Mesh's Nero 9850 HD is a well-designed system that offers some unique features. And, despite its fifth-place standing, many of these are actually better than those of its rivals.

With a quad-core AMD Phenom 9850 CPU installed, the Mesh Nero 9850 HD will cope well with multithreaded applications such as audio and video encoding. A large 500GB hard drive is also supplied - that's double the capacity offered by Arbico and Eclipse.

The Mesh Nero 9850 HD is the only system here to provide a 22in display. This is a 16:9 full-HD Iiyama model, capable of displaying the 1,920x1,080 resolution required to get the best from Blu-ray movies. That the Mesh doesn't also include a Blu-ray drive is understandable; to do so would require significant cutbacks elsewhere.

But while it's perfectly adequate for business use - particularly if you work with large spreadsheets or multiple documents simultaneously - the Mesh Nero 9850 HD can't match the raw performance of the Intel-based PCs featured in our chart. With the exception of Intel's stellar Core i7 processor, quad-core CPUs don't tend to shine in our WorldBench 6 test suite. Indeed, the Nero 9850 HD scored a rather weak 93 points.

And if you're into gaming, forget it. The Mesh Nero 9850 HD's integrated graphics processor has no trouble driving the high-resolution display, but it'll make even the simplest of 3D games unplayably ponderous.

Despite its compact dimensions, there's some room for expansion inside the Mesh Nero 9850 HD. Note, however, that the 300W power supply may struggle with upgrades - particularly if you plan to add a graphics card later.



Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (May 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Solar i85a465HD
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600 (last month 1)
  3. Arbico CD8465 EX (last month 2)
  4. Palicomp Excalibur E85-19 (last month 4)
  5. Mesh Nero 9850 HD

NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (May 09 issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 is a popular choice at this price, although slower processors such as the E8400 will still be fast enough for most users. Lower-cost alternatives, such as the Intel E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In this Vista-shackled age, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. Hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later.

If you're planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you've got spare drive bays inside your PC's case.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB to one disc, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for 22-speed models.

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, you may be able to get a 22in 1,080p flat-panel if you're willing to cut costs elsewhere.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. You'll want a PC that can produce at least 50fps for gaming.

The current economic situation has meant that we're seeing slower graphics cards provided with all our chart systems. The usual 9800 GT and 9600 GT have been replaced by the 9500 GT and the HD 4670 by the HD 4650.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components under the bonnet, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then you'll need to ensure that your PSU is able to deliver enough juice to power your new components. 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 have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). Separate stereo speakers are rare in systems costing less than £500, however. Prepare to make sacrifices elsewhere if getting standalone speakers is a requirement for you.

Mesh Nero 9850 HD: Specs

  • 2.5GHz AMD Phenom 9850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus M2N68-VM
  • HEC 300W
  • 22in Iiyama ProLite E2208HDS-1 (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 7050 (game scores: Crysis = 1fps
  • Fear = 2fps)
  • onboard VIA VT1708B
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 93
  • 2.5GHz AMD Phenom 9850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus M2N68-VM
  • HEC 300W
  • 22in Iiyama ProLite E2208HDS-1 (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 7050 (game scores: Crysis = 1fps
  • Fear = 2fps)
  • onboard VIA VT1708B
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 93

OUR VERDICT

It might lie in fifth place, and it's no good for gaming, but the Mesh Nero 9850 HD offers some unique features that make it ideal for business use.

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