While this PC's looks might not suit all tastes, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 is well made and offers decent performance. Having designed it primarily as a gaming system, the company has done a good job of making this machine look the part for the money.

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600's shiny black case features two front-facing columns filled with faux bubbles and a transparent side panel that offers a clear view of the components inside. Both features are illuminated in blue, but you can turn off the lights if you wish.

Other components are less striking - the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600's 450W power supply is pretty basic, for example - but there's plenty of expansion room. Vista Home Premium 64bit is preinstalled, so you can upgrade from 4GB to 8GB of RAM by simply popping in an extra pair of memory modules.

A 320GB hard drive is larger than the 250GB we would expect at this price point, but the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600's 19in Hanns-G monitor lets the system down. This analogue-only screen provides far poorer picture quality than those with digital connections.

Noise is also an issue with the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600. The cooling fans run at high speed, making the system rather loud in operation.

A 1GB nVidia GeForce 9500 GT delivers a respectable graphics performance, although it's no match for the HD 4650 found in some of the competition. Nonetheless, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600's graphics card will deliver a decent gaming experience, provided you keep the screen resolution and quality settings to low levels.

Based on a 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 has plenty of power to run modern applications and scored 115 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test. The PC also comes with a three-year warranty.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (March 09 issue)

  1. Cyberpower Gamer Infinity 600
  2. Arbico CD8465 EX
  3. Eclipse Matrix i85a465
  4. Palicomp Excalibur E85-19
  5. Chillblast Fusion Spark

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Budget desktop PCs buying advice (March 09 issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice at this price point, although slower processors such as the E8400 will still be fast enough for most users. 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 a minimum 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. 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 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, some 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. Current dollar prices have made it harder to build decent systems for under £500 and this month we're seeing slower graphics cards provided in all the chart systems. The usual 9800 GT and 9600 GT have been replaced by the 9500 GT.

Those in the ATI camp have seen the HD 4670 replaced by the HD 4650, which offers correspondingly lower performance. For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB model rather than the 512MB version.

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), but you're unlikely to get surround speakers at this price point. Even stereo speakers are rare in systems costing less than £500. Prepare to make sacrifices elsewhere if getting standalone speakers is a requirement for you.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • MSI P31 Neo-F V2
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hanns-G HG191 (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 9500 GT (games scores: Crysis = 17fps
  • Fear = 41fps)
  • onboard Realtek
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • PC Alert
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 115
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • MSI P31 Neo-F V2
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hanns-G HG191 (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 9500 GT (games scores: Crysis = 17fps
  • Fear = 41fps)
  • onboard Realtek
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • PC Alert
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 115

OUR VERDICT

It isn't as quick as Arbico's offering, but the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 boasts a superior operating system and increased storage space. A three-year warranty makes this a very palatable offering.

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