Small but mighty, the 3.33GHz Core i3-560-powered Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC delivers the best Windows performance in the chart.

Small but mighty, the 3.33GHz Core i3-560-powered Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC delivers the best Windows performance in the chart. Only DinoPC’s Plutosaur is able to beat it on raw processing power, and only then with its Core i5 chip’s Turbo Boost in gear.

The Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC recorded a score of 135 in our WorldBench 6 test, beating our Best Buy machine’s tally by a single point. Like that PC, it’s built around a USB 3.0-compatible Asus motherboard. But its faster CPU leaves less room in the budget to offer a dedicated graphics card and a speaker set that includes a subwoofer.

A 4GB allocation of system RAM and a generous 1TB hard drive are supplied, however, and the Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC matches the Chillblast’s AOC F22+ monitor. This display offers a full-HD resolution and 0.25mm pixel pitch, and comes with a VGA connection and dual-DVI ports.

It isn’t unusual for a budget machine to rely on the graphics integrated into its processor for gaming – CyberPower and DinoPC also omitted a dedicated graphics card from their machines’ specification. But a score of 17fps in Fear (1024x768, ‘Maximum’ detail) means games are a bit of a non-starter. If a discrete graphics card is offered at no extra cost, as is the case with the Chillblast and Palicomp PCs, we’d be inclined to plump for that option instead. Note that adding a basic ATI Radeon HD 5450 to the Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC will cost only around £30, however.

Budget desktop PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Shogun
  2. Arbico i3 5600 XL
  3. DinoPC Plutosaur 650
  4. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-22 USB3
  5. CyberPower Apollo XT

NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Small but mighty, the 3.33GHz Core i3-560-powered Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC delivers the best Windows performance in the chart.

Budget desktop 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 3.06GHz Core i3-540 to the 3.33GHz Core i3-560. These dual-core chips have integrated graphics processors, allowing vendors to build a capable PC at lower cost by omitting a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 550 BE is another good choice of processor for a budget Windows machine, especially for those who like to tinker – this chip has been designed with overclocking in mind.

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: Falling prices mean that 1TB is well within the budget of even a budget PC. You can never have too much storage space, and digital media 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 DVDKR 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 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. Good-quality full-HD monitors are now available even in sub-£500 systems. Expect to find a 21.5in model, although these are often marketed as 22in screens. It’s best to get one with dual inputs and a digital connection (DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort), letting you get the best image quality available and hook up additional devices.

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.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with integrated graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older Intel integrated solutions. These machines support HD video and Windows’ Aero effects without the need for a separate graphics card.

ATI’s Radeon HD 5450 is a popular choice for a budget PC. It doesn’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel GMA integrated graphics, but it offers support for DirectX 11.0. Many cards can also drive multiple monitors, so you can hook up your TV and display at the same time.

If you really want to play games, nVidia’s GeForce GT 240 will provide some extra speed. Be prepared to lower your graphics settings to achieve smooth gameplay, however.

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

Arbico i3 5600 XL: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core i3-560
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit, Vista or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC F22+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD (Fear: 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S120 speakers
  • 24x/24x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core i3-560
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit, Vista or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC F22+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD (Fear: 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S120 speakers
  • 24x/24x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135

OUR VERDICT

The compact dimensions of the Arbico i3 5600 XL budget desktop PC may make it look timid, but its Windows performance is anything but.

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