This ultra-budget RL Supplies Modula 9010 Windows 7 PC either belongs at the top of the chart or at the bottom - or possibly both. Where the competition all cost £499 or £500, the Modula 9010 comes in at a good £110 less. With this in mind, we weren't expecting a great deal from it in terms of performance.

Based on a 2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X2 245, the dual-core RL Supplies Modula 9010 offers rather less processing power, but it's still within the range where many users wouldn't really notice its slower speed; a 91-point score in WorldBench 6 indicates a perfectly serviceable PC for general office and home use. It's no good for 3D games, however, because it lacks a discrete graphics card.

The RL Supplies Modula 9010 didn't manage to achieve more than 1fps in either of our games tests, reducing any 3D action to the pace of a slideshow. The integrated GeForce 7025 graphics chipset is, however, easily good enough to deliver the transparency features provided by Windows 7 and Vista's Aero interface.

Inside, the lack of a graphics card leaves all the motherboard slots free for expansion, and you could add one later. Although the motherboard supports dual-channel memory, only one of the two memory slots is occupied. This makes expansion past the RL Supplies Modula 9010's supplied 2GB a breeze.

The supplied 19in Digimate monitor supports dual inputs, but you won't be able to make use of the DVI port because the RL Supplies Modula 9010 itself doesn't have one.

Chart ranking (issue 174)

  1. Mesh Matrix II 550BE PCA
  2. Chillblast Fusion Tempest
  3. Eclipse Solar a55R487
  4. Arbico CD8567 Pro
  5. RL Supplies Modula 9010

>>NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

This ultra-budget RL Supplies Modula 9010 Windows 7 PC either belongs at the top of the chart or at the bottom - or possibly both. Where the competition all cost £499 or £500, the Modula 9010 comes in at a good £110 less. With this in mind, we weren't expecting a great deal from it in terms of performance.

Buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550BE is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. It's a little slower than an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 but is priced low enough to leave you with enough money left over to spend on a decent graphics card.

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 era of Vista and Windows 7, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. 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/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB to one disc, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively. Keep an eye out for 22-speed models.

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.

Thanks to recent price reductions, we're seeing powerful Radeon HD 4870 cards appearing in budget gaming PCs.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if possible. 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 have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

RL Supplies Modula 9010: Specs

  • 2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X2 245
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock N68-S AM2 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W PSU
  • 19in Digimate (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • integrated nVidia GeForce 7025 graphics (games scores: Crysis = fail
  • Fear = 1fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Emprex speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 91
  • 2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X2 245
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • ASRock N68-S AM2 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 500W PSU
  • 19in Digimate (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • integrated nVidia GeForce 7025 graphics (games scores: Crysis = fail
  • Fear = 1fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Emprex speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 91

OUR VERDICT

Despite its basic specification, the RL Supplies Modula 9010 offers good value for money for non-gamers.

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