There are some nice Vista PC deals available for under £750, but should you want a PC that'll really be able to harness the power of Vista then you really ought to expect to pay in excess of a thousand pounds. The Arbico CD1950EX worked out as the best of the money-no-object Vista PCs we looked at.
Available soon for £1,249 inc VAT from Arbico.co.uk, there's no questioning the Arbico's base speed. The Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 processor is about as fast as current CPU technology gets (without costing a ridiculous amount of money).
Pair it with 2GB of DDR RAM, as Arbico has done here, and the results are frequently quite fantastic. The WorldBench real-world speed benchmark score of 150 is testament to the CD1950EX's superb turn of pace.
But while it narrowly beats the Mesh E6700 X-Treme PCA on everyday performance (we'll be reviewing that PC very soon), the Arbico lags a little way behind in gaming. That's because, while the Mesh plays host to an nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, the Arbico's Radeon X1950 XTX is slightly older hat. It's still a very good card – at a standard resolution of 1,280x1,024, the Mesh is generally only a few frames per second faster – but it doesn't support DirectX 10.0.
Since this is one of the cornerstones of the Vista revolution, that could be a problem. Having said that, it's likely to be 12 months (if not considerably longer) before you really need a DirectX 10.0 card, and there are no guarantees that an 8800 GTS will be fast enough to fully cope with the demands of DirectX 10.0 in full flight.
The Arbico has a Belinea flat-panel which produces a pleasing image. It's not quite as impressive as that of the Mesh's Sony, but the colours are very attractive, and the 20.1in size and high resolution offer adequate compensation. The 400GB hard drive is the smallest of any of the Vista PCs we've reviewed that costs more than a grand, but 400GB is as much as the typical user is going to need. The DVD writer is an excellent model, burning 18-speed DVD+R and DVD-R discs. We also like the audio system, with the X-Fi XtremeAudio cementing its reputation as one of the best sound cards available.
If money isn't really an issue for you then we'd recommend the Mesh E6700 X-Treme PCA as the top buy of all the Vista power PCs we've seen. Its graphics card is better and supports DirectX 10.0, and some may prefer the slightly better image quality of the Mesh's screen. However, you will save £250 by buying the Arbico CD1950EX PC. And considering the fantastic range of components on offer, that makes this an excellent buy.
For full reviews of the very best Vista systems available right now, look out for the April 06 issue of PC Advisor, which hits the news stand on 15 February. For a full, in-depth review of Windows Vista, click here.