It's possible to argue that the PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS is the most well-rounded machine in the chart. The budget PCs category is all about compromise, and that's particularly so when it comes to the sound system - many PCs at this price point come with lacklustre onboard sound and little in the way of speakers to compensate.

The PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS can't do much about the onboard sound - although, in fairness, the Realtek HD is a decent audio controller that only struggles when compared with high-quality standalone cards from the likes of Creative - but it can fix the speakers issue. The PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS's Creative Inspire T6100s are good enough to ensure you get plenty of bite from your audio.

There are other areas where the PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS excels. The DVD writer is a top-class Liteon model with heavyweight 20-speed DVD-R/+R capabilities. We're also impressed by the generous warranty - something you can't depend upon at this level - and the PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS performed well in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed suite.

But the PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS isn't peerless in every respect. The 19in display is pleasing to the eye but can't quite match the Arbico 807 Pro's Videoseven. The PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS's graphics card, a 512MB 8600 GTS, struggles to keep up with the top two PCs' 8800 GTS cards.

Verdict

The PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS deserves considerable praise for its range of features. Good sound and DVD-R/+R capabilities are the main selling points of a PC that's worth £749 of anyone's money.

Chart ranking: budget PCs October 07 issue


  1. Eclipse Evolution i685n88s
  2. Arbico 807 Pro
  3. PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS
  4. Eclipse Matrix I67N88-VSTA
  5. Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC

Buying advice: budget PCs as of August 07

Processor: Dual-core is the way to go for prospective PC buyers. Intel's Core 2 Duo chips currently lead the way.

The E6850's appearance in this month's chart is a bit of a surprise - as a general rule of thumb, the E6750 and E6700 are better options. But all of these processors are incredibly fast and would make a good addition to any £750 PC.

If you've got one eye on the future, you might want to consider a Core 2 Quad chip. You'll sacrifice a little speed for the money now, but you might make it up in spades when multithreaded software applications start hitting the stores.

Memory: It's a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the £750 category, 2GB is rapidly establishing itself as the standard. Only a few months ago, 1GB seemed sufficient, but you'd be well advised now to play it safe and plump for the extra gigabyte. It's only going to become more important in the next twelve months.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media files such as music and video will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can - 320GB to 400GB drives are a good investment.

It helps to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure the PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at rates of at least 18-speed. Rewrite speeds of eight-speed are good, and if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or DVD+R DL. Write speeds on these have got significantly faster in recent months - you need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

Display: To keep the price of a PC down, compromises have to be made - and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part of the PC that you're going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All PCs now come with flat-panels. As for size, 19in models are the most common. Be very careful when offered anything larger than this, as the quality at this price point could be low.

Look for a screen with a good response rate - 8ms or below should be more than fast enough.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, feverish gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£750 PC. Nonetheless, the best machines in this category generally manage to include a decent graphics card.

Although 50fps (frames per second) is enough to make a game playable, you might want to set your sights a little higher at this price. Choose a card that can produce 80 to 100fps on a number of games. The 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS is excellent. The 640MB version is also fantastic, as is the new ATI HD 2900 XT, but neither is easy to get at this price.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it's an area in which vendors are likely to cut costs.

Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound, but to get the best out of them you'll need a 5.1 speaker system. Unfortunately, you often won't get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category - indeed, you won't necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in I-Inc AH191D (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS
  • onboard Realtek HD sound
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 105 points
  • 1-year collect-and-deliver, 1-year RTB warranty
  • bundles CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero and a flash memory drive
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in I-Inc AH191D (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS
  • onboard Realtek HD sound
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 105 points
  • 1-year collect-and-deliver, 1-year RTB warranty
  • bundles CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero and a flash memory drive

OUR VERDICT

The PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS deserves considerable praise for its range of features. Good sound and DVD-R/+R capabilities are the main selling points of a PC that's worth £749 of anyone's money.

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