Another system based on the E8500 chip, Eclipse’s Elite i85n98GTX seems somewhat lacking in specification: both RAM allocation (2GB) and hard-drive capacity (320GB) are on the low side. We’d also hoped for a better WorldBench 6 score than 117 points, bearing in mind the Arbico Elite 8070EX’s spectacular showing, while the 19in monitor is a noticeable step down from rival PCs’ offerings.

Fire up a demanding game such as Crysis, however, and the Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX redeems itself. With a GeForce 9800 GTX under the hood, it remains playable at high-quality settings right up to its display’s native resolution.

The ASRock 4Core1600Twins-P35 motherboard is unique in this month’s tests for its flexible memory support. With six slots, it can support four DDR2 modules or a pair of DDR3 modules for high-performance, if expensive, upgrades. It also supports ATI CrossFire, although you won’t be able to use this with the nVidia graphics card supplied with the Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX.

The Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX has no plug-in sound card. The silver lining to this cloud, however, is that the full complement of PCI Express and PCI slots are available for expansion cards, powered by the ample 775W EZcool PSU.

Chart ranking: budget desktop PCs (August issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 8070EX
  2. Mesh Elite Q9300 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT
  4. Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX
  5. Dell Inspiron 530/1142

>>NEXT PAGE: Buying advice and our expert verdict

Buying advice: budget desktop PCs (August issue)

Processor: Intel’s Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. But don’t buy a standard desktop powered by any processor beginning with ‘E6’ – those chips’ time has passed. The E8500 is a far better choice.

If you’re feeling adventurous, by all means go for one of Intel’s latest quad-core processors, such as the Q9300. We’re starting to see very good results with newer applications and games.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your processor by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB. Memory is only going to become more important in the next 12 months.

Storage: Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400GB to 500GB drive should make a good investment. If you’ve got space, consider buying a pair of smaller drives – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go when your drive eventually fails.

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 DL or +R DL burning. Drives that can also read Blu-ray Disc are becoming affordable, but be aware that you’ll
have to compromise your DVD speeds. Since DVD burners are low-cost items, it may be worth buying a second one to complement your Blu-ray unit.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience, so try it first to check you can put up with the quality.

At this price point you could be offered a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer a lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same number of pixels. This means 22in monitors will display larger text and icons, which may be easier to read.

Consider whether you need built-in speakers. If you want to connect additional devices to the display you’ll need at least two inputs. Finally, look for a good response rate – 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC – after all, the top graphics cards alone can cost £400. But you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights a little higher in this category. Look for a system that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. Just don’t expect to be able to run the latest cutting-edge titles at the very highest-quality settings.

The best card you’re likely to be offered at this price is a 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX, although the 512MB 8800 GTS is close behind and can cost significantly less.

Sound card and speakers: You’ll occasionally get a budget sound card at this price point, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. These are improving all the time.

To get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). Unfortunately, you may have to settle for a 2.1-channel system in this category. Insist on the subwoofer.

Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock 4Core1600Twins-P35
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hanns-G HW191D (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 53fps, Fear 66fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • built-in speakers
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 117
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock 4Core1600Twins-P35
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hanns-G HW191D (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 53fps, Fear 66fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • built-in speakers
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 117

OUR VERDICT

If you want the very best gaming performance at this price, the Eclipse Elite i85n98GTX is a tempting proposition. Putting all your eggs in the graphics-card basket, however, requires compromises elsewhere.

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