I've had my new computer for a while now so I thought it was about time to review it. I've owned a Packard Bell once before and they seem to be pretty good machines, and this one looked like a really good combination of power and features for the price. My Packard Bell iMedia J2489 isn't perfect, but I'm very happy with it.
Mine came with Windows Vista Home Premium, which so far seems a bit of a mixed blessing (jury's still out - review on its way!), though at least it seems, after a bit of cajoling, to run the games and software I have without any problems. On first booting up the system it seems to take rather a long time for Vista to settle itself in, but a few configurations and a reboot later, and we're up and running.
The machine itself is quite stylish with a silver case but black front. It's about normal size for a desktop PC. Setting up the hardware side of things was a diddle, and even for someone who's never actually set up a computer from scratch before (I've lost count of the number of times I've done it!) it should pose no problem. At £550 (nearly $1,100) it offered better specs than any of its rivals that I saw. That price included a 19" widescreen LCD monitor, with the base unit costing around £430 ($850). I'm not sure how computer prices compare overseas, but over here it was a good price for the deal I got. It did come bundled with some other stuff - including pads and pens for PC World's student offer (not quite sure if they actually thought that we looked like students, but I'm not one to turn away free stuff…) We also got Norton 360 with it as well, though I haven't installed that as I'm pondering selling it instead.
Anyway… with the machine set up, the first thing you will want to do once you're connected to the internet is update the drivers. The drivers for the graphics card (GeForce 7500 LE) and soundcard (RealTek High Definition Audio) that are pre-installed are pretty terrible - slow graphics performance and lots of background hiss. After updating the drivers it all worked great. (If you're not happy to manually install the drivers, you can update from the device manager in Windows.) It also has a multi-format DVD player (with room for an extra drive above) and an "8-in-1 Memory Card Slot". I don't really have reason to use this but it's a nice feature to have available if required. The DVD drive can write both CDs and DVDs.
The CPU is an Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 processor, so a nice amount of power there. When you first turn the computer on a fan whirs like mad, which is a little disconcerting as that's exactly the sort of thing our old computer was doing just before it died completely. (This turned out to be the motherboard not the CPU fan, but it was time to upgrade at any rate.) After that it's extremely quiet however with just a quiet buzz just audible. The hard drive is a little more on the noisy side when it's in use, but considering the fast transfer rate the pros outweigh the cons. The drive (a SATA 7200 RPM hard disk drive) has plenty of storage capacity too - 250Gb - with 8Gb reserved for the recovery system. The machine comes equipped with a gigabyte of DDR2 RAM.
All the normal ports are there, speakers, microphone, mouse, keyboard etc (incidentally the mouse and keyboard that come with the computer are decidedly unexciting - but at least they work okay!). There are 6 USB ports as well as a high-speed Ethernet port.
Windows Experience Index Scores
The Windows Experience Index is something new in Windows Vista, and over time we'll probably see WEI scores given on game packaging to indicate what score your computer needs to run the game well. It is designed to give you a general idea of how good a computer is, and how well it will run games and applications. You have a base score - which is the lowest of all your scores - and various sub-scores based on the performance of particular aspects of your machine's performance. The scores currently range from 1.0 to 5.9. The Packard Bell iMedia J2489 scored 2.7 on first test to 2.6 on re-test for the base score (see below for why!). This doesn't sound very good but it's the graphics card (a GeForce 7500 LE, a budget PCI Express card designed specifically for installation in desktop PCs - you can't buy it separately - it's basically an underpowered 7600 but still not bad). Here are the detailed scores:
Processor (calculations per second) - 4.8
Memory (memory operations per second) - 4.1
Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero) - 3.3
Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) - 2.6
Primary Hard Disk (disk data transfer rate) - 5.7
Oddly enough after updating the nVidia drivers and DirectX, the score for graphics dropped by 0.1 (while the actual performance improved beyond measure!). At the moment it runs all the games I've got better than I've had them run before, but for a serious gamer you'd want more clout. Then again with a PCI Express slot you could install a brilliant card if you wanted to fork out the money… I'm pretty content with it as it is for now!
The Packard Bell iMedia J2489 is a good machine on the whole though a little lacking in the graphics department, though for the games I'm likely to play it's really quite good enough. (The most graphics-intensive game I had was Broken Sword 4: The Angel of Death, but unfortunately I don't still have that - it would have made a good benchmark test. Games such as LEGO Star Wars 2 and Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown also ran nicely in high resolutions (once the nVidia drivers and DirectX were updated, they were awful before that). Still, this is really not a machine for someone wanted top-of-the-range graphics, unless they're prepared to pay extra for a new graphics card.
In all other aspects though I've found this machine to perform very well. The Core 2 Duo processor enables it to be happy multi-tasking with sometimes very noticeable speed increases over older processors. It's range of various ports and input devices gives it flexibility and while it would have been nice to have both a CD-ROM drive and a DVD drive, the multi-format DVD drive works very well and it's not too much of a burden only having the one. It's not short of RAM and certainly not short of HDD space. For most people who use their computers for a variety of tasks, this is a good machine, and not too pricey.
Thanks to NC10 for adding this computer to the database for me.
Other Computer Hardware Reviews
I haven't written in this section very often, and some of the graphics cards I've reviewed are now so hideously out of date that I won't link to them here. Even the nVidia GeForce FX 5500 (an AGP card) seems horribly limited now, but 8 months ago when I reviewed it, it seemed like the bees knees. Technology moves so fast these days… or perhaps I'm getting older!
Two joystick reviews: Logitech Attack 3 and SpectraVideo Logic 3 Phantom.
This review is an entry to the Challenge Yourself 2007 Write Off, which is hosted by myself. I've never reviewed a computer before!
** Update (22nd January 2009) **
If a powerful gaming PC is what you're after, a good choice is the Packard Bell iPower X9810 - much more powerful than the computer reviewed here.
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Amount Paid (US$): 850 (base)
Operating System: Windows