Based on the familiar CoolerMaster Elite 330 case, CyberPower’s Gamer Ultra 930 looks much like the other sub-£500 systems. But a look inside reveals a different beast.

The CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930’s Phenom 9550 X4 quad-core processor is well equipped to handle multiple applications and the latest entertainment titles. The processor is topped by a massive Thermaltake Blue Orb II cooler, which helps keep things quiet.

As is often the case with quad-core computing, however, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930’s WorldBench 6 speed scores lag behind those of its rivals. You won’t get the best from this system unless you use multithreaded software.

The 19in Hannspree HW191D flat-panel is well suited to the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930’s capabilities. Graphics grunt is provided by an ATI Radeon HD 3650 card. This offers similar performance to the other PCs’ GeForce 8600 GTs, although that card achieves a narrow lead in certain more demanding games.

Where the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930 really loses marks is in its use of Vista Home Basic – you lose many of Premium’s features, including Windows Media Center and the Aero Glass interface.

Verdict

A quad-core system such as the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930 for under £500 is a tempting proposition, but it’s unlikely you’ll be running the types of applications to see any real benefit from the extra cores.

Budget desktop PCs chart ranking (July 08 issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 8400
  2. Chillblast Fusion Rogue
  3. Mesh Delta GT
  4. CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 750

See also: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Budget desktop PC buying advice (July 08 issue)

Processor: You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but there are some excellent, affordable chips around if you can find them. Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 is a stand-out component and dominates the charts quite convincingly.

We’re also now seeing some quad-core processors in this price range, in the form of the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 and AMD’s latest Phenom X4 9550.

Don’t be tempted to buy older Intel Pentium D chips – their performance is a long way behind today’s Core 2 Duos.

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.

Check you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Also check your motherboard has some 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 250GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later. If you’re planning on upgrading 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.

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 you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – be careful when considering larger monitors because the quality is unlikely to be good enough at this price. We don’t see many CRTs, but they’re still a pretty good deal – provided you can put up with the bulky casing, colour depth tends to be better than with 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 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. The fastest chip in this price range is currently the GeForce 8800GS, but including one of these may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, but they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.0 games. They’ve got 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 most 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 system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

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.

CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930: Specs

  • 2.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • MSI K9A2 CF
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree HW191D (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3650
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 90
  • 2.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • MSI K9A2 CF
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree HW191D (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3650
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 90

OUR VERDICT

A quad-core system such as the CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930 for under £500 is a tempting proposition, but it’s unlikely you’ll be running the types of applications to see any real benefit from the extra cores.

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