Packard Bell’s x5620uk uses an older and, importantly, cheaper CPU to deliver relatively good value for money and a very respectable result in our speed tests.

Packard Bell’s x5620uk is very different to the rest of the PCs in our chart in a number of ways. Its older Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 processor isn’t often seen on these pages now, but it delivers relatively good value for money and enables the Packard Bell to beat all but the fastest of the AMD-powered competition in WorldBench 6, with a very respectable score of 107 points.

Graphics performance is less impressive, however. You might expect to find a decent amount of graphics power given the green nVidia sticker on the front of the case. But Packard Bell doesn’t supply a true discrete graphics card; the x5620uk instead relies on the graphics-processing unit built into the motherboard.

This integrated setup delivers enough power to give you all the fancy graphics effects you want in Windows, but not enough to play 3D games. In our easier Crysis test the Packard Bell x5620uk managed only 1fps; unsurprisingly, it failed the more gruelling one. It even struggled with the relatively elderly Fear, managing just 3fps.

A single PCI Express x16 slot is available on the motherboard, however, so you can easily add a graphics card if you decide that gaming is important. But be warned: Packard Bell includes a lowly 250W power supply with the x5620uk, which would probably require upgrading first.

The Packard Bell x5620uk's own-brand monitor is an 18.5in widescreen model with a screen resolution of 1366x768. Excel fans won’t be happy with its coarse 0.3mm pixel pitch, although the large dot-pitch can make text a little more readable than on higher-resolution monitors.

Despite these drawbacks, the Packard Bell x5620uk has a lot going for it. The custom-design case looks much better than the off-the-shelf models used by other vendors and incorporates a memory card reader and four front-facing USB ports. The machine also has a simple setup routine and a generous software bundle that includes a full version of Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (issue 176)

  1. CyberPower Ultra Athenna Elite
  2. Arbico Phenom 5570HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Blizzard
  4. Packard Bell x5620uk
  5. RL Supplies Modula 9010


>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Packard Bell’s x5620uk uses an older and, importantly, cheaper CPU to deliver relatively good value for money and a very respectable result in our speed tests.

Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550 is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. You can also now find quad-core CPUs in this price range from both AMD and Intel. The AMD Athlon X4 620 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

Memory: In the era of Vista and Windows 7, 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: Expect up to 500GB at this price; you can never have too much storage space. Digital media content 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.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -/+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 (-/+R DL) 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.

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 - and you're willing to cut costs elsewhere - you may be able to get a 22in 1080p flat-panel.

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.

With VAT reverting to 17.5 percent at the beginning of January, don't expect to see HD 4870s at this price point.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if possible. And if you don't play games at all, consider purchasing a machine that relies on integrated graphics.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components installed, there's simply no need for a more powerful supply. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then your PSU must be 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).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Packard Bell x5620uk: Specs

  • 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • Denver11 nVidia nForce 610i
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 250W FSP PSU
  • 18.5in Packard Bell Viseo 190 (0.3mm pixel pitch
  • 1366x768)
  • 256MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 7100 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 1/fail
  • Fear= 3fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • disc speeds not specified
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements
  • one-year warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 107
  • 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • Denver11 nVidia nForce 610i
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 250W FSP PSU
  • 18.5in Packard Bell Viseo 190 (0.3mm pixel pitch
  • 1366x768)
  • 256MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 7100 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 1/fail
  • Fear= 3fps)
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into monitor
  • disc speeds not specified
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements
  • one-year warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 107

OUR VERDICT

The Packard Bell x5620uk offers respectable general performance, although gamers should look elsewhere. But for novices, a simple setup routine and a generous software bundle may be exactly what you're looking for.

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