Here at PC Advisor, we adopt a sceptical approach towards overclocking, so we were less than thrilled when the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550 came with its AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ boosted from a base speed of 3GHz to 3.16GHz. The CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550 seemed perfectly stable, however, and the high-quality PC2-6400 RAM allows you to push things pretty safely.

For the purposes of the chart, we’re going with the (still impressive) score of 92 WorldBench 6 points achieved at the chip’s base speed of 3GHz, but you can squeeze out an extra five points if you want to risk the overclocked chip. Even when it’s overclocked, however, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550 can’t match the superb Arbico CD6750 SX’s processing speed.

Aside from that, the lengthy warranty is probably the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550’s best feature. Three years of protection is rare at this price point – provided the company continues to thrive in the difficult PC market (and there’s no reason to suppose it won’t), you can rest easy in the knowledge that you won’t have to bear the full cost if anything goes wrong.

There’s plenty to be pleased about elsewhere, despite the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550 being older than some of its competitors. The 250GB hard drive still looks pleasingly capacious, although the 512MB 8600 GT is no longer the fastest graphics card in the chart – being trumped by the 1GB version and, more impressively, by the Eclipse Fusion i670A385HD’s Radeon HD 3850. The CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550's 19in Yuraku flat-panel is a solid screen, while the inclusion of decent Logitech speakers – even if no subwoofer is offered – makes this one of the better-sounding PCs in the chart.

Verdict

If you’re looking for long-term peace of mind, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550’s generous warranty makes it an attractive option, while the memory gives you some overclocking potential if you’re willing to take a few extra risks. Overall then, this is a PC that still has plenty to offer in spite of its age.

Budget PCs chart ranking (March 08 issue)


  1. Arbico CD6750 SX
  2. Eclipse Fusion i670A385HD
  3. Advance Technologies AT-FX Air+
  4. CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550 - last month 2
  5. Eclipse Mirage Sli a60n86GT - last month 3


See also:
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550: expert review
Budget PCs chart ranking
Budget PCs buying advice
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550: our first look

Budget PCs buying advice (March 08 issue)

Processor You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but many of today’s chips are powerful enough to make light work of standard applications – and there are some excellent, affordable processors around if you can find them.

This month’s Core 2 Duo E6750 is a stand-out component, and plenty of cheaper systems use the decent E6500 and E6550 chips. The Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is also an option, and has fared pretty well in its outings to date. Don’t be fooled into buying an older Intel Pentium D, though. They have dual-core facilities, but their performance is a long way behind today’s Core 2 Duo range.

Memory In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB has almost become a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it – with applications only moving in one direction, you shouldn’t compromise in this area. Check you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will ultimately slow your system down.

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 250GB drive is a good investment that you won’t regret.

It helps to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure the PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the –R/+R formats at rates of at least 16-speed. If you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these tend to be lower, but you should look for an absolute minimum of six-speed on one of the formats. Realistically, you ought to be aiming for eight-speed.

Flat-panel Compromises have to be made to keep the price of a PC down, and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part of the PC that you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All the PCs in our charts now come with flat-panels. The most common size is currently 19in – you should be very careful when considering going above this size because the quality is unlikely to be good enough under these sorts of price constraints. We don’t see many CRTs now, but they’re still a pretty good deal if you can find them – provided you can put up with the bulky casing, the colour depth on these displays tends to be better than you get on flat-panels.

Graphics cards Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the cream of the crop do tend to come with decent cards.

You should still be looking for PCs that can produce 50 frames per second (fps) if you’re going to be playing games – 70fps or 80fps is better still. Today’s chip of choice is the Radeon HD 3850. This card is faster than anything else that you’re likely to get at this price point.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, although they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.0 games. They have plenty of pace to tackle today’s games.

Sound card and speakers You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price – it’s an area where vendors try to cut costs. Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound, but to get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1 speaker system. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you won’t get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.


See also:
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550: expert review
Budget PCs chart ranking
Budget PCs buying advice
CyberPower Gamer Ultra 550: our first look

Our first look

PC Advisor adopts a sceptical approach towards overclocking. The CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550 came with its AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ processor boosted from a base speed of 3GHz to 3.16GHz, and while the PC seemed stable and the 2GB of RAM is high-quality PC2-6400 memory, we're going with the WorldBench score it achieved at 3GHz for the purposes of this review. A total of 92 points is still excellent, and you can squeeze out an extra five points should you want to risk the overclocked chip.

