Arbico’s PCs are generally top performers, and the 8440 is no exception. Based on a Core 2 Duo E8400 processor, the Arbico Elite 8440 scores 118 WorldBench 6 points. The E8500-powered Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop is better still, but this is a highly creditable showing.

Internally, the Arbico Elite 8440 is very similar to the Arbico Elite 8400 However, the newer model comes with an extra 2GB of RAM and one of the latest 22-speed DVD burners from Samsung. It’s great to see 4GB of RAM included at this price. It’s provided in two sticks, so there are two slots remaining for later upgrades.

The Arbico Elite 8440 drops the popular CoolerMaster Elite 330 case in favour of the rather sleeker EZ-Cool H60 model, with concealed optical drive bays.

Although the Arbico Elite 8440's WorldBench performance is good, gaming performance on this system is average. The GeForce 8600 GT graphics card offers considerably less power than the 8600 GTS supplied with the Chillblast Fusion Hawk, although the full 1GB of dedicated RAM is handy for less taxing games. If it’s an all-out gaming machine you’re after, you’d do better to look at Eclipse's Evolution i84n88GS and its far beefier 8800 GS offering.

There’s another 19in Hannspree XM New York display, but no external speakers are provided. You’ll have to rely on the built-in speakers – a serious disadvantage when comparing the Arbico Elite 8440 to the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop. As with all the other sub-£500 systems, no sound card is provided. You’ll be using onboard audio.

Budget desktop PCS chart ranking (September issue)


  1. Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop
  2. Arbico Elite 8440
  3. Eclipse Evolution i84n88GS
  4. Chillblast Fusion Hawk
  5. CyberPower Gamer Ultra 750

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Budget desktop PCs buying advice (September issue)

Processor: You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but there are some excellent, affordable chips around if you can find them. Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 is a stand-out component and features in three of our sub-£500 PCs. If you can find an E8500, it’s even better.

We’re also now seeing some quad- and triple-core processors in this price range, in the form of the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 and AMD’s latest Phenom X4 9550 and Phenom X3 8450 chips.

Don’t be tempted to buy older Intel Pentium D chips – their performance is a long way behind today’s Core 2 Duos.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB is almost a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it. We’re now seeing some sub-£500 PCs 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. And check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

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 later. If you’re planning to upgrade hard drives internally, make sure you’ve got enough free drive bays in your system 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 at once, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for some of the new 22-speed models too.

Flat-panel: PC manufacturers have to make compromises to squeeze machines into this category, and often start with the monitor. But you don’t want to spend all of your computing time looking at a poor-quality display.

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 enough at this price. We don’t see many CRTs, but they can still be a pretty good deal. Provided you can put up with the bulky casing, colour depth tends to be better than with flat-panels.

Graphics cards: With the best graphics cards retailing for £300 or £400, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. Nonetheless, the best machines in this category 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. The fastest chip in this price range is currently the GeForce 8800 GS, but including one of these may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, but they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.0 games. They’ve got plenty of pace to tackle today’s games.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price – it’s an area where most vendors try to cut costs. Most motherboards have decent built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1 system (five speakers and a subwoofer), but most people will be happy with stereo two-channel audio. You won’t necessarily get separate speakers or a sub at all.

Arbico Elite 8440: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • ASRock ConRoe133-D667
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Gainward nVidia GeForce 8600 GT (gaming scores: Crysis 18fps
  • Fear 46fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 118
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • ASRock ConRoe133-D667
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Gainward nVidia GeForce 8600 GT (gaming scores: Crysis 18fps
  • Fear 46fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • two-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 118

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite 8440 is an impressive all-rounder that offers better gaming performance than the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop, but it just can’t match that system’s value for money or superb general speed.

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