With the other four of this month’s Top 5 racking up 90 WorldBench points or more, the pace is getting pretty fierce in the bargain basement of PC charts. The PC Specialist Apollo Home GT doesn’t quite reach those heights, and its score of 88 now looks a little bit sluggish – particularly compared to the whopping 99 points racked up by the Arbico CD6750 XL. The main culprit is the processor, a Core 2 Duo E4400 that lacks the ultimate performance of some of its competitors.

Not that the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT isn’t without some decent components. We like the 8600 GT graphics card and the Specialist comes with the 512MB version. The 250GB hard drive is as capacious as things get in this chart, while the Hannstar AH191DP is an attractive screen from what’s rapidly becoming the most ubiquitous name in the charts.

PC Specialist has even been able to do something a little more interesting with the sound and, while the Logitech speakers aren’t striking, they’re still a solid match for the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT's onboard sound controller.

Chart ranking: Sub-£500 budget PCs, January 08 issue


  1. Arbico CD6750 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550
  3. Zoostorm 4-2353
  4. Eclipse Matrix SLI A60n86GT
  5. PC Specialist Apollo Home GT (last month 4)

Verdict

The PC Specialist Apollo Home GT has some decent components, but can't quite keep pace with the other PCs here.

Last issue

With two of this month’s Top Five racking up 90 points or more in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed tests, the pace is getting pretty fierce in the bargain basement of PC charts. The PC Specialist Apollo Home GT doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it comes close, its score of 88 just two points away from the magic mark.

It’s a good score, aided no doubt by the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT’s impressive complement of memory – just one of our other sub-£500 PCs, the Eclipse Ultimate A60N86GT, comes with 2GB of DDR RAM. However, the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT's Core 2 Duo E4400 processor wasn’t quite powerful enough to challenge the Eclipse-Arbico hegemony at the peak of the chart.

But the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT impressed us with some decent components. We like the 8600 GT graphics card, for example, even if the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT is hardly the first PC to feature it. The Hannstar AH191DP flat-panel is another highly attractive but ubiquitous piece of kit. More of a standout is the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT's 250GB of hard drive space – neither of the Eclipses go beyond 160GB.

PC Specialist has even been able to do something a little more interesting with the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT's sound setup. The Logitech twin-set speakers aren’t striking models in themselves, but they’re a solid match for the PC Specialist Apollo Home GT's onboard sound controller, producing some pleasing audio.

Budget PCs chart ranking as of Nov 07 issue


  1. Eclipse Elite i675n86gt
  2. Eclipse Ultimate A60N86GT - last month 1
  3. Arbico CD6560 GT
  4. PC Specialist Apollo Home GT
  5. CyberPower £500 PCA Machine - last month 3

Buying advice: Budget PCs as of Nov 07 issue

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 standard applications. We've seem some amazing chips - this month's Core 2 Duo E6750 being a stand-out - but you're far more likely to see E6450 or E6550 chips. The Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is also a decent option.

Don't be fooled into buying an older Intel Pentium D. They've got dual-core facilities but their performance is a long way behind today's Core 2 Duo range.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age 1GB has become a must-have. If you can get it then by all means go for 2GB, but that's likely to prove a little pricey at this level - make sure you're not being stung by compromises elsewhere. Check you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers need to use system memory, which will ultimately slow the system down.

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. Drives with a capacity of 250GB are a good investment.

Make sure the PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the -R/+R formats 16-speed or better. Rewrite speeds of 8x are good. If you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for DVD-R DL or DVD+R DL. Write speeds on these tend to be lower, but you need to 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 you're going to be spending most of your time looking at. All PCs now come with flat-panels - 19in models have become the most common size. Be very careful when going above this - the quality is unlikely to be good enough given the price constraints. We don't see many CRTs now, but they're still a pretty good deal if you can find them. 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 cream of the crop do tend to come with decent graphics cards. You should be looking for PCs that can produce 50fps (frames per second) if you're going to be playing games - 70fps or 80fps is better still.

Today's chips of choice come from the nVidia GeForce 8600 range. These cards can support DirectX 10.0 (although they're unlikely to be powerful enough to show tomorrow's DirectX 10.0 games titles in all their finery). More to the point, they have plenty of pace with which to tackle today's games. The ATI Radeon HD 2600 cards are just as good, however, and we expect to see more of these making an appearance in the coming months.

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 try and 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-channel system in this category - indeed, you won't necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.

PC Specialist Apollo Home GT: Specs

  • 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 250GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5VD2-VM motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in Hannstar AH191DP flat-panel (0.283mm picel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution at 75Hz)
  • 256MB PCI Express Palit nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard C-Media sound
  • 2 x Logitech S100 speakers
  • maximum DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • 1-year RTB, 1-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 88
  • bundles Ahead Nero 7.0, CyberLink PowerDVD
  • 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 250GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5VD2-VM motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in Hannstar AH191DP flat-panel (0.283mm picel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution at 75Hz)
  • 256MB PCI Express Palit nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard C-Media sound
  • 2 x Logitech S100 speakers
  • maximum DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • 1-year RTB, 1-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 88
  • bundles Ahead Nero 7.0, CyberLink PowerDVD

OUR VERDICT

The PC Specialist Apollo Home GT has some decent components, but can't quite keep pace with the other PCs here.

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