Very similar in specification to the Best Buy Arbico, Chillblast's Comet uses an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor to achieve a real-world speed score of 115 points in WorldBench 6. This tally has been bettered by both Arbico and Eclipse, but it's a respectable score nonetheless; most users will be unable to notice the difference in performance.

A fairly standard 4GB allocation of RAM and a 250GB hard drive are supplied. The popular 19in Hannspree XM New York monitor also makes its second appearance in our chart, providing the Chillblast Comet with analogue and digital connections and decent image quality.

However, we weren't too impressed by the Chillblast Comet's system case. The TrendSonic is a basic model with two USB ports awkwardly placed at the bottom of the front panel.

Inside, the Chillblast Comet's Asus motherboard leaves little room for expansion, with both memory slots filled and just two expansion slots available.

Neither can the ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card match the performance of the HD 4670 supplied by Arbico. In our Crysis tests, the CD 8467 XL was 46 percent faster than the Chillblast Comet. If playing demanding 3D games is important to you, consider the Arbico instead.

Note, however, that the Chillblast Comet is supplied with Vista Home Premium. This OS offers considerably more features than the Basic edition, and the 64bit version found here will let you take full advantage of the Cornet's 4GB memory allocation.

A pair of external speakers is also supplied with the Chillblast Comet. Although you don't get a subwoofer, this setup provides considerably higher-quality sound than the other PCs here, with speakers built into their monitors.

The Chillblast Comet's two-year collect-and-return warranty is the best in this chart.


Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (July issue)

  1. Arbico CD 8467 XL
  2. Chillblast Comet
  3. Eclipse Aspire i84a465
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600
  5. Packard Bell iMedia A3317

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (July issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice at this price, although slower processors such as the E8400 will still be fast enough for most users. Lower-cost alternatives, such as the Intel E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In this Vista-shackled age, 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: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. Hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later.

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/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB to one disc, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for 22-speed models.

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, you may be able to get a 22in 1,080p flat-panel if you're willing to cut costs elsewhere.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. You'll want a PC that can produce at least 50fps for gaming.

The current economic situation has meant that we're seeing slower graphics cards provided with all our chart systems. The usual 9800 GT and 9600 GT have been replaced by the 9500 GT and the HD 4670 by the HD 4650.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components under the bonnet, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then you'll need to ensure that your PSU is 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). Separate stereo speakers are rare in systems costing less than £500, however. Prepare to make sacrifices elsewhere if getting standalone speakers is a requirement for you.

Chillblast Comet: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Asus P5KPLAM motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 400W WinPower PSU
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York flat-panel monitor (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express MSI ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (Low/High) = 26/7fps
  • Fear = 50fps)
  • onboard VIA VT1708B sound card
  • 2 x Bosse speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 115
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Asus P5KPLAM motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 400W WinPower PSU
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York flat-panel monitor (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express MSI ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (Low/High) = 26/7fps
  • Fear = 50fps)
  • onboard VIA VT1708B sound card
  • 2 x Bosse speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 115

OUR VERDICT

Slightly slower than our Best Buy Arbico, note that the Chillblast Comet offers Vista Home Premium and a very decent warranty.

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