One number can make a big difference. The Core 2 Duo E6750 processor sounds like it ought to be a close match for the E6850, but that fatal digit is enough to squeeze the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT into fourth place. The real-world difference between the chips isn’t huge, but it becomes noticeable when speed and performance are pushed to the limit.

If we look beyond processing power, however, the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT has a feature set that makes it stand out from the crowd. Its 2GB of DDR RAM is fast Corsair memory, and the 500GB hard drive is huge – we doubt the typical user will need such a large amount of space, but gigabyte-hungry video buffs will be able to fill their boots.

The LG DVD drive is a solid model, if not quite up to the standard set by the Chillblast Fusion Gladiator and Arbico CD6850 GT drives. The PC Specialist Apollo 880GT also comes armed with plenty of ports and connectors – seven USB and two FireWire, in fact.

In other respects, there’s little to distinguish the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT from the other machines here. The Hannspree flat-panel has proven a good, affordable option for this month’s sub-£750 PC manufacturers, as has the GeForce 8800 GT graphics card – so popular has this card been that, even with large stocks laid on, nVidia is running low on products. The PC Specialist Apollo 880GT also has a decent pair of speakers to boost the quality of its audio.

Budget PCs chart ranking as of Feb 08 issue


  1. Chillblast Fusion Gladiator
  2. Eclipse Mirage i685n88gtx
  3. Arbico CD6850 GT
  4. PC Specialist Apollo 880GT
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Elite - last month 2

Verdict

Overall, the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT is a good PC with some excellent features – but the E6750’s slight lack of speed leaves it trailing the top three.

Next: Budget PCs buying advice

Budget PCs buying advice as of Feb 08 issue

Processor: Dual-core is the way to go for prospective PC buyers. The Intel Core 2 Duo chips currently lead the way. The E6850 is a powerful chip at this price point – three of our Top 5 offer its undoubted charm. As a general rule of thumb, however, the E6750 is a more likely option. This processor is still incredibly fast and would make a worthy addition to any £750 PC.

If you’ve got one eye on the future, 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 shops.

Memory: It’s a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the sub-£750 category, 2GB is standard, with the odd system daring to stretch to 4GB. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to go quite this far, but 2GB is a definite must. Memory is only going to become more and more important in the next 12 months, so stock up now.

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

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

Monitor: Compromises have to be made to keep the price of a PC down, 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.

Virtually all PCs (and all of our Top 5) come with flat-panels. We’d recommend a 19in model – they’re rife at this price point. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 19in, as the quality at this price point could be low. Finally, 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 PCs do tend to come with decent graphics cards.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, at this price you can set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can do 80 to 100fps on a number of titles. The 512MB 8800 GT has only been out for a few weeks, but it’s already established itself as the likely gold standard at this price – you may be able to find an 8800 GTX if you hunt hard enough, but the 8800 GT is a more feasible option. Stocks may be running a little low, so be patient.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it’s an area where 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 may not get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

PC Specialist Apollo 880GT: expert review

PC Specialist Apollo 880GT: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in Hanspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Zotac nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • 2 x Creative I-Trigue 2300
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 108
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in Hanspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Zotac nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • 2 x Creative I-Trigue 2300
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6.0 score: 108

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT is a good PC with some excellent features – but the E6750’s slight lack of speed leaves it trailing the top three.

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