Another system based on the Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU, Eclipse's Aspire i84a465 is a solid performer that achieves a decent 118 points in our WorldBench 6 speed tests.

The Eclipse's ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card uses the same graphics processing unit (GPU) as the Chillblast's card, but here it comes with twice the memory. You might therefore expect to see a boost in graphics performance, but the Aspire i84a465 was noticeably slower than the Chillblast in our games tests.

The Eclipse Aspire i84a465's gaming performance is hampered by two factors. Firstly, its graphics card actually has a slower memory clock speed than the standard 4650 chip. And secondly, the 32bit version of Vista Home Premium renders only 3GB of the 4GB of installed memory available for use.

The Eclipse Aspire i84a465's 19in Yuraku screen has a pleasantly thin bezel, with all control buttons located on the rear. Less impressively, however, it doesn't feature a digital connection.

Audio is provided via the stereo speakers built into the display. This isn't an unusual strategy at this price, but the Eclipse Aspire i84a465 compares badly with the Chillblast and its external speakers.

More pleasingly, the Eclipse Aspire i84a465's full-size motherboard offers plenty of expansion room for memory and add-in PCI cards.

Seasoned users might appreciate the relative lack of software bundled with the Eclipse Aspire i84a465; others would do well to consider the Packard Bell, which comes with a vast selection of applications preloaded.


Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (July issue)

  1. Arbico CD 8467 XL
  2. Chillblast Comet
  3. Eclipse Aspire i84a465
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600
  5. Packard Bell iMedia A3317

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (July issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice at this price, although slower processors such as the E8400 will still be fast enough for most users. Lower-cost alternatives, such as the Intel E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In this Vista-shackled age, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. Hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later.

If you're planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you've got spare drive bays inside your PC's 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 to one disc, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for 22-speed models.

Flat-panel: It's the component you'll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in - the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good at this price. Look for a monitor with a DVI or HDMI digital connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one, too.

If display size or quality is of critical importance to you, you may be able to get a 22in 1,080p flat-panel if you're willing to cut costs elsewhere.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. You'll want a PC that can produce at least 50fps for gaming.

The current economic situation has meant that we're seeing slower graphics cards provided with all our chart systems. The usual 9800 GT and 9600 GT have been replaced by the 9500 GT and the HD 4670 by the HD 4650.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components under the bonnet, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then you'll need to ensure that your PSU is able to deliver enough juice to power your new components. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point. Most motherboards have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). Separate stereo speakers are rare in systems costing less than £500, however. Prepare to make sacrifices elsewhere if getting standalone speakers is a requirement for you.

Eclipse Aspire i84a465: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 240GB SATA
  • MSI P31 Neo-F motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Yuraku Yur.Vision YV19WP3 flat-panel monitor (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (Low/High) = 22/6fps
  • Fear = 43fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200 sound card
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/8x/12x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 118
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 240GB SATA
  • MSI P31 Neo-F motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Yuraku Yur.Vision YV19WP3 flat-panel monitor (0.24mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (Low/High) = 22/6fps
  • Fear = 43fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200 sound card
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/8x/12x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 118

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse Aspire i84a465 is a solid performer, and has plenty of room for expansion.

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