CyberPower has a long tradition of designing systems specifically for gamers, and the Gamer Infinity 600 is no exception. Despite costing less than £500, this desktop PC is embellished with a glossy, piano-black case and blue illuminated tubes filled with static bubbles. It’s not the kind of thing you’d want in your office, but it looks the part for a budget gaming system.

For £500 you shouldn’t expect to see anything too exciting under the bonnet, but CyberPower has included a large and impressive-looking cooler, which should provide a little extra leeway if you decide to take the Gamer Infinity 600 down the overclocking route.

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 boasts a full-size MSI motherboard with plenty of expansion slots, including room for two extra sticks of RAM. There are also three spare 5.25in bays and room for another two 3.5in hard drives.

Another fan of Intel’s E8500 chip, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 turned in a reasonable 120 points in our WorldBench 6 benchmark. This is a decent enough result, but some of the other desktop PCs in the chart eclipse it.

An ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card delivers some very good results. Older games will present no problems at all, and the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 will have a good stab at Crysis, even at higher resolutions. The card is still no match for nVidia’s GeForce 9600 GT, however – as seen in the Fusion Flame.

Unsurprisingly, Hannspree’s XM New York display adds the finishing touches to the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600. This monitor is a good match for the computer in both looks and graphical capabilities.

>> NEXT PAGE: BUDGET DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (January 09 issue)

Processor: Even at this price, you can find some extremely fast processors. Among the excellent, affordable chips available, Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice - all five of the PCs in this chart feature it. Prices should drop now that the E8600 has become available.

Lower-cost alternatives include the Intel E7000- and E4000-series chips, although these offer weaker performance at any given clock speed.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB of RAM is almost a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn't recommend it. The bulk 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. And 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 such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 320GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later. If you're planning to upgrade hard drives internally, make sure you've got enough free drive bays in your system 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 at once, 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: PC manufacturers have to make compromises to keep prices down and often start with the monitor. But you don't want to spend all of your computing time looking at a poor-quality display.

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 high 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.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for £300 or £400, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. Nonetheless, the best sub-£500 PCs come with decent cards.

You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50fps if you're going to be playing games - 70fps or 80fps is better still. The fastest chip in this price range is the GeForce 9800 GT, but including one may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 9600 GT is a good alternative. It supports DirectX 10.0, but is unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow's DirectX 10.0 games. This card has got plenty of pace to tackle today's games.

The Radeon HD 4670 also performs well, but isn't quite as fast as the GeForce 9600 GT in our selected game tests.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price. 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). Prepare to make sacrifices elsewhere if getting standalone speakers is a requirement for you.

>> NEXT PAGE: SPECIFICATION AND OUR EXPERT VERDICT

CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (XP or Vista 64bit optional)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • MSI P43 Neo-F
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4670 (games scores: Crysis = 42fps
  • Fear = 99fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 120
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (XP or Vista 64bit optional)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • MSI P43 Neo-F
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4670 (games scores: Crysis = 42fps
  • Fear = 99fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 120

OUR VERDICT

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 is a good all-round budget gaming system that lives up to its name. The three-year warranty is excellent at this price point.

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