If you're a keen gamer on a budget, the Eclipse Quantum a55r575 could be the PC for you.

If you're a keen gamer on a budget, the Eclipse Quantum a55r575 could be the PC for you. Based on the same AMD platform as the two lower-placing systems from Arbico and CyberPower, the dual-core Eclipse's 3.1GHz Phenom II X2 500 processor pushes it to a respectable score of 116 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test.

More interestingly, the Eclipse Quantum a55r575 desktop PC houses the most powerful graphics card here. Its ATI Radeon HD 5750 comes with 1GB of video memory; it delivers around 60 percent more computational power than the CyberPower's HD 5670 and around 10 times that of the HD 5450 found in the Palicomp.

This means that, unlike with our top two machines, you'll get framerates good enough for actual gaming. The Eclipse Quantum a55r575 desktop PC is still not powerful enough to deliver playable framerates in our 'Very High' Crysis test, but these are easily smoothed by dropping the settings a notch. DirectX 11.0 support also means you can run games such as Stalker: Call of Pripyat with good-quality graphics at a playable speed.

But it isn't all good news: the cost of this graphics card means you'll have to sacrifice external speakers and make do with a rather low-resolution 18.5in display. The Eclipse Quantum a55r575 desktop PC's standard 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive are nothing to get excited about either.

The Eclipse Quantum a55r575 desktop PC is housed in an entry-level but smart EZCool N800-D case. The power switch is illuminated by a cool blue LED, while a flap at the front reveals a pair of USB ports and audio connectors.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-19
  2. Chillblast Fusion Vortex
  3. Eclipse Quantum a55r575
  4. CyberPower Ultra Athenna XT
  5. Arbico Phenom 5524 GT

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

If you're a keen gamer on a budget, the Eclipse Quantum a55r575 could be the PC for you.

Buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550 is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. You can also now find quad-core CPUs in this price range from both AMD and Intel. The AMD Athlon X4 630 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In the post-Vista era, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Some CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper now, and bodes well for performance. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price; you can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized drive. Hard-drive space is easy to add later, however.

If you're planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you've got spare drive bays inside your PC's case.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the KR formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to get 8.5GB on to one disc, get a drive that can write to dual-layer discs (+/-R DL) at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

Flat-panel: It's the component you'll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 18.5in - the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good at this price. Look for a monitor with a DVI or HDMI digital connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one, too.

If display size or quality is of critical importance to you - and you're willing to cut costs elsewhere - you may be able to get a 22in 1080p flat-panel.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. However, decent graphics cards get cheaper all the time, and budget PCs can now handle games that were unthinkable a few months ago.

ATI's HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but if you shop around you may be able to find an HD 5850. This will give you better performance, but may require compromises elsewhere.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version. And if you don't play games, consider a PC that relies on integrated graphics.

Intel's Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older integrated solutions. Such a PC won't be up to most games, but it will support HD video and Windows 7's Aero effects.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components installed, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point. Most motherboards can handle six-channel sound.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Eclipse Quantum a55r575: Specs

  • 3.1GHz AMD Phenom II X2 550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA II
  • Asus M2N68-AM SE2 motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 18.5in AOC 931SN (0.3mm pixel pitch
  • 1366x768)
  • 1GB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 52/20fps
  • Fear = 180fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116
  • 3.1GHz AMD Phenom II X2 550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA II
  • Asus M2N68-AM SE2 motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 18.5in AOC 931SN (0.3mm pixel pitch
  • 1366x768)
  • 1GB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5750 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 52/20fps
  • Fear = 180fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse Quantum a55r575 desktop PC is the most capable gaming machine in our chart, but to achieve the best framerates you'll need to sacrifice half the system memory and use a low-resolution 18.5in monitor. If you're not a gamer then look instead to the Palicomp, which offers better overall performance and peripherals.

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