Like Mesh's Matrix II, the RL Supplies Modula AX2-920 is a quad-core system based on the AMD Phenom II 920 processor. Such systems struggle to keep up with Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 for common single-threaded tasks, but come into their own when multitasking or running multithreaded applications.

Unsurprisingly, then, the RL Supplies Modula AX2-920 scored more poorly in our WorldBench 6 speed test than the dual-core systems higher up the chart. Indeed, with 109 points the Modula was beaten by the quad-core Mesh as well.

Whereas Mesh has gone for a do-it-all system with full-HD support and surround sound, the RL Supplies Modula AX2-920 offers a more modest specification - albeit with a considerably larger, 750GB hard drive.

The RL Supplies Modula AX2-920's standard 22in monitor doesn't offer the 1,080 resolution you get with the Mesh's Iiyama display. On the plus side, elements such as icons and text appear somewhat larger and you may find them easier to read.

The RL Supplies Modula AX2-920's nVidia GeForce 9600 GT graphics card delivers slightly better gaming performance than the CyberPower's HD 4670, but it's still considerably weaker than that achieved by the HD 4850.

We aren't keen on the RL Supplies Modula AX2-920's power supply. It has no PCI Express connectors and so requires an adaptor cable to power the graphics card. While the GeForce 9600 GT doesn't drain a lot of power, this isn't a recommended solution and could cause difficulties later if you upgrade the graphics.


Chart ranking: budget desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

  1. Arbico CD 8850 XL
  2. Chillblast Fusion Isis
  3. Mesh Matrix II 920
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 850
  5. RL Supplies Modula AX2-920

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs in this price category.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips, such as the Q9300. These processors are performing well with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips offer good performance with multithreaded apps, but only go for them if the price is right.

AMD's latest Phenom II X4 920 also offers excellent value for money and quad-core performance.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. A 500GB drive is a good investment. Consider a pair of smaller drives - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the -R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that can read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out before buying.

Be aware that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in and 22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in flat-panels in the 16:9 format are capable of displaying full-HD content at a screen resolution of 1,080p.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; if you want to connect additional devices you'll need at least two. Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Truly hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC, but you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

We test PCs on the three-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area but ATI's Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch. If you're not into gaming, cutting back on graphics won't harm general performance.

Power supply: The PSU is less important at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to ease later upgrades.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). A 2.1-channel stereo system will be good enough for most users. A monitor's built-in speakers seldom offer a satisfying audio experience.

RL Supplies Modula AX2-920: Specs

  • 2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X4 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • ASRock K10N78-1394 motherboard
  • 650W Alphapower PSU
  • 22in CiBox C2202 monitor (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 9600 GT graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 44/12fps
  • Fear = 124fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888 sound card
  • Logitech X240 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 109
  • 2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X4 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • ASRock K10N78-1394 motherboard
  • 650W Alphapower PSU
  • 22in CiBox C2202 monitor (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express nVidia GeForce 9600 GT graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 44/12fps
  • Fear = 124fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888 sound card
  • Logitech X240 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 109

OUR VERDICT

The RL Supplies Modula AX2-920 is an excellent entry-level quad-core system, supplied with a nice set of stereo speakers. And we were pleased with its inclusion of a memory-card reader.

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