With similar specifications to our Best Buy PC, externally the compact Arbico i576 HD looks very different.

This Arbico i576 HD is very similar to our Best Buy Chillblast in its specification, featuring a 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, the same motherboard and similar graphics cards. Externally, this desktop PC looks very different, however.

The EZCool MA 661 case seen here is a far more compact design. It features a pair of internal 5.25in drive bays, rather than the usual four, and has less space inside. Internal access is very cramped – a problem only if you intend to upgrade the Arbico i576 HD PC.

Performance-wise, the Arbico i576 HD desktop PC is decidedly average, with three other systems beating its WorldBench 6 score of 135 points. Its gaming results were better, and the Arbico even beat the Chillblast, thanks to a slightly faster version of the HD 6850.

SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 are supported, and the Arbico i576 HD desktop PC comes with a Blu-ray drive and 23.6in full-HD monitor. The display is decent enough at this price, but no external speakers are provided and those built into the screen aren’t really good enough for enjoying Blu-ray movies.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Corona
  2. CyberPower Infinity Achilles
  3. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870
  4. Eclipse Starburst i576r687
  5. Arbico i576 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

With similar specifications to our Best Buy PC, externally the compact Arbico i576 HD looks very different.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ CPUs are set to revolutionise all our PC chart categories. The 3.1GHz Core i5-2400 seen here delivers formidable performance. The processors demand a new type of motherboard, so buying into this technology now will future-proof your PC.

Previous-generation processors such as the Core i5-760 still offer excellent value and leave more money in the budget to spend on Blu-ray drives, powerful graphics and other components.

If you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; Core i5-600-series chips are dual-core.

Quad-core processors offer greater multiprocessing capabilities, but the higher clock speeds of dual-core chips mean they can run single-threaded applications faster. Non-gamers should note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play full-HD video without a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value, although they can’t match the Core i5 in our tests. Some AMD processors contain hidden extra cores that can be enabled in the Bios. Ensure that any tweaks are backed by the vendor.

Memory: If a fast CPU speeds up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU with 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, however.

Core i5- and i7-800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes (as you do with i7-900-series CPUs).

Storage: Photos and video will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; choose a PC with the most capacious drive you can. Expect at least 500GB at this price.

Consider using a pair of smaller hard drives rather than one large drive – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

With prices falling all the time, you may find a solid-state disk (SSD) affordable. An SSD’s faster file transfers can transform your computing experience, but make sure you get one at least 60GB in capacity and install your programs on a second drive if you want to avoid running into drive-space problems.

Your DVD drive should write to the +/-R formats at 18-speed or above. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD+/-R dual-layer drives. Blu-ray readers are becoming more affordable, but they’re still quite rare at this price.

Display: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 21.6in (16:9) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, but onscreen elements will be even smaller. You’ll find many budget 23.6in displays at this price.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port; if you want to connect additional devices, you’ll need at least two.

Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: We test graphics framerates with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The latter can benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. 25fps is enough to make a game playable, but set your sights at 50fps.

ATI’s Radeon HD 6850 offers excellent performance for the money. Cut back on other components and step up to a Radeon HD 6870 if gaming is very important to you.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 460 also offers good performance. nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and are able to display 3D content.

If you don’t play games at all, you’ll be fine with the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A 450W-plus power supply unit (PSU) is less vital at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to make later upgrades easier.

Sound card and speakers: To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Arbico i576 HD: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit
  • XP or Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W Cooler Master PSU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 6850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/35fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 138/73fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 12x/8x/8x/8x/8x (BD-ROM/-R/-R DL/-RE/-ROM DL)
  • 16x/16x/8x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit
  • XP or Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W Cooler Master PSU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 6850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/35fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 138/73fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 12x/8x/8x/8x/8x (BD-ROM/-R/-R DL/-RE/-ROM DL)
  • 16x/16x/8x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135

OUR VERDICT

Arbico’s i576 HD is a pleasantly compact PC with a well-balanced feature set that makes it suitable for a variety of uses. Better performance is available elsewhere, however, and the cramped internals may make you feel like you’re getting less for your money than with the competition.

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