The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC sits at the foot of the chart, but it's got one feature that sets it apart from the rest: a quad-core Intel Core 2 Q6600 processor. This should give you a considerable speed boost when using multithreaded software.

Currently, however, there isn't a great deal of multithreaded software available. We're assured these should be trickling onto the market shortly but, in the meantime, you're left with a PC that struggles to live up to its theoretical power on current software. The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC's WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 94 isn't disastrous, but it is the lowest in the chart, trailing the Best Buy Eclipse Evolution i685n88s by 14 points.

As a general PC, the Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC is pretty solid, if slightly left behind by the other machines in an impressive budget PCs chart. The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC's GeForce 8600 GTS card is decent - but no match for the 8800 GTS - while the 19in GNR flat-panel is adequate. The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC's 400GB hard drive is the largest in the chart, however, and the Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC's Philips speakers are better than those found on the other budget models.

Verdict

The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC won't cause much excitement. However, if you're looking to buy a quad-core PC on a budget, the Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC is far and away the most affordable version yet.

Chart ranking: budget PCs October 07 issue


  1. Eclipse Evolution i685n88s
  2. Arbico 807 Pro
  3. PC Specialist Apollo 675GTS
  4. Eclipse Matrix I67N88-VSTA
  5. Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC

Buying advice: budget PCs as of August 07

Processor: Dual-core is the way to go for prospective PC buyers. Intel's Core 2 Duo chips currently lead the way.

The E6850's appearance in this month's chart is a bit of a surprise - as a general rule of thumb, the E6750 and E6700 are better options. But all of these processors are incredibly fast and would make a good addition to any £750 PC.

If you've got one eye on the future, you might want to 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 stores.

Memory: It's a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the £750 category, 2GB is rapidly establishing itself as the standard. Only a few months ago, 1GB seemed sufficient, but you'd be well advised now to play it safe and plump for the extra gigabyte. It's only going to become more important in the next twelve months.

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

It helps to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure the PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at rates of at least 18-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 have got significantly faster in recent months - you need to be looking for an absolute minimum of 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. As for size, 19in models are the most common. Be very careful when offered anything larger than this, as the quality at this price point could be low.

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 machines in this category generally manage to include a decent graphics card.

Although 50fps (frames per second) is enough to make a game playable, you might want to set your sights a little higher at this price. Choose a card that can produce 80 to 100fps on a number of games. The 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS is excellent. The 640MB version is also fantastic, as is the new ATI HD 2900 XT, but neither is easy to get at this price.

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 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 often won't get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category - indeed, you won't necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 400GB serial ATA
  • MSI P35 Neo motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in GNR TS902W (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 256MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS
  • onboard Realtek HD sound
  • 5 x Philips MMS460 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 94 points
  • 1-year onsite warranty
  • flash memory drive
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 400GB serial ATA
  • MSI P35 Neo motherboard
  • 7 x USB ports
  • 19in GNR TS902W (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 256MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS
  • onboard Realtek HD sound
  • 5 x Philips MMS460 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 94 points
  • 1-year onsite warranty
  • flash memory drive

OUR VERDICT

The Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC won't cause much excitement. However, if you're looking to buy a quad-core PC on a budget, the Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC is far and away the most affordable version yet.

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