It’s a double first for Arbico this month as it manages to top both this and the £1,001+ chart. The main ingredient of its unparalleled success is the Arbico CD8500 XL's brand-new Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor. This Penryn chip supplants the E6850, offering considerably more performance for a similar price. Indeed, a 2GB E8500 system will now notch up roughly the same WorldBench 6 tally as an E6850 PC with twice the RAM. Not that Arbico has stuck to 2GB, mind; the Arbico CD8500 XL packs in 4GB of high-calibre Corsair DDR2-800 RAM.

If there’s a flaw with the Arbico CD8500 XL, however, it’s the size of the monitor. The Hanspree XM New York measures just 19 inches – a far cry from the 21.6 and 22in screens that pop up elsewhere in the top three. But size isn’t everything. Indeed, the Arbico CD8500 XL's XM New York packs a decent image that easily beats that of the larger GNR and Yuraku screens. It’s a high-quality component and you’d be lucky to save more than a few pounds by specifying the Hanspree rather than the GNR. However, should a large screen be your priority then the CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition is clearly the best deal.

You might quibble about the Arbico CD8500 XL's hard drive, although we reckon 250GB is enough for most users. Otherwise, the Arbico CD8500 XL is extremely impressive. The GeForce 8800 GT continues to offer superb framerates – they’re not quite as good as those of the Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C’s GTS 512, but the gap is rarely more than 6 frames per second (fps).

The Arbico CD8500 XL's sound system is arguably the best in the chart; it’s certainly the most consistent. The Audigy SE 7.1 is more than a match for the other PCs’ onboard setups. The Arbico CD8500 XL is well stocked with connectors, boasting a towering 10 USB ports. Add a Samsung DVD writer that’s close to the top of its game, and the Arbico CD8500 XL is an outstanding system for the money – but is a 19in screen too small?

Budget PCs chart ranking (April issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition
  3. Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C
  4. Chillblast Fusion Gladiator - last month 1
  5. Zoostorm 4-4428

Verdict

This is a system that's close to the top of its game, but is the Arbico CD8500 XL's 19in screen too small for the money?

See also:

Budget PCs buying advice

Buying advice: £501-£750 desktop PCs (April issue)

Processor: Only last month we were saying hello to the E8500; now we’re effectively saying goodbye to the once all-conquering E6850 – you can put in half the RAM and an E8500 will register the same performance scores. The E8500 will be a little more expensive, however, so it’s worth watching out for special offers as manufacturers try to offload their supplies of E6850s. If you’ve got one eye on the future, consider a Core 2 Quad chip. You’ll sacrifice a little speed for the money now, but you might make it up in spades when multithreaded software applications start hitting the shops.

Memory: It’s a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the sub-£750 category, 2GB is standard, with the odd system daring to stretch to 4GB. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to go quite this far, but 2GB is a definite must. Memory is only going to become more and more important in the next 12 months, so stock up now.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media files such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 320GB or 400GB drive should make a good investment.

It’s a good idea to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure your PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the –R/+R formats at rates of at least 18-speed. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these have got significantly faster in recent months, and you really need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

Display: 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 that you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

Virtually all PCs (and all of our Top 5) come with flat-panels. We’d recommend a 19in model – they’re rife at this price point. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 19in, as the quality at this price point could be low. Finally, look for a screen with a good response rate – 8ms or below should be more than fast enough.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, feverish gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£750 PC. Nonetheless, the best PCs do tend to come with decent graphics cards.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, at this price you can set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. The 512MB 8800 GTS 512 is the undoubted leader, although the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. You may be able to find an 8800 GTX if you hunt hard enough, but the GT and GTS 512 are more likely. Stocks may be running a little low, so be patient.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it’s an area where vendors are likely to cut costs. 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 get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

See also:

Arbico CD8500 XL: expert review
Budget PCs chart ranking

Arbico CD8500 XL: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Cyber Acoustics CA3095
  • subwoofer
  • 20x20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Cyber Acoustics CA3095
  • subwoofer
  • 20x20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124

OUR VERDICT

This is a system that's close to the top of its game, but is the Arbico CD8500 XL's 19in screen too small for the money?

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