The CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's Core i3 processor offers a significantly higher clock speed than the 2.66GHz i5 750 favoured by its rivals.

CyberPower's Infinity i3 Apollo is the first Core i3-powered entrant to our charts. The 3.06GHz 540 CPU seen here offers a significantly higher clock speed than the 2.66GHz i5 750 favoured elsewhere, but this dual-core chip can't offer the same future-proofing as the quad-core i5- and i7-based machines.

Those who run lots of apps at once will notice a performance decrease with the Core i3. For most users, however, the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo will deliver an excellent computing experience. Its higher clock speed enables it to run individual processes faster, while hyperthreading technology boosts its multiprocessing capabilities.

This performance boost is reflected in our WorldBench 6 test, with the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's Core i3 540 beating the Core i5 750 and delivering the best performance score of the group.

Graphics duties are taken care of by a Radeon HD 5750. Although it's slower than the HD 5770 found in our Best Buy Arbico, it'll save around £10 on the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's overall system price. If you're into gaming, you probably won't find this a good trade-off.

The CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's other specifications are fairly typical for a system at this price point and include a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 650W PSU.

The 22in Digimate monitor offers a digital connection and reasonably good picture quality, but the 1680x1050 screen resolution isn't capable of producing a full-HD image. As we noted earlier, this will make text and icons appear slightly larger on the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's display.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (issue 177)

  1. Arbico HD 7577 XL
  2. Mesh Ice5 5750 HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Scimitar
  4. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo
  5. Eclipse Matrix Crossfire i786R577

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

The CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo's Core i3 processor offers a significantly higher clock speed than the 2.66GHz i5 750 favoured by its rivals.

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/+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 always 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 enough 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 you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo: Specs

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3 540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in Digimate L2262WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 63/21fps
  • Fear = 176fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889
  • 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: 137
  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3 540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 22in Digimate L2262WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 63/21fps
  • Fear = 176fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889
  • 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: 137

OUR VERDICT

Finished with a distinctive blue trim, the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo is a smart-looking PC that delivers excellent performance in our tests, and comes with a long three-year warranty. However, quad core processors and faster graphics cards are available in systems at the same price.

Find the best price