The specification of Palicomp's Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC marks quite a departure from rival systems in the sub-£500 desktop PC chart, with a quad-core CPU, a set of external speakers, good upgrade potential and a 19in monitor.

The specification of Palicomp's Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC marks quite a departure from rival systems in the chart. Palicomp has opted for a 2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X4 630 quad-core chip which, despite having a lower clock speed than the dual-core 3.1GHz Phenom II X2 550, is certainly the more powerful CPU.

The Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC scored just 100 points in our WorldBench 6 test, which is some way down on the competition. This benchmark doesn't push quad-core chips to their full potential, however, and if you tend to run multithreaded applications or several programs simultaneously, the Palicomp is likely to prove its worth.

Fitted with an ASRock K10N78 motherboard, the Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC also offers the most upgrade potential. There's room for two additional sticks of memory, while two PCI Express x1 and three PCI slots are available. The motherboard also features integrated graphics, so those with no interest in gaming could save some money by ordering the system without the Radeon HD 5670 graphics card.

Despite offering this graphics card with 1GB of video RAM, compared with the Chillblast and CyberPower's 512MB, the Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC's results in our gaming tests suffered as a result of the CPU's lower clock speed. Gamers should instead look to Eclipse's Matrix a55R575.

For image editing and processing video, however, the Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC's 19in (1440x900) BenQ G900WD monitor offers a distinct advantage over the 18.5in models offered elsewhere.

The Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC is the only PC here to come with a set of external speakers, with the Excalibur bundling two Logitech S220 speakers and a subwoofer.

Chart ranking (July 2010 issue)

  1. Eclipse Matrix a55R575
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hades
  3. CyberPower Ultra Athenna XT
  4. Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System
  5. Arbico Phenom 5467 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PC buying advice

The specification of Palicomp's Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC marks quite a departure from rival systems in the sub-£500 desktop PC chart, with a quad-core CPU, a set of external speakers, good upgrade potential and a 19in monitor.

Budget desktop PC 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 630 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 post-Vista era, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Some CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper now, and bodes well for performance. 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.

ATI's HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but if you shop around you may be able to find an HD 5850. This will give you considerably better gaming performance, but will require compromises to be made elsewhere.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if available. 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 can handle six-channel sound.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System: Specs

  • 2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X4 630
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock K10N78 motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 19in BenQ G900WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 35/15fps
  • Fear = 109fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 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: 100
  • 2.8GHz AMD Athlon II X4 630
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock K10N78 motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W WinPower PSU
  • 19in BenQ G900WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 35/15fps
  • Fear = 109fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 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: 100

OUR VERDICT

If you regularly use the sort of apps that will benefit from a quad-core setup, the Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System budget desktop PC is an excellent budget choice. It offers plenty of upgrade potential and good all-round specifications.

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