The Arbico Elite 8850 Pro is a speedy, inexpensive desktop PC that excels itself with a top score of 131 points in WorldBench 6.

Just pipped to the post by Chillblast's speedy Fusion Osiris comes an equally quick PC from Arbico. The firm has always done well in our performance tests and this month it has excelled itself yet again with itsElite 8850 Pro achieving a joint-top score of 131 points in WorldBench 6, thanks to the Core 2 Duo E8600 from Intel.

Like the Best Buy Chillblast Fusion Osiris, the Arbico Elite 8850 Pro delivers excellent gaming scores. Again, the ATI Radeon HD 4850 shows itself to be an impressive graphics card at this price; it offers a satisfying gaming experience on many less demanding titles and a passable one on trickier games if you’re willing to drop the quality settings a little.

The Arbico Elite 8850 Pro's graphics card is clocked very slightly faster than the card in the Chillblast Fusion Osiris – we’re talking about less than a one percent improvement. It also has a much larger cooler, which should aid in overclocking if you wish to push your graphics performance a little further.

The Arbico Elite 8850 Pro's AsRock 4Core 1600-D800 motherboard is a compact, budget model with only two memory slots, both of which are filled with the supplied 4GB of RAM, and a small selection of expansion slots, all of which are already occupied or blocked.

The 2.1-channel Logitech speakers deliver considerably better audio quality than you can expect from tinny monitor-mounted speakers – which is all you get with the CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Elite and Acer ASM3201. And the Arbico Elite 8850 Pro's display is almost identical to that provided with the Chillblast Fusion Osiris, save for the fact that it has no DVI connection.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Osiris
  2. Arbico Elite 8850 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Elite
  4. Mesh Elite 9600 GT
  5. Acer ASM3201

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

The Arbico Elite 8850 Pro is a speedy, inexpensive desktop PC that excels itself with a top score of 131 points in WorldBench 6.

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs in this price category.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips, such as the Q9300. These processors are performing well with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips offer good performance with multithreaded apps, but only go for them if the price is right.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400GB-500GB drive will make a good investment. If you've got space, consider a pair of smaller drives - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

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 dual-layer drives. Drives that can read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out.

At this price you may get a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same resolution, with 22in models displaying larger icons.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; if you want to connect additional devices you'll need at least two. 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 card at this price.

We test PCs on the three-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay. Just don't expect to run cutting-edge titles at the most demanding settings.

ATI's Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 and nVidia's GeForce 9800 GTX+ graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch.

Sound card and speakers: You may find 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. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may be offered a 2.1-channel stereo system, which will be good enough for most users. A monitor's built-in speakers seldom offer a satisfying audio experience.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite 8850 Pro: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • AsRock 4Core 1600-D800
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Cibox C2202 (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/19
  • Fear = 173)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • AsRock 4Core 1600-D800
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Cibox C2202 (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/19
  • Fear = 173)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite 8850 Pro represents just about the best performance you could expect for the money. It’s beaten by the Chillblast Fusion Osiris by the very narrowest of margins.

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