Compromise is often the name of the game at this price point. Do you pour your money into the processor and RAM, or dish out the dosh on a sizeable monitor and decent graphics setup, sacrificing a little general performance in the process?

Eclipse has done away with its usual brute-force approach and gone very much for the second option. Which is why the Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C comes with the thrilling 8800 GTS 512 graphics card. A notch up on the quartet of 8800 GTs supplied with the other PCs here, the GTS 512 offered an extra 5-7fps in our games tests.

Feverish gamers might also want to consider an extra-large helping of screen space, and the Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C's 21.6in Yuraku is a beast. It lacks a little clarity and fizz compared to the Arbico CD8500 XL’s 19in Hanspree, but this is still a very solid monitor – and a definite bonus if you’re looking for extra inches. The Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C is an excellent choice for those who want hot gaming performance and a large screen.

Unfortunately, general performance isn’t in the same class. Not only does the Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C come with the ageing E6850 rather than the hot young Penryn E8500, but this PC is also weighed down by its 2GB of DDR RAM.

The Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C’s 320GB hard drive is pleasing – if not quite as capacious as the CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition’s 400GB unit – although the sound system and DVD writer are less impressive than those bundled with the competition. Gaming enthusiasts may like the idea of the Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C's large screen and fast graphics card, but the rest of us will prefer the superb Arbico CD8500 XL or CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition.

Budget PCs chart ranking (April issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition
  3. Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C
  4. Chillblast Fusion Gladiator - last month 1
  5. Zoostorm 4-4428

Verdict

Compromise is the name of the game at this price point, and Eclipse has sacrificed a little general performance in exchange for the best graphics setup in the chart and a good-sized monitor. The Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C is good for gamers, then, but the rest of us would do better to look toward the first- and second-placed systems from Arbico CD8500 XL and CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition.

See also:

Budget PCs buying advice

Buying advice: £501-£750 desktop PCs (April issue)

Processor: Only last month we were saying hello to the E8500; now we’re effectively saying goodbye to the once all-conquering E6850 – you can put in half the RAM and an E8500 will register the same performance scores. The E8500 will be a little more expensive, however, so it’s worth watching out for special offers as manufacturers try to offload their supplies of E6850s. If you’ve got one eye on the future, consider a Core 2 Quad chip. You’ll sacrifice a little speed for the money now, but you might make it up in spades when multithreaded software applications start hitting the shops.

Memory: It’s a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the sub-£750 category, 2GB is standard, with the odd system daring to stretch to 4GB. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to go quite this far, but 2GB is a definite must. Memory is only going to become more and more important in the next 12 months, so stock up now.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media files such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 320GB or 400GB drive should make a good investment.

It’s a good idea to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure your PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the –R/+R formats at rates of at least 18-speed. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these have got significantly faster in recent months, and you really need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

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

Virtually all PCs (and all of our Top 5) come with flat-panels. We’d recommend a 19in model – they’re rife at this price point. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 19in, as the quality at this price point could be low. Finally, look for a screen with a good response rate – 8ms or below should be more than fast enough.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, feverish gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£750 PC. Nonetheless, the best PCs do tend to come with decent graphics cards.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, at this price you can set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. The 512MB 8800 GTS 512 is the undoubted leader, although the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. You may be able to find an 8800 GTX if you hunt hard enough, but the GT and GTS 512 are more likely. Stocks may be running a little low, so be patient.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it’s an area where vendors are likely 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 speaker system. Unfortunately, you may not get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

See also:

Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C: expert review
Budget PCs chart ranking

Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 400GB SATA
  • Foxconn P35AX-S
  • 6 x USB
  • 21.6in Yuraku (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base and 30-day premier warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 112
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 400GB SATA
  • Foxconn P35AX-S
  • 6 x USB
  • 21.6in Yuraku (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base and 30-day premier warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 112

OUR VERDICT

Compromise is the name of the game at this price point, and Eclipse has sacrificed a little general performance in exchange for the best graphics setup in the chart and a good-sized monitor. The Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C is good for gamers, then, but the rest of us would do better to look toward the first- and second-placed systems from Arbico CD8500 XL and CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition.

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