The Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS stands out in a number of ways: first, it’s the only PC in our chart to use an AMD processor. The 3.2GHz Athlon 64 X2 6400+ delivers very different performance characteristics to its Intel counterparts but, in general, it’s simply much slower.

These days a score of 95 is simply unable to keep up with the Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 and Quad Q6600 chips provided by the competition. The Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS's 19in Hanton monitor also leaves something to be desired, with backlight bleeding and weak contrast.

However, the money saved on the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS's CPU and peripherals has been put to good use elsewhere. When it comes to gaming, the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS tells an altogether different story.

With its powerful 384MB XFX GeForce 8800 GS graphics card, the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS is in a class of its own: framerates were roughly three times those clocked up by the best of the rest. At the resolutions supported by its monitor, no other PC here can touch it.

It’s worth noting that the Foxconn 520A AM2+ motherboard used in the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS has only two RAM slots, both of which are filled. So if you want more than the supplied 2GB of RAM, you’ll need to start from scratch.

Budget PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8400 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 750
  3. Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS
  4. Zoostorm 4-2354
  5. Arbico CD6570 SX

Verdict

In terms of performance, the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS is the polar opposite of Zoostorm's 4-2354. General office performance is mediocre, but it’s a superb entry-level system for gamers.

NEXT PAGE: Budget PCs buying advice > >

Budget PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but many of today’s chips are powerful enough to make light work of standard applications – and there are some excellent, affordable processors around if you can find them.

Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 is a stand-out component. For the first time we’ve seen a quad-core CPU in this price range: the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600. The Athlon 64 X2 6400+ is also an option, although it currently can’t match the Intel processors on general performance.

Don’t be fooled into buying an Intel Pentium D. They have dual-core capabilities, but their performance is a long way behind the Core 2 Duo range.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB has almost become a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Check you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will ultimately slow down your system.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 250GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add at a later date.

Look for a DVD burner that can write to the –R/+R formats at 16-speed or more. If you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these tend to be lower, but you should look for an absolute minimum of six-speed. Realistically, you ought to be aiming for eight-speed.

Flat-panel: 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 you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All the PCs in our charts now come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – be very careful when considering going above this size, because the quality is unlikely to be good enough under these price constraints. We don’t see many CRTs now, but they’re still a pretty good deal if you can find them – provided you can put up with the bulky casing, the colour depth on these displays tends to be better than you get on flat-panels.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the cream of the crop generally come with decent cards.

You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50 frames per second (fps) if you’re going to be playing games – 70fps or 80fps is better still. Currently, the fastest chip in this price range is the GeForce 8800GS, but including one may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, although they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.x games. They have plenty of pace for today’s games.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price. 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 be able to get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.

See also:

Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS: expert review

Budget PCs chart ranking

Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS: Specs

  • 3.2GHz AMD Athlon 6400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • FoxConn 520A AM2+
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hanton H340WDS (0.285mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 384MB PCI Express XFX GeForce 8800 GS
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 95
  • 3.2GHz AMD Athlon 6400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 160GB SATA
  • FoxConn 520A AM2+
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hanton H340WDS (0.285mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 384MB PCI Express XFX GeForce 8800 GS
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 95

OUR VERDICT

In terms of performance, the Eclipse Matrix A64N88GS is the polar opposite of Zoostorm's 4-2354. General office performance is mediocre, but it’s a superb entry-level system for gamers.

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