Even with those extra WorldBench points the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550 wouldn't have stolen the number-one spot, although it's still a very good PC overall. Arguably its best feature is the lengthy warranty. Three years of protection is rare at this price point and, provided CyberPower continues to thrive in this difficult PC market (there's no reason to suppose it won't), you can rest easy in the knowledge that you won't have to bear the full cost if anything goes wrong.

Elsewhere there's plenty to be pleased about. The CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550's 250GB hard drive is capacious, and the 512MB 8600 GT is the fastest graphics card in the chart - although this PC in its unclocked state is marginally slower in games than the Arbico CD6750 XL. The 19in Yuraku is a solid screen, while the inclusion of proper Logitech speakers - even if no subwoofer is offered - makes this one of the better-sounding PCs in the chart.

Chart ranking: Sub-£500 budget PCs, January 08 issue


  1. Arbico CD6750 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550
  3. Zoostorm 4-2353
  4. Eclipse Matrix SLI A60n86GT
  5. PC Specialist Apollo Home GT (last month 4)

Verdict

If you want peace of mind, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550's warranty makes it the best option here. And, should you want to take a few risks, the memory gives some overclocking potential. This is a PC that has plenty to offer you, whatever your needs.

Buying advice: budget PCs as of January 08 issue

Processor: You're not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but many of today's chips are powerful enough to make light work of standard applications. We've seem some amazing chips - the Core 2 Duo E6750 being a stand-out - but you're far more likely to see E6450 or E6550 chips. The Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is also a decent option.

Don't be fooled into buying an older Intel Pentium D. They've got dual-core facilities but their performance is a long way behind today's Core 2 Duo range.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age 1GB has become a must-have. If you can get it then by all means go for more - all the PCs here are equipped with 2GB - but make sure you're not being stung by compromises elsewhere. Check you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers need to use system memory, which will ultimately slow the system down.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive so buy the biggest you can. Drives with a capacity of 250GB are a good investment.

Make sure the PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at 16-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good. If you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for DVD-R DL or DVD+R DL. Write speeds on these tend to be lower, but you need to look for an absolute minimum of six-speed on one of the formats. Realistically, you ought to be aiming for eight-speed.

Display: To keep the price of a PC down, compromises have to be made - and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part you're going to be spending most of your time looking at. All PCs now come with flat-panels - 19in models have become the most common size. Be very careful when going above this. The quality is unlikely to be good enough given the price constraints. We don't see many CRTs now, but they're still a pretty good deal if you can find them. Colour depth tends to be better than on flat-panels.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the cream of the crop do tend to come with decent graphics cards. You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50fps (frames per second) if you're going to be playing games - 70fps or 80fps is better still.

Today's chips of choice come from the nVidia GeForce 8600 range. These cards can support DirectX 10.0 (although they're unlikely to be powerful enough to show tomorrow's DirectX 10.0 games titles in all their finery). More to the point, they have plenty of pace with which to tackle today's games.

The ATI Radeon HD 2600 cards are just as good, however, and we expect to see more of these making an appearance in the coming months.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it's an area where vendors are likely to cut costs. Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound, but to get the best out of them you'll need a 5.1 speaker system. Unfortunately, there's a good chance you won't get anything better than a 2.1-channel system in this category - indeed, you won't necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.

CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550: Specs

  • 3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 250GB serial ATA
  • MSI K6N Neo
  • 6 x USB ports
  • 19in Yuraku MA9JBA (0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB Sparkle nVidia GeForce 8600 GT (PCI Express)
  • onboard Realtek
  • 2 x Logitech S100
  • max DVD speeds 18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year limited warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 92
  • 3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 250GB serial ATA
  • MSI K6N Neo
  • 6 x USB ports
  • 19in Yuraku MA9JBA (0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB Sparkle nVidia GeForce 8600 GT (PCI Express)
  • onboard Realtek
  • 2 x Logitech S100
  • max DVD speeds 18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year limited warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 92

OUR VERDICT

If you want peace of mind, the CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550's warranty makes it the best option here. And, should you want to take a few risks, the memory gives some overclocking potential. This is a PC that has plenty to offer you, whatever your needs.

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