Eclipse’s Starburst i576r687 is the fastest gaming PC here, but it compromises on other important features.

Eclipse’s Starburst i576r687 is the fastest gaming PC here, but it compromises on other important features. At the heart of the system is Intel’s 2.8GHz Core i5-760 processor. It can’t match the CyberPower’s i5-2400, but it still delivers very good performance.

The Eclipse Starburst i576r687 desktop PC is housed in a Cooler Master Elite 335 system case that looks very similar to the Chillblast’s Xigmatek Asgard. It lacks the internal matt black paint job and cable management, however.

An ASRock motherboard supports USB 3.0, providing a single port. You can add a second graphics card to it in CrossFireX mode, although the Eclipse Starburst i576r687 desktop PC's P55 chipset restricts this operation to X4-speed on each slot.

All the PCs here come with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, with the exception of the Palicomp – and it’s this machine that is the Eclipse Starburst i576r687's main rival.

The Eclipse Starburst i576r687 desktop PC is very fast, scoring 138 points in WorldBench 6. Compared with the Palicomp, however, it has a smaller hard drive, a less capable power supply and no external speakers. It also comes with a smaller monitor, although the 21.5in BenQ features superior LED backlighting and still displays a very good full-HD picture.

The Starburst i576r687's ATI Radeon HD 6870 graphics card delivers the best gaming scores of the group, but Eclipse has budgeted for this graphics card in place of a Blu-ray drive.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Corona
  2. CyberPower Infinity Achilles
  3. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870
  4. Eclipse Starburst i576r687
  5. Arbico i576 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Eclipse’s Starburst i576r687 is the fastest gaming PC here, but it compromises on other important features.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ CPUs are set to revolutionise all our PC chart categories. The 3.1GHz Core i5-2400 seen here delivers formidable performance. The processors demand a new type of motherboard, so buying into this technology now will future-proof your PC.

Previous-generation processors such as the Core i5-760 still offer excellent value and leave more money in the budget to spend on Blu-ray drives, powerful graphics and other components.

If you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; Core i5-600-series chips are dual-core.

Quad-core processors offer greater multiprocessing capabilities, but the higher clock speeds of dual-core chips mean they can run single-threaded applications faster. Non-gamers should note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play full-HD video without a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value, although they can’t match the Core i5 in our tests. Some AMD processors contain hidden extra cores that can be enabled in the Bios. Ensure that any tweaks are backed by the vendor.

Memory: If a fast CPU speeds up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU with 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, however.

Core i5- and i7-800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes (as you do with i7-900-series CPUs).

Storage: Photos and video will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; choose a PC with the most capacious drive you can. Expect at least 500GB at this price.

Consider using a pair of smaller hard drives rather than one large drive – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

With prices falling all the time, you may find a solid-state disk (SSD) affordable. An SSD’s faster file transfers can transform your computing experience, but make sure you get one at least 60GB in capacity and install your programs on a second drive if you want to avoid running into drive-space problems.

Your DVD drive should write to the +/-R formats at 18-speed or above. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD+/-R dual-layer drives. Blu-ray readers are becoming more affordable, but they’re still quite rare at this price.

Display: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 21.6in (16:9) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, but onscreen elements will be even smaller. You’ll find many budget 23.6in displays at this price.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port; if you want to connect additional devices, you’ll need at least two.

Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: We test graphics framerates with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The latter can benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. 25fps is enough to make a game playable, but set your sights at 50fps.

ATI’s Radeon HD 6850 offers excellent performance for the money. Cut back on other components and step up to a Radeon HD 6870 if gaming is very important to you.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 460 also offers good performance. nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and are able to display 3D content.

If you don’t play games at all, you’ll be fine with the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A 450W-plus power supply unit (PSU) is less vital at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to make later upgrades easier.

Sound card and speakers: To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Eclipse Starburst i576r687: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 9 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • ASRock P55 Pro/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in BenQ G2222HDL (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/41fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medum/Ultra] = 143/86fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 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: 138
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 9 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • ASRock P55 Pro/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in BenQ G2222HDL (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/41fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medum/Ultra] = 143/86fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 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: 138

OUR VERDICT

If you crave the ultimate gaming speed and don’t need a set of speakers, the Eclipse Starburst i576r687 desktop PC is a good choice. It performed very well across all our tests.

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