With ATI's brand-new Radeon HD 6870 graphics card and 1GB of video RAM under the bonnet, Palicomp's Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 is an excellent budget PC for gaming.

One of five PCs built around Intel’s Core i5-760 CPU, the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC delivered the lowest score in WorldBench 6, with 130 points. But this PC is the best here for gaming, with ATI’s brand-new Radeon HD 6870 graphics card and 1GB of video RAM under the bonnet.

The HD 6870 delivers an enormous amount of graphics power, and games look great on the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC's 23.6in full-HD HKC monitor. In our more gruelling Crysis test (1680x1050, ‘Very High Quality’ settings), it outpaced the HD 5770-powered DinoPC by 14fps.

There’s 500GB more storage space than any of the competition - a single 1.5TB drive is supplied with the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC. You also get stereo speakers that, unlike those provided with the DinoPC and Chillblast, comes with a subwoofer.

The Asus motherboard provides two high-speed USB 3.0 ports and support for 6Gbps SATA, letting you take advantage of the fastest internal and external storage on the market. Although you can’t add a second graphics card to this board, the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC already excels in gaming.

Housed in the popular Cooler Master Elite 330 system case, the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC lacks garish gamer-friendly see-through panels and internal illumination, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. DinoPC Elmisaur 760
  2. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870
  3. Chillblast Fusion Black Ops
  4. Arbico i5 7668 Pro
  5. CyberPower Infinity Hercules

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NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

With ATI's brand-new Radeon HD 6870 graphics card and 1GB of video RAM under the bonnet, Palicomp's Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 is an excellent budget PC for gaming.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s latest naming scheme is confusing: if you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; the newer Core 5-600-series chips are dual-core.

Quad-core chips offer greater multiprocessing capabilities, but the higher clock speeds of dual-core chips mean they can run single-threaded applications faster. Non-gamers should note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play full-HD video without a discrete graphics card.

Intel’s 2.8GHz quad-core Core i5-760 is the current king of the £501-£750 desktop PCs category and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money, although they can’t match the Core i5 in our tests.

Some AMD processors contain hidden extra cores that can be enabled in the Bios. Ensure that any tweaks are backed by the vendor.

Memory: If a fast CPU speeds up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU with 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, however.

Core i5- and i7-800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with i7-900-series systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. At least 500GB should be expected at this price point.

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.

With prices falling all the time, you may find a solid-state disk (SSD) affordable. The extra performance provided can transform your computing experience, but make sure you get one at least 60GB in size and install your programs on a second drive if you want to avoid running into drive-space problems.

Your DVD drive should write to the KR 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: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 21.6in (16:9) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, but onscreen elements will be even smaller. You will now find many budget 23.6in displays available at this price.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port; 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: We test graphics framerates with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The latter can benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. Although 25fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher at this price point – look for 50fps.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI’s new Radeon HD 6850 offers excellent performance for the money. Cut back on other components and step up to a Radeon HD 6870 if gaming is very important to you. nVidia’s GeForce GTX 460 also offers good performance.

nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and are able to display 3D content.

If you don’t play games at all, consider using only the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A large power supply unit (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 in this chart category depend on onboard sound. To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

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NEXT PAGE: Expert verdict and specification

Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/40fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 143/85fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 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: 130
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/40fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 143/85fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 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: 130

OUR VERDICT

The DinoPC Elmisaur’s SSD and Blu-ray drive are tempting, but keen gamers would do better by placing the Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870 desktop PC at the top of their desktop PC wish list.

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