Arbico's Intel-powered Arbico CD8567 Pro is an inexpensive but speedy Windows 7 desktop PC.

In comparison to the other machines reviewed here, Arbico's CD8567 Pro has rather an old-school design. However, its trusty Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor easily secures its place as the fastest performer in WorldBench 6, with 123 points.

What this PC fails to deliver is the same balance of office and gaming performance offered by the top three systems. By the time the Intel CPU and motherboard are in place, there's less cash to invest in other components. The graphics card is the main victim, and the Arbico CD8567 Pro's HD 4670 is completely outclassed by the 4870.

Gaming performance is a severe disappointment, then, with the Arbico CD8567 Pro managing just 40fps in Crysis at moderate quality settings (the Eclipse scored 56fps). And cranking up the settings caused the Arbico to drop to a mere 6fps.

If you have no interest in playing games at all, on the other hand, we would suggest buying a lower-specced graphics card and saving yourself some money to spend on other upgrades for the Arbico CD8567 Pro.

Like the Eclipse (and our fifth-placed PC), the Arbico CD8567 Pro comes with a petite 320GB hard drive. This may be enough for many users, but why settle for this when 500GB is available for the same price?

The Arbico CD8567 Pro's ASRock motherboard offers little expansion room. Both memory slots are filled and, although a pair of PCI slots and a single PCI-Express 1x slot are free, you'd be hard-pressed to fit in any add-on cards with the graphics card's rather large heatsink obstructing the path.

To its credit, the Arbico CD8567 Pro comes with a Hanns-G HW191DP monitor that's fitted with dual VGA and DVI inputs, giving you a crisp, clear display and no need to mess around with autosetup buttons. The EZCool system case is also well-constructed, with gentle curves and front-facing USB ports. But this can't compare to the top three systems.

Chart ranking (issue 174)

  1. Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA
  2. Chillblast Fusion Tempest
  3. Eclipse Solar a55R487
  4. Arbico CD8567 Pro
  5. RL Supplies Modula 9010

>>NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550BE is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. It's a little slower than an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 but is priced low enough to leave you with enough money left over to spend on a decent graphics card.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In the era of Vista and Windows 7, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price; you can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized drive. Hard-drive space is easy to add later, however.

If you're planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you've got spare drive bays inside your PC's case.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB to one disc, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for 22-speed models.

Flat-panel: It's the component you'll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in - the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good at this price. Look for a monitor with a DVI or HDMI digital connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one, too.

If display size or quality is of critical importance to you - and you're willing to cut costs elsewhere - you may be able to get a 22in 1080p flat-panel.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. However, decent graphics cards get cheaper all the time and budget PCs can now handle games that were unthinkable a few months ago.

Thanks to recent price reductions, we're seeing powerful Radeon HD 4870 cards appearing in budget gaming PCs.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if possible. If you don't play games at all, consider purchasing a machine that relies on integrated graphics.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components installed, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then your PSU must be able to deliver enough juice to power your new components. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point. Most motherboards have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico CD8567 Pro: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock G31M-S motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W PSU
  • 19in Hanns-G HW191DP (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 4670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 40/6fps
  • Fear = 87fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock G31M-S motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W PSU
  • 19in Hanns-G HW191DP (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 4670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 40/6fps
  • Fear = 87fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

While it's a speed demon for general Windows use, the Arbico CD8567 Pro's Intel processor has left less cash to splash on other essential components - particularly the graphics card.

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