Arbico delivers yet another superb performer in the budget-priced PC category. With a WorldBench processing-speed score of 116, the CD8400 XL not only beats Arbico’s previous chart-topper, the CD6570 SX, by a full 17 points, but even outscores two of the machines in our latest Power PCs chart.

The Arbico CD8400 XL's impressive performance is mainly down to the 3GHz Intel Core Duo E8400 used in both this system and the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 750.

Like previous low-cost systems from Arbico, the CD8400 XL is shipped with the 19in Hannspree XM New York display. This widescreen model has built-in speakers and intriguing looks that set it apart from the low-grade plastic-finished designs we’re used to seeing at this price point. It’s great to see a display with full height, tilt and swivel adjustments at this price level. It also provides pretty good image quality.

The Arbico CD8400 XL’s Coolermaster Elite 330 chassis is solidly built yet stylish. Some budget cases can feel flimsy and fragile, but this PC looks nothing like a bargain-basement system. In fact, Arbico uses the same case for its power PCs.

There’s a total of six free 3.5in bays and three free 5.25in bays, so you’re unlikely to run out of expansion room in the Arbico CD8400 XL. It’s also good to see the use of two sticks of branded Corsair XMS2 DDR2 memory and a Coolermaster 460W power supply.

The Arbico CD8400 XL's GeForce 8600GT graphics card provides a good level of gaming performance, although hardcore gamers should take a look at the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS. This manages considerably more frames per second at the expense of overall system speed.

Budget PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8400 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 750
  3. Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS
  4. Zoostorm 4-2354
  5. Arbico CD6570 SX

Verdict

At this price, you get neither external speakers nor a sound card, while the Arbico CD8400 XL's hard drive has a modest capacity of 160GB. Nonetheless, this is a solidly built system that offers well-chosen components and excellent performance for the money. The two-year warranty is also pretty good.

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Budget PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but many of today’s chips are powerful enough to make light work of standard applications – and there are some excellent, affordable processors around if you can find them.

Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 is a stand-out component. For the first time we’ve seen a quad-core CPU in this price range: the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600. The Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is also an option, although it currently can’t match the Intel processors on general performance.

Don’t be fooled into buying an Intel Pentium D. They have dual-core capabilities, but their performance is a long way behind the Core 2 Duo range.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB has almost become a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Check you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will ultimately slow down your system.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 250GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add at a later date.

Look for a DVD burner that can write to the –R/+R formats at 16-speed or more. If you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these tend to be lower, but you should look for an absolute minimum of six-speed. Realistically, you ought to be aiming for eight-speed.

Flat-panel: Compromises have to be made to keep the price of a PC down, and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part of the PC you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All the PCs in our charts now come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – be very careful when considering going above this size, because the quality is unlikely to be good enough under these price constraints. We don’t see many CRTs now, but they’re still a pretty good deal if you can find them – provided you can put up with the bulky casing, the colour depth on these displays tends to be better than you get on flat-panels.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the cream of the crop generally come with decent cards.

You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50 frames per second (fps) if you’re going to be playing games – 70fps or 80fps is better still. Currently, the fastest chip in this price range is the GeForce 8800GS, but including one may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, although they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.x games. They have plenty of pace for today’s games.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price. Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound, but to get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1 speaker system. Unfortunately, you may not be able to get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.

See also:

Arbico CD8400 XL: expert review

Budget PCs chart ranking

Arbico CD8400 XL: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • ASRock 4Core1333-Glan
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Gainward nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard Intel ICH7
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 116
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • ASRock 4Core1333-Glan
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Gainward nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard Intel ICH7
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 116

OUR VERDICT

At this price, you get neither external speakers nor a sound card, while the Arbico CD8400 XL's hard drive has a modest capacity of 160GB. Nonetheless, this is a solidly built system that offers well-chosen components and excellent performance for the money. The two-year warranty is also pretty good.

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