This time around, choosing our Best Buy PC has proved tougher than usual. With four out of the five systems offering almost identical specifications – same processor and very similar graphics cards – we’re really nit-picking.

However, we’ve plumped for Arbico’s CD 4850. The seemingly unbeatable Core 2 Duo E8500 from Intel powers this system to an impressive WorldBench 6 score of 126 points – the same level of general office performance you’d get from the best of our power PCs and significantly faster than some contenders with the same processor.

The Arbico CD 4850's graphics are provided by ATI’s new Radeon HD 4850, which delivers a significant boost in performance over the graphic cards we saw last time, such as nVidia’s GeForce 8800 GT, without an increase in overall system price.

The Arbico CD 4850 has eight USB ports and, with a massive 750GB hard drive, you’ll have plenty of room for a large media collection – only Chillblast’s very similar Fusion Hornet offers such capacity.

With an almost identical specification – even the Logitech S220 speakers are the same model – the Chillblast Fusion Hornet delivers identical performance to the Arbico CD 4850. However, what clinched it for us is Arbico’s inclusion of a Creative Audigy sound card.

You may not really care much about the Arbico CD 4850's sound card – and to be honest, neither do we – but there can be only one winner and this is the result of our photo finish.

Your preferences may differ of course. The LG W2242S monitor supplied with the Arbico CD 4850 offers a good contrast ratio, but is an analogue-only model which displayed fairly muted colours – we think the display with the Chillblast Fusion Hornet is rather better.

If you’re a keen gamer, you could gain extra 3D speed by going for the Eclipse Matrix i85A487’s with its more powerful ATI Radeon HD 4870, but you’d sacrifice some overall performance. Arbico’s CD 4850 is a well-balanced PC with excellent performance; Chillblast's Fusion Hornet is a worthy alternative.

Budget desktop PCs: chart ranking (October issue)


  1. Arbico CD 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hornet
  3. Eclipse Matrix i85A487
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT
  5. Packard Bell imax 3414

>>NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (October issue)

Processor: Intel’s Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price, the E8500 version appearing in the vast majority of PCs we currently review. If you’re feeling adventurous, by all means go for one of Intel’s latest quad-core processors, such as the Q9300. We’re starting to see very good results with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips may still be on sale, with good performance for the multithreaded applications if the price is right.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your processor by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB. Memory is going to become even more important in the next 12 months.

Storage: Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400-500GB drive should make a good investment. If you’ve got space, consider a pair of smaller drives – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the –R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that also read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but you’ll have to compromise on DVD speeds. As DVD burners are low-cost items, it may be worth buying a second one to complement your Blu-ray unit.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience, so try it first.

At this price point you could be offered a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same number of pixels. This means 22in monitors will display larger text and icons.

Consider whether you need built-in speakers. If you want to connect additional devices to the display you’ll need at least two inputs. Finally, look for a good response rate – 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC – after all, the top graphics cards alone can cost £400. But you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights a little higher in this category. Look for a system that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. Just don’t expect to be able to run the latest cutting-edge titles at the very highest-quality settings.

ATI’s Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money at this price bracket, making even the most demanding games playable if you’re prepared to drop the resolution and quality settings a notch or two.

Sound card and speakers: You’ll occasionally get a budget sound card at this price point, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. These are improving all the time.

To get surround sound you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may have to settle for a 2.1-channel stereo system, which is still good enough for most people.

Arbico CD 4850: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (or choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG W2242S (0.276mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 172fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (or choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG W2242S (0.276mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 172fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

rbico’s CD 4850 is a well-balanced PC with excellent performance; Chillblast's Fusion Hornet is a worthy alternative.

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