This impressive entry from Eclipse stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to gaming. Fitted with an ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card, the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 has significantly more 3D oomph than those fitted with the lesser Radeon HD 4850 version.

Given that the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 uses the same 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor found in the chart-leading systems from Arbico and Chillblast, we expected similarly high performance figures from it. In fact, our WorldBench 6 tests produced rather disappointing results: a score of 119 is by no means slow, but 125-odd points are not uncommon from similarly specified PCs.

The extra cost of the graphics card also forces compromises for the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 in other areas: your warranty lasts a year, not two, and a 500GB hard drive is supplied rather than 750GB.

Inside the Eclipse Matrix i85A487, the Foxconn P35AX-S motherboard is rather small and basic. Only two memory slots are available, both already filled, providing a total of 4GB of DDR2 RAM. Most of us won’t need to expand beyond this, but it’s nice to have the flexibility of spare slots. On the plus side, ATI’s Crossfire technology is supported, so you can add a second Radeon HD 4870 at a later date.

You don’t get any external speakers with the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 either, so you’ll have to rely on the tiny ones built into the Hanns-G HG216DP monitor.

The Eclipse Matrix i85A487's monitor is itself a very popular choice, offering good image quality from its 21.6in display and dual video inputs, including HDMI for easy connection to a Blu-ray player or games console.

If you’re a keen gamer then, despite some significant compromises, the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 is definitely the one for you.

Budget desktop PCs: chart ranking (October issue)


  1. Arbico CD 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hornet
  3. Eclipse Matrix i85A487
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT
  5. Packard Bell imax 3414

>>NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (October issue)

Processor: Intel’s Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price, the E8500 version appearing in the vast majority of PCs we currently review. 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. Older Q6600 chips may still be on sale, with good performance for the multithreaded applications if the price is right.

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 going to become even 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 400-500GB drive should make a good investment. If you’ve got space, consider a pair of smaller drives – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

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 dual-layer drives. Drives that also read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but you’ll have to compromise on DVD speeds. As 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.

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

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.

ATI’s Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money at this price bracket, making even the most demanding games playable if you’re prepared to drop the resolution and quality settings a notch or two.

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 surround sound you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may have to settle for a 2.1-channel stereo system, which is still good enough for most people.

Eclipse Matrix i85A487: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Foxconn P35AX-S
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4870 (games scores: Crysis = 61fps
  • Fear = 220fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 119
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Foxconn P35AX-S
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4870 (games scores: Crysis = 61fps
  • Fear = 220fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 119

OUR VERDICT

If you’re a keen gamer then, despite some significant compromises, the Eclipse Matrix i85A487 is definitely the one for you.

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