Eclipse once stunned us by putting together an E6700 system for £750 (the Eclipse Matrix I67N88-VSTA). And now it's gone even further, squeezing out the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s - a PC with the Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 at this price.
Admittedly, it's questionable whether such a chip can really perform to the best of its abilities when stranded inside a £750 system. And it's certainly true that the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s is a good six points off the total racked up by the similarly equipped Arbico in our power PC category. Perhaps the speed of the RAM has something to do with this. Either way, the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s is still faster than the other machines found here.
The graphics capabilities of the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s are also impressive. At a time when a number of PCs are making do with the cheaper DirectX 10.0 cards (the 8600 GTS, for example), it's nice to see the 640MB version of the GeForce 8800 GTS make an appearance. This, after all, is a very fast chip - only the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT and 8800 GTX and Ultra cards are quicker. Indeed, the slower 320MB version of the 8800 GTS is itself a decent choice at this price (see Buying advice, below).
The 19in HannsG HW191DP is a capable flat-panel, offering a steady picture and a pleasing palette of colours. It's not the best in the chart (the Arbico 807 Pro's 20.1in Videoseven, is a better deal), but it's a fairly worthy addition to the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s. Update - Eclipse has now changed this to the 19in HannsStar AH191DP flat-panel.
If there's one down side to the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s, it's the sound system. We've noticed a pleasing improvement in the quality of sound systems provided with budget PCs recently, with several models bolstering quite decent onboard sound with a chunky set of speakers. The Eclipse Evolution i685n88s doesn't follow suit, so if good audio is a high priority for you, you'll want to look elsewhere.
The Eclipse Evolution i685n88s's Optiarc DVD writer is a very commendable model. It lacks the top-line 20-speed DVD-R/+R capabilities of the PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS's Liteon drive but, despite this, remains a blistering drive.
The Eclipse Evolution i685n88s's warranty and software bundle are somewhat miserly. But ultimately, the Eclipse Evolution i685n88s is about the powerful processor and the graphics card. And viewed on those terms, it's an absolute winner.
Chart ranking: budget PCs October 07 issue