CyberPower's interesting-looking Infinity Hades budget desktop PC uses a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 750 to devastating effect, producing real-world speed that's unbeaten by the competition.

It can be difficult to stand out among machines with the same components. The CyberPower Infinity Hades recorded the best WorldBench 6 score here with 135 points, but that was matched by two other PCs and only four points more than the bottom score. The popular 2.66GHz Core i5 750 is unbeatable at this price point, delivering excellent performance across the board.

The HD 5770 graphics card is also excellent. Unsurprisingly, you won't find a better card in this round-up. It powers the CyberPower Infinity Hades to 25fps in our gruelling Crysis test.

Leaving aside the processor and graphics, then, it's up to the other components to impress us. Our first impressions were good, with the metallic blue trim on the Cooler Master Elite 310 case, the internal blue lighting and a blue Gigabyte motherboard instantly catching our attention. The CyberPower Infinity Hades's AOC monitor is equally easy on the eye, with sweeping curves and a novel space-saving stand that protrudes from the rear. But while it's attractive, this monitor doesn't offer a DVI input.

A 500GB hard drive and 4GB of DDR3 RAM are fairly standard inclusions at this price point. You'll have to replace rather than add to the CyberPower Infinity Hades's existing memory chips if you want to upgrade this allocation - the motherboard has no memory slots spare.

In fact, the microATX motherboard found inside the CyberPower Infinity Hades offers limited expansion capability in general, with only two PCI slots and no support for Raid. A spare PCI Express X16 slot does let you add a second graphics card, however.

With no external speakers and a full-HD but rather small 22in monitor, the CyberPower Infinity Hades doesn't offer such good value for money as its rivals. Its interesting looks will appeal to gamers and those fed up with drab, black boxes, however.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (June issue)

  1. Palicomp Core i7 Blast 750-24
  2. Chillblast Fusion Samurai
  3. Arbico HD 7577 XL
  4. CyberPower Infinity Hades
  5. Mesh Ice5 5750 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

CyberPower's interesting-looking Infinity Hades budget desktop PC uses a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 750 to devastating effect, producing real-world speed that's unbeaten by the competition.

Buying advice

Processor: The arrival of Intel's Core i5 750 has changed everything in this price range, bringing with it superb quad-core performance and support for DDR3 memory. Core i5 processors use new motherboards with a different CPU socket; buying one now puts you in a good position for future upgrades. If you're lucky, you may find a faster Core i7 8xx-series CPU at this price point.

Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 was once king of this category and is still available, but with the Core i3 540 hitting the market there's now no reason to choose it unless you find a fantastic deal. The Core i3 540 will give you superb dual-core performance and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory. AMD's Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money and quad-core performance, although they can't match the Core i5 in our tests.

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.

Core i5- and i7 8xx-based PCs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there's no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with Core i7 9xx systems.

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 hard 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 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. Blu-ray readers are becoming more affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down, so you should ideally try out the monitor before you buy.

Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in (16:10) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, although onscreen elements will be even smaller.

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 is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: There's simply not room in the budget for a top-end graphics card at this price point, but you should still be able to find a decent model.

We test PCs using the four-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is ample to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 60fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI's Radeon HD 4890 and nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings ?a notch. AMD's HD 5770 is a slower card with today's games, but adds DirectX 11.0.

nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and the ability to display content in 3D when used with special glasses.

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: Most motherboards at this price point depend on onboard sound. To get surround sound look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

CyberPower Infinity Hades: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2H
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in AOC F22S+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 66/25fps
  • Fear = 196fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888B
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2H
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in AOC F22S+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 66/25fps
  • Fear = 196fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888B
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 135

OUR VERDICT

Ideal for gamers on a budget, the CyberPower Infinity Hades looks good and performs well. But you can get more for your money elsewhere.

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