As the Braebo Athena proves, you can buy quite a lot of PC functionality and power for around £400 these days. To help hit that price, Braebo has ignored Intel, and chosen a fast-looking AMD chip instead.

The AMD Athlon 645 is quad-core, running at 3.1GHz. Our benchmark tests show it’s well behind Intel in performance though – where sub-£500 Intel machines score around 150 points in WorldBench, the Athena hit just 108. For many people though, it really won’t matter.

This PC is amply fast to carry out daily duties, even ambitious creative work like photo and video editing with a bit of patience. More important can be the impact a PC makes on your environment.

We found the PC relatively quiet, just one whiny fan over the CPU audible through the case. Power consumption was modest, 58W idling, rising to 85W during graphics tests.

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There’s 4GB of memory on one card (three more spare slots available), a 500GB hard disk and 500W power supply. More surprising is a Blu-ray drive that reads and writes CDs and DVDs too.

Build quality is average, a biscuit-tin case that’s no worse than most systems in the Top 5 Charts. Unlike those PCs whose feet regularly fall off as soon as they’re out the box, this PC will suffer no such disgrace since it doesn’t have any. Just be careful about marking any surface you place it on.

The unbranded graphics card is an AMD Radeon HD 6450, happily powered off the PCI bus and using fanless heatsink cooling. It can even play a game or two. We saw 30fps in our older FEAR test at Maximum settings.

Essential Windows anti-virus is included – no time-limited demo with vendor kickbacks, but Avast! Free edition. Nero 9 is another free utility included for disc burning duties. LiveDrive is an online backup service with annoying nags that appeared every time we booted.

To help get you online, a Wi-Fi card is ready installed. It’s only specified up to 11g, so range and performance are lower than modern 11n. But if you’re only connecting to the internet, the 11g standard’s throughput of around 20Mbps shouldn’t slow your surfing.

Braebo Athena: Specs

  • 3.1GHz AMD Athlon II X4 645 (quad-core)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 500GB Seagate Barracuda 3.5in SATA HDD
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • unbranded AMD Radeon HD 6450 with 1GB RAM
  • 500W Alpine power supply
  • Atheros AR5007G 802.11 wireless card
  • ASRock N68C-S UCC motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 3.1GHz AMD Athlon II X4 645 (quad-core)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 500GB Seagate Barracuda 3.5in SATA HDD
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • unbranded AMD Radeon HD 6450 with 1GB RAM
  • 500W Alpine power supply
  • Atheros AR5007G 802.11 wireless card
  • ASRock N68C-S UCC motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0

OUR VERDICT

The Braebo Athena has been carefully specified to hit an attractively low price, yet is still a rounded PC for the money. If you need a Windows desktop PC for general duties, this is a cheap contender.

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