. That Ryzen 5 1600X or Ryzen 7 1700X chip, plus the Radeon RX 570 or RX 580 graphics card in the $1499 and $1999 variants respectively, make for some surprisingly reasonable gaming performance. I tested the $1999 variant, but a further $200 gets you a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 that is around 10 to 20 per cent faster in most 1080p and 1440p gaming titles — whether that extra cash is worth it is up to you, but it seems to me to be a reasonable upgrade for the price albeit not an unmissably good one.
The games that I played on the Inspiron Gaming Desktop — Rise of the Tomb Raider and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds — were a mixed bag. On a graphically lush but not particularly demanding game like Tomb Raider, the Inspiron Gaming Desktop is perfectly happy with fast frame rates above 100fps at 1080p and 60fps at 1440p, but on a more demanding and less optimised title like PUBG it starts to falter and 1080p frame rates generally sat around the 40fps mark. Geekbench 4 returned a 3978 single-core score and 14,185 multi-core score — Intel's Core i7s perform better in single-core results, but the AMD Ryzen 7 1700X is up there with the best of the best of Intel when it comes to multi-core.
I would say that the available storage options — a 128GB SSD plus 1TB hard drive, or a 256GB SSD with the same 1TB spinning disk — are a bit underwhelming. There's space for four more hard drives and a second SSD, and you'll probably need to use them in the future if you're downloading a lot of games or other media like TV shows and movies. I would have liked to see a 2TB spinning disk at the very least, given the extremely low prices of mass storage these days. At least it's easy to add an extra if you want to. It needs more RAM, too — 8GB is not enough in 2017.
But it's the expandability and ease of internal access that makes the Inspiron Gaming Desktop interesting. Its side panel is easy to remove, and everything is very clearly laid out inside. I have an ancient Dell XPS desktop at home, and the entire interior is covered by piece after piece of glossy black fan ducting that makes everything a real pain to access. In the Gaming Desktop, I wager that even a complete PC component newbie could swap out a graphics card or hard drive in a few minutes. That's impressive and Dell deserves some praise for that.
Should You Buy It?
The Inspiron Gaming Desktop is a $1499 machine at its cheapest, and $1999 for the cheapest VR-ready configuration — also the one I'd recommend out of the three variants available at the moment. You could absolutely build a superior machine from parts, or through a third-party system builder like PC Case Gear, for the same price or slightly cheaper. But unlike an Alienware rig, you're not paying above the odds for the components inside: the Gaming Desktop is actually priced reasonably considering Dell's fantastic after-sales support.
You're also not buying a system that's not upgradeable like many of the pre-built PCs out there today. There's five storage bays for if the SSD+HDD combo isn't enough out of the box, the 460 Watt power supply should handle a second (efficient) graphics card, there's an extra DDR4 RAM slot, there's a USB Type-C connector on the front panel. These are all things that any new PC you buy should be able to boast; it's a strange world that we've come to when these are selling points worth mentioning rather than absolutely stock standard inclusions, but well, here we are.
Dell's Inspiron Gaming Desktop is an interesting desktop PC purely because it's not the overpriced junk on a big-box retailer desk that we've become used to seeing. Instead, it's a surprisingly affordable, surprisingly powerful, surprisingly upgradeable, surprising machine. I came away from my time with it impressed, and I hope that the Inspiron Gaming line continues because Dell is onto a good thing here. [Dell]