Here’s a system that offers outstanding value for money. With the fastest overall performance score, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, a 320GB hard drive and 5.1 surround speakers included, the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop is almost unbeatable at this price point.

The Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop, a powerful budget dual-core system, pulls well ahead of the competition for general desktop use, while offering graphical capabilities to satisfy occasional gamers.

The key to the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop's high WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 123 lies in its use of Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500 processor. We’ve seen this chip dominating the pricier categories for some time now. By bringing it into our lowest price range, Zoostorm outguns its rivals, which are largely powered by the slightly slower E8400.

So why choose any other system when the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop is so strong? The answer lies in its 3D graphics performance. While this PC is quite capable of playing decent games – there’s no onboard graphics nonsense here – the supplied 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600GT is a few steps behind what the others are offering, and this showed up in gaming benchmarks. Eclipse's Evolution i84n88GS has half the RAM and a slower processor, but was more than twice as quick at Crysis.

Your choice will therefore be down to whether or not you want to use your PC for significant amounts of gaming. If you do, you may be better off sacrificing some of the Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop's goodies in favour of a faster graphics card.

The Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop's flat-panel, the increasingly popular Hannspree XM New York, is a distinctive-looking and well-built 19in display that features in four of our Top 5 budget systems this month. Impressively, Zoostorm has managed to include a set of Edifier M1150 5.1 surround-sound speakers. Sub-£500 systems frequently rely on the monitor’s built-in speakers for audio output.

Budget desktop PCS chart ranking (September issue)

  1. Zoostorm 62-3309 Home Desktop
  2. Arbico Elite 8440
  3. Eclipse Evolution i84n88GS
  4. Chillblast Fusion Hawk
  5. CyberPower Gamer Ultra 750

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