Arbico has plumped for an Intel Core i7 CPU beloved of overclockers for its i7-9250 XL desktop PC.

Rather than going for one of Intel’s latest Core i3/i5 processors, Arbico has plumped for the older yet still popular Core i7-920 for its i7-9250 XL desktop PC. Beloved by overclockers, this quad-core CPU has a stock speed of 2.66GHz and requires a fast and expensive motherboard.

Performance is very good: the Arbico i7-9250 XL desktop PC's WorldBench score of 136 places it a single point behind the Chillblast. Its motherboard also supports USB 3.0 and 6Gbps SATA, and up to three graphics cards.

Sadly, Arbico’s expensive CPU and motherboard selections have forced compromises elsewhere. The i7-9250 XL desktop PC comes with just 3GB of RAM (the Core i7-920 requires memory modules to be installed in threes); to push this allocation to 6GB would have greatly inflated the Arbico’s price tag.

A more obvious compromise is the Arbico i7-9250 XL desktop PC's 22in monitor, which is smaller than some rival offerings. Although a full-HD screen, it will display onscreen text and icons marginally smaller than the 23in and 23.6in monitors supplied by Chillblast and CyberPower.

You also get only 500GB of storage space with the Arbico i7-9250 XL desktop PC – CyberPower and DinoPC supply a full terabyte (1TB).

Most importantly for gamers, the Arbico i7-9250 XL desktop PC ships with an ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics card and 512MB of video RAM, whereas all of its rivals offer the faster HD 5770 and 1GB of memory. Its gaming scores are noticeably slower, particularly in the gruelling Stalker: Call of Pripyat (‘Ultra’ settings), where the Arbico is 10fps slower than the competition.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Nautilus
  2. Arbico i7-9250 XL
  3. DinoPC Elmisaur 750 OC
  4. Eclipse Matrix i567r577
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Arbico has plumped for an Intel Core i7 CPU beloved of overclockers for its i7-9250 XL desktop PC.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s latest naming scheme is confusing: if you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; the newer Core i5-600 series are dual-core.

Quad-core chips 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 installed.

The dual-core Core i3-540 provides great performance and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory, but it lacks the integrated graphics and performance boosting features of the Core i5. AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money, 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 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 more.

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 systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. At least 500GB should be expected at this price point.

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.

Your DVD drive should write to the +/-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. 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 may be able to get a 23.6in display at this price if you make compromises elsewhere.

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 with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the latter able to benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. Although 25fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher at this price point – look for 50fps.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI’s Radeon HD 5770 and nVidia’s GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making the latest games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch.

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, consider using only the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A large 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: Most motherboards at this price point depend on onboard sound. To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Arbico i7-9250 XL: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit, XP or Vista Home Premium at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P6X58D-E motherboard
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in HKC 2219A (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 512MB XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 64/21fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 94/34fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888B
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 24x/22x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit, XP or Vista Home Premium at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P6X58D-E motherboard
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in HKC 2219A (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 512MB XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 64/21fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 94/34fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888B
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 24x/22x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136

OUR VERDICT

To its credit, the Arbico i7-9250 XL desktop PC offers USB 3.0 support and a high-spec motherboard that’s compatible with Intel’s high-end processor family. But if you’re not buying with a view to future upgrades, you may find that a Core i3/i5 can provide a more balanced machine and better gaming performance right now.

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