A newcomer to our Top 5 PC charts, Palicomp has submitted a strong first entry with the Excalibur E81-19. A full-height mesh-covered door conceals the front of the case, lending the PC a smart look that belies its £499 price tag. Visible through this door is a front-mounted fan, gently illuminated with blue LEDs. This creates a more subtle effect than CyberPower's approach, making the system equally suitable for business and home use.

Inside, the Biostar 7050 motherboard, based on the Micro ATX Form Factor, is one of the smallest we've seen. Only two memory slots are provided and, due to the extended width of the graphics card, there's no room for add-on PCI cards. The Palicomp Excalibur E85-19's 1GB 9500 GT's extra width comes courtesy of the massive heatsink applied to it, which allows it to operate silently without a fan.

The Palicomp Excalibur E85-19's performance was a little wanting, however. Despite housing Intel's E8500 chip, the Excalibur scored nine points lower than Arbico's E8400-based system in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test. Nonetheless, any system scoring 111 points will be adequate for most tasks, particularly when fitted with 4GB of memory.

Its graphics card is also a little slower than the HD 4650 favoured by Arbico and Eclipse. However, less-demanding 3D games can be played comfortably on the Palicomp Excalibur E85-19.

Largest of all the systems in this month's chart, the Palicomp Excalibur E85-19's 500GB hard drive gives you double the storage capacity of most PCs at this price. The 19in Hanton monitor isn't the greatest we've seen, but it does come with both digital and analogue inputs.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (March 09 issue)

  1. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 600
  2. Arbico CD8465 EX
  3. Eclipse Matrix i85a465
  4. Palicomp Excalibur E85-19
  5. Chillblast Fusion Spark

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