The Arbico Phenom 5570HD beat all the other PCs here in our speed test, and for day-to-day work it sits at the top of the pile.

With a faster clock speed and considerably more onboard cache memory than the Athlon X2 245, the Phenom II X2 550 processor helps the Arbico Phenom 5570HD to beat all the other PCs here in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, with the 5570HD scoring 114 points. Quad-core systems such as the Best Buy CyberPower will outperform this machine at multiprocessing tasks, but for day-to-day work the dual-core Arbico Phenom sits at the top of the pile.

The ATI Radeon HD 4770 selected by Arbico isn’t the fastest graphics card in this round-up, but it delivers about twice the graphics power of the Chillblast and narrowly beats the CyberPower’s HD 4850. Although its 19fps tally in our most demanding Crysis test doesn’t amount to a playable experience, stepping down the settings a notch produced a reasonable 47fps. Playing older games on the Arbico Phenom 5570HD presented no problems.

Other components include a standard 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Expansion options are limited: no memory slots are left free and the graphics card’s large heatsink won’t allow other cards to be installed beside it. The Arbico Phenom 5570HD's well-constructed case comes with handy tool-free drive bays.

No speakers are provided with the Arbico Phenom 5570HD; you’ll have to make do with the monitor’s rather tinny built-in offerings. The display itself is the same 19in Digimate model that comes with the CyberPower. While it’s nothing to write home about, it’s good to see both digital and analogue inputs being provided at this price point. It’s also a considerable improvement over the Packard Bell’s 18.5in screen.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (issue 176)

  1. CyberPower Ultra Athenna Elite
  2. Arbico Phenom 5570HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Blizzard
  4. Packard Bell x5620uk
  5. RL Supplies Modula 9010


>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

The Arbico Phenom 5570HD beat all the other PCs here in our speed test, and for day-to-day work it sits at the top of the pile.

Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550 is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. You can also now find quad-core CPUs in this price range from both AMD and Intel. The AMD Athlon X4 620 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In the era of Vista and Windows 7, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price; 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.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -/+R 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.

With VAT reverting to 17.5 percent at the beginning of January, don't expect to see HD 4870s at this price point.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if possible. And if you don't play games at all, consider purchasing a machine that relies on integrated graphics.

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. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then your PSU must be able to deliver enough juice to power your new components. 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 have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Arbico Phenom 5570HD: Specs

  • 3.1GHz AMD Phenom II X2 550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock K10N78M
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 19in Digimate L-1935WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express VTX ATI Radeon HD 4770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 47/19fps
  • Fear = 156fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 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: 114
  • 3.1GHz AMD Phenom II X2 550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock K10N78M
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 19in Digimate L-1935WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express VTX ATI Radeon HD 4770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 47/19fps
  • Fear = 156fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 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: 114

OUR VERDICT

The dual-core Arbico Phenom 5570HD is the best machine in this group test for day-to-day work right now. While it doesn't have the same future-proofing as the Best Buy CyberPower, it remains an excellent system.

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