Zoostorm has built a reputation as a company that can pack a PC with a dizzying array of components within a tight budget. The mid-price Zoostorm 4-4428 has a fantastic processor – although its other components are less outstanding.

The Zoostorm 4-4428’s Penryn E8500 chip certainly merits a special mention. That its performance isn’t quite as glittering here as in the Arbico CD8500 XL is very much down to the choice of RAM. The Zoostorm 4-4428 comes with just 2GB of DDR RAM and it’s DDR2-667 rather than the faster DDR2-800 RAM. It says plenty for the quality of the E8500 that the Zoostorm 4-4428 racks up 117 WorldBench points with this lesser complement of memory.

And RAM isn’t the only area where rival machines have the edge. The Zoostorm 4-4428's 250GB hard drive will be ample for most needs, but it’s surpassed by the 320GB and 400GB units found in several of the other PCs. The screen is a relatively small 19in model, like the Arbico CD8500 XL’s Hanspree, but lacks the colour quality of that screen. The Zoostorm 4-4428's 8800 GT is a good graphics card, but is a common inclusion in this chart. Much the same could be said of the Samsung DVD writer, while the Zoostorm 4-4428's sound system is average.

Budget PCs chart ranking (April issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 XL
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition
  3. Eclipse Crucial Supreme n685n88GTS-0C
  4. Chillblast Fusion Gladiator - last month 1
  5. Zoostorm 4-4428

Verdict

Despite a number of solid components and an excellent processor, the Zoostorm 4-4428 struggles to make a case for itself.

See also:

Budget PCs buying advice

Buying advice: £501-£750 desktop PCs (April issue)

Processor: Only last month we were saying hello to the E8500; now we’re effectively saying goodbye to the once all-conquering E6850 – you can put in half the RAM and an E8500 will register the same performance scores. The E8500 will be a little more expensive, however, so it’s worth watching out for special offers as manufacturers try to offload their supplies of E6850s. If you’ve got one eye on the future, 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 shops.

Memory: It’s a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the sub-£750 category, 2GB is standard, with the odd system daring to stretch to 4GB. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to go quite this far, but 2GB is a definite must. Memory is only going to become more and more important in the next 12 months, so stock up now.

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. A 320GB or 400GB drive should make a good investment.

It’s a good idea 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 18-speed. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these have got significantly faster in recent months, and you really need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

Display: Compromises have to be made to keep the price of a PC down 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.

Virtually all PCs (and all of our Top 5) come with flat-panels. We’d recommend a 19in model – they’re rife at this price point. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 19in, as the quality at this price point could be low. Finally, 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 PCs do tend to come with decent graphics cards.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, at this price you can set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. The 512MB 8800 GTS 512 is the undoubted leader, although the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. You may be able to find an 8800 GTX if you hunt hard enough, but the GT and GTS 512 are more likely. Stocks may be running a little low, so be patient.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it’s an area where 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 may not get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

See also:

Zoostorm 4-4428: expert review
Budget PCs chart ranking

Zoostorm 4-4428: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • ECS G33T-M2
  • 7 x USB
  • 19in AMW X1910WDS (0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 117
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • ECS G33T-M2
  • 7 x USB
  • 19in AMW X1910WDS (0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • onboard Realtek HD
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 20x20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 117

OUR VERDICT

Despite a number of solid components and an excellent processor, the Zoostorm 4-4428 struggles to make a case for itself.

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