Eclipse's Solar i54r567 is an ideal desktop PC for gamers on a budget, delivering more than five times the framerates of other Windows 7 computers at this price level.

Eclipse's Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC offers excellent value for money. Built around Intel’s 3.06GHz Core i3-540, this dual-core machine delivers very good performance when running office applications. Its WorldBench 6 score of 126 is a single point shy of the chart leader.

But it’s in 3D gaming that the Eclipse Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC gives its best performance, leaving the integrated graphics and HD 5450 cards of the other PCs standing. The difference here is a supplementary graphics card that delivers more than six times the gaming performance of the HD 5450. The smooth 116fps delivered from the HD 5670 in our Fear test is a massive improvement over the next fastest PC’s 19fps score, letting you increase the resolution and make full use of the widescreen display.

The Eclipse Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC is slightly noisier than its rivals, with its HD 5670 using a fan for cooling. This is an easy compromise, however, with the card also bringing support for DirectX 11.0 and multiple monitors.

The Eclipse Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC's supplied display is less impressive, however. Eclipse offers a smaller (19in), lower-resolution (1440x900) version of the 22in HKC full-HD monitor supplied with the CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo XT.

The Biostar motherboard is loaded with 4GB of RAM, but it doesn’t allow the addition of a second graphics card. Also supplied with the Eclipse Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC is a standard 500GB hard drive.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-22 USB3
  2. Chillblast Fusion Assassin
  3. Eclipse Solar i54r567
  4. Arbico i3-5445 XL
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo XT

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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Eclipse's Solar i54r567 is an ideal desktop PC for gamers on a budget, delivering more than five times the framerates of other Windows 7 computers at this price level.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s Core i3 processor has the sub-£500 PC category sewn up. This issue we have examples ranging from the 2.93GHz Core i3-530 to the 3.2GHz Core i3-550. These chips have integrated graphics processors, which let vendors build a capable system at lower cost by omitting a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s Phenom II X2 550 is another good choice of CPU for a budget PC, while quad-core processors can be found from both Intel and AMD at this price point. The AMD Athlon X4 630 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

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 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 point, although 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.

Get a 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 19in – 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 you may be able to find an HD 5850 if you shop around. 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. These PCs support HD video and Windows 7’s Aero effects.

Lower-spec cards such as the HD 5450 don’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel integrated graphics, but do offer DirectX 11.0 support. Many can also drive multiple monitors, so you can hook up your TV and display at the same time.

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: Specification and our expert verdict

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Eclipse Solar i54r567: Specs

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3-540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • Biostar H55-HD motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in HKC (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 116fps)
  • 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)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i3-540
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • Biostar H55-HD motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 19in HKC (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 116fps)
  • 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)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse Solar i54r567 budget desktop PC offers great value for money and is in a class of its own for graphics performance.

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