Mesh has successfully used AMD processors in the past, but the Mesh Matrix II 965 DX11 desktop PC's mighty 3.4GHz chip lacks the raw computational power of the Intel Core i5 and i7.

Mesh's Matrix II 965 is the only system in our chart to use an AMD processor. Its implementation of the Phenom II X4 965 has been very successful in previous issues, but this mighty 3.4GHz chip lacks the raw computational power of the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, despite their slower clock speeds.

The cheaper processor and lower-spec DDR2 memory has enabled Mesh to add a better screen to the Matrix II 965, with only a relatively small drop in desktop performance. And its gaming results trail the Intel PCs by only the tiniest amounts.

In our tests, the Mesh Matrix II 965 lags behind the Intel-based PCs by around nine points in WorldBench 6. It's a measurable difference, but shouldn't be noticeable for most users.

Mesh has included an excellent 24in Iiyama E2407HDS display with the Matrix II 965. Like the Chillblast's BenQ, this monitor is capable of a full-HD 1080p resolution. And the extra couple of inches of screen space makes a difference in the readability of text and the gaming experience.

Mesh, like Eclipse, has also plumped for a brand-new DirectX 11.0-compatible ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card with the Matrix II 965. While this card lags behind the HD 4890 when used with current games, its support for new features in upcoming titles provides welcome future-proofing. It also enhances performance when executing computational tasks with certain software, such as video transcoding, and offers twin DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort connections.


Budget PCs chart ranking: February 10 issue

  1. Chillblast Fusion Blade
  2. Arbico HD7590 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i5 Achilles
  4. Eclipse Matrix Crossfire i786R577
  5. Mesh Matrix II 965 DX11

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice


Mesh has successfully used AMD processors in the past, but the Matrix II 965's mighty 3.4GHz chip lacks the raw computational power of the Intel Core i5 and i7.


Budget desktop PCs buying advice


Processor: The arrival of Intel's Core i5 750 has changed everything in this price range, bringing with it superb quad-core performance and support for DDR3 memory. Core i5 processors use new motherboards with a different CPU socket; buying one now puts you in a good position for future upgrades. If you're lucky, you may find a faster Core i7 8XX-series CPU at this price point.

Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 was once king of this category and is still available, but there's no reason to choose it unless you find a fantastic deal. AMD's Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money and quad-core performance, although they can't match the Core i5 in our tests.

Memory:
If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Core i5-based PCs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there's no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with Core i7 systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. A 500GB drive is a good investment. Consider using a pair of smaller drives rather than one large drive - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

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

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down; always try the monitor before you buy.

Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in (16:10) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, although onscreen elements will be even smaller.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; 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: There's simply not room in the budget for a top-end graphics card at this price point, but you should still be able to find a decent model.

We test PCs using the four-year-old game Fear and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI's Radeon HD 4890 and nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch. AMD's HD 5770 is a slower card with today's games, but adds DirectX 11.0.

nVidia cards offer unique features, such as support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and the ability to display content in 3D when used with special glasses.

Power supply: A large 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: You may find a budget sound card at this price, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). A 2.1-channel stereo system will be good enough for most users.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Mesh Matrix II 965 DX11: Specs

  • 3.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 965
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M4A785T-M
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 550W HEC PSU
  • 24in Iiyama E2407HDS (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 63/25fps
  • Fear = 198fps)
  • 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: 127
  • 3.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 965
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M4A785T-M
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 550W HEC PSU
  • 24in Iiyama E2407HDS (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 63/25fps
  • Fear = 198fps)
  • 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: 127

OUR VERDICT

Packed into a compact case, the Mesh Matrix II 965 is a good PC with some excellent features. Sound may be lacking, but it’ll give you the best visual experience of the group if general speed isn’t your top priority.

Find the best price