Big names such as Mesh don’t produce many PCs in the sub-£500 range, so the Elite Value PCA comes as a pleasant surprise.


  1. Arbico CD6420XL
  2. Eclipse Max i935N79-VSTA
  3. Arbico CD9600XL
  4. Mesh Elite Value PCA
  5. Zoostorm 2-3305 Versatile PC

Fourth place

Big names such as Mesh don’t produce many PCs in the sub-£500 range, so the Elite Value PCA comes as a pleasant surprise.

Look through the PCs section on eBay and you’ll find any number of establishments offering to build a hot little number for a few hundred quid. The problem is that a significant number of these tiny firms will be extinct 12 months from now. Those who want rather more peace of mind will be interested in the Elite Value.

Not that it’s an amazing machine for the money. The 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D isn’t a stunning processor – only the similarly equipped Zoostorm notched up a lower score in our new WorldBench 6 real-world speed suite – and the onboard graphics leave something to be desired.

The Mesh-badged GNR screen isn’t the most colourful monitor we’ve seen, but the colour palette is solid and the text legible. The DVD writer is impressive, while the
hard drive is the largest in the chart. Add a healthy bundle of software, and this is a PC that offers plenty. You’re paying a little extra for Mesh’s name, but this is generally a very solid system.

Buying advice

Processor: You're not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but many of today's chips are powerful enough to make light work of everyday applications. Look for an Intel Core 2 Duo - these promise acres of power. The E6300 and E6320 are particularly good, although other incarnations such as the E4300 are capable of strong performance. The older Intel Pentium D chips lack the power of the Core 2 Duos but they still have dual-core facilities. The 3.2GHz version isn't bad at all. Don't discount AMD. The Athlon 64 4800+ still has plenty to offer to the customer on a shoestring budget.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 1GB is a must. You can buy more at a later date, but having at least this much is only going to become more important as applications designed for Vista appear. Check you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will ultimately slow the system down.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media - such as video and music files - will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can: 250GB-320GB drives are a good investment.

It helps 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 16-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 tend to be lower, but you should look for an absolute minimum of six-speed on one of the formats. Realistically, you ought to be aiming for 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. 19in models are the most common, and you shouldn't consider going above this size - price constraints mean the quality simply won't be good enough. We aren't seeing any CRTs, but they're still a pretty good deal if you can find them - provided you can put up with the bulky casing, the colour depth tends to be better than on flat-panels.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the best machines in this category generally manage to iinclude a decent graphics card. You should be looking for PCs that can produce at least 50fps (frames per second) if you're going to be playing games regularly - 70fps or 80fps is preferable. Today's chips of choice come from the nVidia GeForce 7900 range, although the 7600 (either the GT or GS) will also do reasonably well. If you're primarily looking for a PC for work or for general internet use, you can afford to compromise in this area.

Sound card and speakers: You're unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point as it is 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, there's a good chance you won't get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category - indeed, you won't necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

Mesh Elite Value PCA: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5B-TMX/S motherboard
  • 7 USB ports
  • 19in Mesh TS902W flat-panel, 0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution
  • 256MB onboard Intel 946GZ, PCI Express
  • onboard Realtek High Definition sound card
  • maximum DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x (DVD -ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 6x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • includes Microsoft Works 8.5, CyberLink Video Editing Suite
  • flash memory drive
  • 1-year onsite, 2-year RTB warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score 66
  • 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5B-TMX/S motherboard
  • 7 USB ports
  • 19in Mesh TS902W flat-panel, 0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution
  • 256MB onboard Intel 946GZ, PCI Express
  • onboard Realtek High Definition sound card
  • maximum DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x (DVD -ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 6x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • includes Microsoft Works 8.5, CyberLink Video Editing Suite
  • flash memory drive
  • 1-year onsite, 2-year RTB warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score 66

OUR VERDICT

This is a PC that offers plenty. You’re paying a little extra for Mesh’s name, but this is generally a very solid system.

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