Palicomp's Core i5 Blast 750-24 budget desktop PC takes the lead in a group of similarly specced systems, offering a terabyte hard drive and good value for money.

With all our chart PCs powered by 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750 processors, Radeon HD 5770 graphics cards (bar one) and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, it's a very close competition. Palicomp's Core i5 Blast 750-24 takes the crown, however, offering the best spec for your money. Its terabyte (TB) hard drive is also a pleasing inclusion compared with the 500GB drives found elsewhere.

Given the hardware similarities, it's unsurprising that performance doesn't vary much from system to system. The Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24 scored 134 points in our WorldBench 6 speed test and 25fps in our gruelling Crysis gaming test. Although the Chillblast recorded 26fps, and three other machines recorded 135 points in WorldBench 6, the difference won't be noticeable.

Inside the tidy Cooler Master Elite 330 system case lies a full-size ATX motherboard that provides four memory slots (two of which are filled), as well as four PCI, a PCI Express X1 and a spare PCI Express X16 slot. The Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24 also supports Raid.

The Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24 is the only PC here to supply a 24in monitor. While other machines also offer a full-HD resolution, this Acer outclasses the competition.

A set of two stereo speakers is also supplied with the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24, complete with a subwoofer for improved bass.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (June issue)

  1. Palicomp Core i7 Blast 750-24
  2. Chillblast Fusion Samurai
  3. Arbico HD 7577 XL
  4. CyberPower Infinity Hades
  5. Mesh Ice5 5750 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Palicomp's Core i5 Blast 750-24 budget desktop PC takes the lead in a group of similarly specced systems, offering a terabyte hard drive and good value for money.

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 with the Core i3 540 hitting the market there's now no reason to choose it unless you find a fantastic deal. The Core i3 540 will give you superb dual-core performance and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory. 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- and i7 8xx-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 9xx 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 hard 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 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. Blu-ray readers are becoming more affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down, so you should ideally try out 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 ample to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 60fps 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 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: Most motherboards at this price point depend on onboard sound. To get surround sound look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P55M-US3L
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 24in Acer V243HBD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1200)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 67/25fps
  • Fear = 196fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 134
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P55M-US3L
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 24in Acer V243HBD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1200)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 67/25fps
  • Fear = 196fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 134

OUR VERDICT

While it may not be the most exciting PC to look at, the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24 delivers performance, plenty of room for upgrades and some pleasing extras.

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