Eclipse’s Voyager i525H61 is much like any other sub-£500 PC we’ve reviewed here: its 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K delivers good application performance and adequate graphics power for an excellent multimedia experience and low-level gaming.

A standard 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive are fitted to the popular Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3 motherboard. This board features Intel’s budget H61 chipset and USB 3.0 support, but not the SATA 6Gbps interface to optimise the Eclipse Voyager i525H61's Seagate hard drive. This 7,200rpm model still works fine with the slower 3Gbps interface, though.

Application performance in our tests was in line with our expectations. The Eclipse Voyager i525H61 scored 154 points in WorldBench 6, putting it just a single point ahead of the overclockable Palicomp. The Chillblast scored higher in WorldBench 6 by doubling up on its DDR3 memory.

The Eclipse Voyager i525H61 is the only machine in this chart to turn its back on the AOC F22+ in favour of a 21.6in HKC 2219A. This display is marginally larger and features built-in speakers. Although Eclipse hasn’t followed the competition’s suit and improved sound quality by bundling an external set, it’s still louder than that of Arbico’s mute eXcel.

The Eclipse Voyager i525H61 is housed in a black EZCool N800D case. It’s relatively compact and tidy-looking, with spring-loaded flaps that conceal a pair of front-facing USB ports and audio jacks. It feels very plasticky, though, and lacks the build quality found in some competing cases.

Budget PC chart ranking

  1. 1. Chillblast Fusion Neutron
    2. CyberPower Ultra Triton
    3. Palicomp Phoenix i5 Sonar Extreme
    4. Eclipse Voyager i525H61
    5. Arbico eXcel i5-2533LE

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Budget PC buying advice

Processor: Intel’s second-generation Core i5 chips have the budget category sewn up. The 3.3GHz Core i5-2500K delivers superb performance and its integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics are more than adequate for HD multimedia and low-level gaming. The non-overclockable i5-2500 is slightly cheaper and delivers the same application performance, but it features less powerful Intel HD 2000 graphics.

‘K’ versions of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors support overclocking, but you’ll need a pricey Z68- or P67-chipset-based motherboard (the latter also requires a discrete graphics card). A Z68 chipset provides additional support for SSD caching and auto-switching graphics.

Sandy Bridge chips also provide accelerated graphics encoding, plus VGA and HDMI outputs. While integrated graphics aren’t fast enough for a true gaming PC, some titles remain playable if you lower the quality settings.

If you really want to play games, AMD’s A6 CPUs are slower in desktop applications but feature faster integrated graphics. They also support DirectX 11.0.

Memory: Expect 4GB at this price and don’t settle for less than 2GB. Most CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while older ones can also use DDR2. Check your motherboard has free slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Falling prices mean that 1TB is well within the reach of even a budget PC. You can never have too much storage space, and digital media 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 DVD+/-R 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 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.

Good-quality full-HD monitors are available even iat this price. Expect to find a 21.5in model, although these are often marketed as 22in screens. It’s best to get one with dual inputs and a digital connection (DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort), letting you get the best image quality available and hook up additional devices.

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.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with integrated graphics processors that deliver better performance than older Intel integrated solutions. The new Sandy Bridge chips are even faster and offer features such as dual-monitor outputs. They also support HD video without the need for a separate graphics card. AMD’s A6 chips offer even faster graphics.

The ATI Radeon HD 5450 is a popular choice for a budget PC. It doesn’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel GMA integrated graphics, but it offers support for DirectX 11.0. Many graphics cards can also drive multiple monitors.

If you really want to play games, nVidia’s GeForce GT 240 will provide some extra speed. Be prepared to lower your graphics settings, however.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Eclipse Voyager i525H61: Specs

  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in HKC 2219A (0.28mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD 3000 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 17fps, Crysis [Low] = 13fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x DVD-R/22x +R/12x -R DL/16x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW/12x -RAM/16x -ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 154
  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3 motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in HKC 2219A (0.28mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD 3000 (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 17fps, Crysis [Low] = 13fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x DVD-R/22x +R/12x -R DL/16x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW/12x -RAM/16x -ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 154

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse Voyager i525H61 is a competent Windows PC, but its performance is average and its specification is beaten by machines that cost the same amount. It also comes with the most basic one-year return-to-base warranty.

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