Arbico’s 3.06GHz Core i3-540-powered i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC is capable of speedy Windows performance, as demonstrated by its chart-leading WorldBench 6 score of 127 points.

Arbico’s 3.06GHz Core i3-540-powered i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC is capable of speedy Windows performance, as demonstrated by its chart-leading WorldBench 6 score of 127 points.

While the Arbico i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC isn’t really designed for playing games – it managed only 18fps in Fear – its ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics card adds support for multiple monitors and DirectX 11.0. This card’s fanless design means you’ll experience the minimum of noise, too.

Whereas other vendors have done without the discrete graphics card and spent the cash saved on a better monitor or processor, Arbico has been unable to include anything better than a rather basic-looking 19in display. On the plus side, the Arbico i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC comes with a pair of Logitech stereo speakers, and Arbico doesn’t skimp on the 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 500GB hard drive that are expected at this price.

The EZCool MA661 is a basic but good-looking case, finished in black with silver trim and convenient, widely spaced front USB ports. Inside the Arbico i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC, the Asus motherboard offers two PCI and one PCI Express 1x slot for expansion, plus space for two more sticks of RAM.

The supplied 500W PSU is more than adequate for the Arbico i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC’s current specification, but it doesn’t offer the upgrade potential of the 650W and 700W models specified by Palicomp and Chillblast.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-22 USB3
  2. Chillblast Fusion Assassin
  3. Eclipse Solar i54r567
  4. Arbico i3-5445 XL
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo XT

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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Arbico’s 3.06GHz Core i3-540-powered i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC is capable of speedy Windows performance, as demonstrated by its chart-leading WorldBench 6 score of 127 points.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s Core i3 processor has the sub-£500 PC category sewn up. This issue we have examples ranging from the 2.93GHz Core i3-530 to the 3.2GHz Core i3-550. These chips have integrated graphics processors, which let vendors build a capable system at lower cost by omitting a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s Phenom II X2 550 is another good choice of CPU for a budget PC, while quad-core processors can be found from both Intel and AMD at this price point. The AMD Athlon X4 630 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

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

Some CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper and bodes well for performance. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price point, although 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.

Get a drive that can write to the KR formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to get 8.5GB on to one disc, get a drive that can write to dual-layer discs (+/-R DL) at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

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.

ATI’s HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but you may be able to find an HD 5850 if you shop around. This will give you better performance, but may require compromises elsewhere.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version. And if you don’t play games, consider a PC that relies on integrated graphics.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older integrated solutions. These PCs support HD video and Windows 7’s Aero effects.

Lower-spec cards such as the HD 5450 don’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel integrated graphics, but do offer DirectX 11.0 support. Many can also drive multiple monitors, so you can hook up your TV and display at the same time.

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. 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 can handle six-channel sound.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

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Arbico i3-5445 XL: Specs

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3-540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P7H55-M SI motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Digimate L-1935WD (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5450 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 18fps)
  • onboard VIA 7.1 sound
  • 2 x Logitech speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 127
  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3-540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P7H55-M SI motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Digimate L-1935WD (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5450 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 18fps)
  • onboard VIA 7.1 sound
  • 2 x Logitech speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 127

OUR VERDICT

While the Arbico i3-5445 XL budget desktop PC is well-constructed and a great performer, it simply can’t match the value for money offered elsewhere. Eclipse’s similarly priced Solar comes with the same CPU and a similar monitor, for example, but a considerably faster graphics card.

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