CyberPower has diverted from its usual path with the Gamer Ultra HD II, opting to ditch the dual-core Intel CPU of old in favour of AMD's flagship processor, the Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition. Clocked at 3GHz, this is a faster version of the processor that we've seen in recent months and it scores correspondingly higher in our tests.

While it can't match the WorldBench scores of the E8600-based systems, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II is close enough behind to warrant serious consideration - and if you run applications designed to take advantage of this chip's quad-core multiprocessing, you can expect considerably better performance.

And when it comes to gaming, this PC is able to keep up with the best of them. It, too, comes with an ATI Radeon HD 4870 - a great-value graphics card that delivers a very good gaming experience at this price point. Although this machine may perform a little slower running single-threaded applications than some of the competition, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II is on a par with the Chillblast Fusion Meteor in our Crysis test at ‘Very High' settings.

The CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II is also an attractive PC. The system case is noticeably superior in quality to those of rival systems and comes with some cool blue interior illumination (albeit without the firm's trademark transparent side panel).

Inside, a 600W PSU should provide the headroom necessary for installing additional components or overclocking the CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II's base specification. Indeed, overclocking will be expertly handled by the AMD processor, thanks to its unlocked CPU multipliers.

A pair of memory slots are available, but be warned that the compact dimensions of the CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II's motherboard mean there's little room for any other sort of internal expansion.

The analogue-only monitor is a disappointment, unfortunately, while the lack of external speakers means you'll have to pay extra to get any decent sound quality out of the CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II.


Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (August issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Meteor
  2. Eclipse Matrix i86A487
  3. CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II
  4. Arbico CD8850 XL
  5. Chillblast Fusion Isis


>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (August issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs in this price category.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips, such as the Q9300 or Q9400. These processors perform well with newer applications and games.

AMD's Phenom II X4 920 and 940 also offer excellent value for money and quad-core performance, the latter being designed for easy overclocking.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. A 500GB drive is a good investment. Consider using a pair of smaller drives rather than one large drive - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the -R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that can read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out before buying.

Be aware that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in and 22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in flat-panels in the 16:9 format are capable of displaying full-HD content at a screen resolution of 1,080p.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; if you want to connect additional devices you'll need at least two. Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Truly hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC, but you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

We test PCs on the three-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI's Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch. If you're not into gaming, cutting back on graphics won't harm general performance.

Power supply: A large PSU is less vital at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to make later upgrades easier.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). A 2.1-channel stereo system will be good enough for most users. A monitor's built-in speakers seldom offer a satisfying audio experience.

CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II: Specs

  • 3GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M3A78-EM motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 600W SilverPower PSU
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG221A flat-panel monitor (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 52/26fps
  • Fear = 224fps)
  • onboard Realtek sound
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Express Gate
  • Adobe Reader 8.0
  • CyberLink Power Backup
  • Corel Media One
  • Cool n Quiet
  • PC Probe II
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114
  • 3GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M3A78-EM motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 600W SilverPower PSU
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG221A flat-panel monitor (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 52/26fps
  • Fear = 224fps)
  • onboard Realtek sound
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Express Gate
  • Adobe Reader 8.0
  • CyberLink Power Backup
  • Corel Media One
  • Cool n Quiet
  • PC Probe II
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114

OUR VERDICT

With a long three-year warranty, great overclocking potential and good performance, the quad-core CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II is worthy of serious consideration.

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