This review appears as part of the comprehensive roundup of Vista PCs in the April 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents. Click here to read our general Vista PC buying advice.

Some great Vista PC deals are available for under £750, but should you want a PC that'll really be able to harness the power of Vista then you should expect to pay in excess of a thousand pounds. The Arbico CD1950EX worked out as the best pick in the money-no-object Vista PCs we looked at.

There’s no questioning the Arbico's base speed. The Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 processor is about as fast as current CPU technology gets - without it costing a ridiculous amount of money. Pair it with 2GB of DDR RAM, as Arbico has done here, and the results are quite fantastic. The healthy WorldBench real-world speed benchmark score of 150 is testament to the CD1950EX's superb turn of pace.

But while it narrowly beats the Mesh E6700 X-Treme PCA on everyday performance, the Arbico lags a little way behind in gaming. That's because, while the Mesh plays host to an nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card, the Arbico's Radeon X1950 XTX is slightly older hat. It's still a very good card - at a standard resolution of 1,280x1,024, the Mesh is generally only a few frames per second faster - but it doesn't support DirectX 10.0.

Since DirectX 10.0 is one of the cornerstones of the Vista revolution, that could be a problem. Having said that, it's likely to be 12 months (if not considerably longer) before you really need a DirectX 10.0 graphics card, and there are no guarantees that an 8800 GTS will be fast enough to fully cope with the demands of DirectX 10.0 in full flight.

The Arbico has a Belinea flat-panel which produces a pleasing image. It's not quite as impressive as that of the Mesh's Sony, but the colours are very attractive, and the 20.1in size and high resolution offer adequate compensation. The 400GB hard drive is the smallest of any of the Vista PCs we’ve reviewed that costs more than a grand, but 400GB is as much as the typical user is going to need. The DVD writer is an excellent model, burning 18-speed DVD+R and DVD-R discs. We also like the audio system, with the X-Fi XtremeAudio cementing its reputation as one of the best sound cards available.

Arbico CD1950EX: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 400GB serial ATA
  • 20.1in Belinea 2025 S1 flat-panel
  • ATI Radeon X1950 XTX
  • 16x/18x/18x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 8x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium, Vista CD and DVD software
  • 1-year collect-and-return, 2-year RTB warranty
  • WorldBench 5 score 150
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 400GB serial ATA
  • 20.1in Belinea 2025 S1 flat-panel
  • ATI Radeon X1950 XTX
  • 16x/18x/18x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R) 8x/8x (-R DL/+R DL) 8x/8x/12x (-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium, Vista CD and DVD software
  • 1-year collect-and-return, 2-year RTB warranty
  • WorldBench 5 score 150

OUR VERDICT

If money isn't really an issue for you then we'd recommend the Mesh E6700 X-Treme PCA as the top buy of all the Vista power PCs we've seen. Its graphics card is better and supports DirectX 10.0, and some may prefer the slightly better image quality of the Mesh’s screen. However, you will save £250 by buying the Arbico CD1950EX PC. And considering the fantastic range of components on offer, that makes this an excellent Best Buy.

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