Should you be looking to buy a quad-core PC on a budget, the Zoostorm 2-5406 is far and away the most affordable version yet.


  1. JAL Andromeda
  2. Eclipse Matrix i67N88-VSTA
  3. Zoostorm 2-5406 Advanced PC
  4. Arbico CD6880 XL
  5. Eclipse Ultimate i66GT-VSTA

Third place


Quad-core processors are causing us quite a headache at the moment. For, to be quite honest, we’re not exactly sure how we should be rating them. The problem is that while they don’t produce stellar results for the money on today’s applications, come back in a year or two and the situation could be very different. Multicore chips are intended to work their best magic when given multithreaded applications to work with. Since few of these titles exist today, the advantage of having a quad-core chip rather than a standard dual-core model isn’t currently that apparent. However, if you can track down some multithreaded software then you may well find quad-core technology running rings around dual-core PC. Graphics professionals, in particular, have much to gain by requesting four rather than two cores.

But we keep coming back to the fact that, if you’re using today’s applications, you probably don’t have the software to exploit the potentially fantastic quad-core chip found in this Zoostorm PC. If you’re buying a PC that you want to remain fresh for years to come then quad-core might well be the way to go. But we’re going to assume that most £750 PCs aren’t purchases for the long-term. And, had this PC come with standard dual-core technology then we suspect Zoostorm might have loaded it with superior components.

The GeForce 8600 GTS card is okay, but it’s no match for the 8800 GTS cards. The 19in GNR flat-panel is adequate but nothing more, and while the 400GB hard drive is the largest in the chart and the speakers are better than those found on the other £750 machines, this PC is otherwise very ordinary. However, should you be looking to buy a quad-core PC on a budget, this is far and away the most affordable version yet.

Buying advice


Processor: Dual-core is the way to go for prospective PC buyers. The Intel Core 2 Duo chips currently lead the way. The E6600 was previously fairly expensive at this price, but now seems run of the mill. Indeed, you might be able to get an E6700 for this money, and you’re unlikely to see better performance this side of £1,500. If you have one eye on the future, you might also 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 multi-threaded 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 and more important in the next twelve months.

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. 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 18-speed. Rewrite speeds of 8x 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, and you really need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

Monitor: To keep the price of a PC down compromises have to be made and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Remember, this is the part of the PC that you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at. Virtually all PCs now come with flat-panels. 19in models are rife at this price point, and you should go for this size when possible. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 19 inches, as the quality at this price point is likely to be low. Look for a screen with a good response rate – 8ms or faster should be more than 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 50fps is enough to make a game playable, at this price you might want to set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can do 80-100fps o a number of games titles. The GeForce 320MB 8800 GTS cards are very good at this price range. The 640MB version and the new ATI HD 2900 XT are fantastic, but will probably be about £50 out of your price range for the time being.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone soundcard at this price point as it is 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, 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 USB ports
  • 19in GNR TS902W flat-panel, 0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GS, PCI Express
  • onboard Realtek HD sound card
  • 5 x Philips MMS460 speakers
  • maximum DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x (DVD -ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 6x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • flash memory drive
  • 1-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score 94
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 400GB serial ATA
  • MSI P35 Neo motherboard
  • 7 USB ports
  • 19in GNR TS902W flat-panel, 0.285mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GS, PCI Express
  • onboard Realtek HD sound card
  • 5 x Philips MMS460 speakers
  • maximum DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x (DVD -ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 6x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • flash memory drive
  • 1-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score 94

OUR VERDICT

Should you be looking to buy a quad-core PC on a budget, this is far and away the most affordable version yet.

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