Systems at this price point always involve compromises - a meaty processor or a powerful graphics card will obliterate a £500 budget. But the Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA not only achieves the highest WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of the group, it also provides staggering gaming performance that leaves the competition stuttering and flickering in its wake.

We were somewhat surprised to find an AMD CPU under the hood of our Best Buy machine, and the Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA's 3.1GHz Phenom II X2 500 BE marks a turn-around for our previously Intel-dominated PC charts.

All the systems reviewed here feature ATI graphics cards, but the Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA's HD 4870 outclasses the competition and takes gaming to a new level of performance.

Other components are standard fare, with the Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA's smart black case concealing 4GB of DDR2 memory and a 500GB hard drive. The 19in display is perfectly acceptable but lacks a digital input. Usefully, Mesh preinstalls the CyberLink DVD suite.

One slight niggle, however, is the Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA's one-year warranty, which is disappointing in comparison with the two-year guarantees offered elsewhere.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (Nov 09 issue)

  1. Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA
  2. Palicomp Excalibur Ballistix E85-4670-19
  3. Arbico CD 8570 XL
  4. Eclipse Pearl i84R483
  5. Chillblast Fusion Horizon

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