Intel’s superb Core 2 Duo E8500 processor continues to deliver tremendous performance at an appealing price, dominating our desktop PC charts across three categories.

Arbico has put the chip to stunning use in the Elite 8070EX. This system outperforms the competition in the budget price range, then beats all of the power systems for good measure.

The Arbico Elite 8070EX’s utter dominance when handling general office and productivity applications doesn’t extend to games, but it’s no gaming slouch. With 4GB of DDR2-800 memory and an ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card, it’s able to deliver a very playable Crysis experience at high-quality settings. You’ll have to keep the resolution somewhat lower than the 21.6in Hanns-G display’s maximum 1,680x1,050, however.

This monitor has proved highly popular in our charts. The design is basic, but it delivers relatively good performance for the price and provides the Arbico Elite 8070EX with both analogue VGA and digital high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) inputs.

Once again, Arbico has opted for the reliable Coolermaster Elite 330 casing. This is smart and practical, with just enough style to prevent it looking boring and plenty of space inside for expansion. In any case, the Arbico Elite 8070EX's supplied 465GB hard drive is ample to be getting on with.

The components inside the Arbico Elite 8070EX's chassis are fairly standard. This isn’t a system designed with overclocking in mind – which is fine with us, considering that it manages an outstanding WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 126.

If you’re expecting a full home-theatre experience from the Arbico Elite 8070EX, the 2.1-channel Logitech S220 set, with its compact subwoofer, will be a disappointment. But it should be enough to meet most people’s audio needs.

Chart ranking: budget desktop PCs (August issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 8070EX
  2. Mesh Elite Q9300 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT
  4. Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX
  5. Dell Inspiron 530/1142

>>NEXT PAGE: Buying advice and our expert verdict

Buying advice: budget desktop PCs (August issue)

Processor: Intel’s Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. But don’t buy a standard desktop powered by any processor beginning with ‘E6’ – those chips’ time has passed. The E8500 is a far better choice.

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.

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 only going to become 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 400GB to 500GB drive should make a good investment. If you’ve got space, consider buying a pair of smaller drives – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go when your drive eventually fails.

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 DL or +R DL burning. Drives that can also read Blu-ray Disc are becoming affordable, but be aware that you’ll
have to compromise your DVD speeds. Since 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 to check you can put up with the quality.

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

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.

The best card you’re likely to be offered at this price is a 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX, although the 512MB 8800 GTS is close behind and can cost significantly less.

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 the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). Unfortunately, you may have to settle for a 2.1-channel system in this category. Insist on the subwoofer.

Arbico Elite 8070EX: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 465GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 40fps, Fear 122fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice 2.3
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 465GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 40fps, Fear 122fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice 2.3
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

Keen gamers may choose to sacrifice a little overall performance to get better framerates, in which case the cheaper CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT may be more appealing. But the Arbico Elite 8070EX is the best system here overall.

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