At £1,350, the Arbico 888 Extreme is the most expensive machine in the Top 5 - and the extra £51 may have cost the Arbico 888 Extreme a place.

Better specifications wouldn't have hurt either - although several of the components that made it on board the Arbico 888 Extreme are outstanding. The E6850, for instance, is the fastest processor anywhere in these charts. With an extra 2GB of DDR RAM, the Arbico 888 Extreme might have caught up with the Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC.

The Arbico 888 Extreme's graphics card, a GeForce 8800 Ultra, is another stunner - the fastest available today. It's only marginally quicker than the Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC's GTX version, but it absolutely flies through the games tests. Even without 4GB of RAM or quad-core capabilities, the Arbico 888 Extreme is likely to be an impressively fast performer a couple of years from now.

The Arbico 888 Extreme's 22in Daewoo flat-panel is pleasant, if not quite up to the standards of excellence set by the graphics card. The Arbico 888 Extreme's pair of 250GB hard drives give you plenty of storage space - although they are dwarfed by the chart-topping Cube247 Nova ST3's monstrous storage capacity.

The Arbico 888 Extreme's sound system is stellar, with the XtremeAudio working beautifully with the CyberAcoustic speakers. The Arbico 888 Extreme's DVD writer is also a good component, if not quite a 20-speed market-leader of the calibre of the Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC's AOpen drive. As for connectivity, we'd have liked to see more than six USB 2.0 ports - the Cube247 Nova ST3 and Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC boast 12 and 10 respectively.

Verdict

The Arbico 888 Extreme was probably 2GB away from making a big splash. It isn't as fast as the Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC or as perfectly priced as the Cube247 Nova ST3, but the Arbico 888 Extreme is still an impressive machine.

Chart ranking: power PCs October 07 issue


  1. Cube247 Nova ST3
  2. Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC
  3. Arbico 888 Extreme
  4. Mesh Elite Q6600 R600 PCA
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity SLI GTX

Buying advice: power PCs as of August 07

Processor: They might soon face some serious competition from AMD's quad-core processors but, for now, Intel's Core 2 chips reign supreme. The E6750 and E6850 have made quite a splash in our power PC chart. For the best performance on today's software, look to the E6850.

Alternatively, you could opt for a quad-core chip such as the Quad Q6600. This potentially offers around 50 to 100 percent extra performance, but only in applications and games that are programmed to take advantage of the extra cores included within each chip. Don't expect multicore applications to flood in, but we could see a dramatic shift in the software landscape over the next couple of years. The higher the number of cores, the more impressive future performance is likely to be.

Memory: No sooner had we welcomed the age of the 2GB PC than 4GB machines started appearing in our charts. Three of the models in the power PC chart now include this much memory.

If you want your PC to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, 4GB is the key - but 2GB remains a decent option if you want to save money. For the best performance, buy from a high-quality memory maker such as Corsair.

Storage: Unbelievably, anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage - most power PCs come with 500GB to 600GB of hardware space. A few machines offer more than this but, unless you specialise in a particularly gigabyte-hungry pastime such as video, 500GB should be more than enough. Make sure you get serial ATA cabling for rapid transfer rates.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must, and you should make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or more. Eight-speed DVD-R DL is nice but not essential, and look for good eight-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: You might think that any flat-panel bundled with a power PC would be of superior quality - but you'd be mistaken. These power PCs come with 22in displays, but you should be careful when choosing screens of this size. Some 22in flat-panels produce poor colours and fuzzy images, which might cause more than a few problems for those with sensitive eyes. If in doubt, 20in screens are safer bets, but you'll have to accept inferior resolution support.

Graphics cards: You should be able to get something rather startling in a power PC. The GeForce 8800 Ultra is undoubtedly the most prized acquisition. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista adopters can look forward to some impressive games titles in the future.
The Ultra also has bags of performance and sizzling features. The 8800 GTX is nearly as good and, as stocks dwindle, could be available at a juicy price.

However, you shouldn't overlook their slightly less exciting sibling, the 8800 GTS, nor the brand-new ATI HD 2900 XT. The latter can't keep up with the Ultra and GTX, but it will eclipse even the 640MB version of the 8800 GTS.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound - but it's still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a Creative Audigy card or, better still, one from the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality. Most manufacturers are bundling 5.1-channel speakers. Strangely, 7.1 speakers are becoming less common but, if you want audio excellence, you'd be best off holding out for a set of these.

Arbico 888 Extreme: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 2 x 250GB serial ATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R motherboard
  • 6/1 x USB ports
  • 22in Daewoo L2200DM (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 768MB PCI Express XFX nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x CyberAcoustic CA-5150 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114 points
  • 1-year collect-and-return, 2-year RTB warranty
  • bundles Microsoft Works 8.5, CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 2 x 250GB serial ATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R motherboard
  • 6/1 x USB ports
  • 22in Daewoo L2200DM (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 768MB PCI Express XFX nVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x CyberAcoustic CA-5150 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114 points
  • 1-year collect-and-return, 2-year RTB warranty
  • bundles Microsoft Works 8.5, CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico 888 Extreme was probably 2GB away from making a big splash. It isn't as fast as the Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC or as perfectly priced as the Cube247 Nova ST3, but the Arbico 888 Extreme is still an impressive machine.

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