Arbico's CD8500 PRO edges ahead of Chillblast's Fusion Anaconda as our Best Buy mid-range desktop PC thanks to a commendable WorldBench speed score, low price and outstanding games results.

Another prize-winner from Arbico, the CD8500 PRO edges ahead of Chillblast's Fusion Anaconda thanks to its commendable WorldBench performance score of 126, low price and outstanding games results. Both systems use a 3.16GHz Core 2 Duo E8500, 4GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 8800GTS to achieve WorldBench results that are about as fast as anything we’ve seen in any PC category.

The Arbico CD8500 PRO has a slightly weaker specification: iChillblast Fusion Anaconda. The Arbico CD8500 PRO is fitted with a 320GB hard drive, compared with the 500GB components provided by the other four systems.

The Arbico CD8500 PRO is solidly constructed, in an expensive-looking silver-and-black Coolermaster Elite 330 case fitted with convenient thumb-screws for easy opening. Inside there’s a pair of 2GB Corsair XM2 DDR2 memory sticks and plenty of room for expansion, with three free PCI slots and two PCI-E 1x slots available.

Six 3.5in bays and three 5.25in bays remain free, while 10 USB ports are available externally on the Arbico CD8500 PRO, two of which are situated at the front for easy access, along with mic and headphone connections.

The Cyber Acoustic 2.1 speakers provide good-quality stereo, but they don’t take full advantage of the surround-sound capabilities of the Arbico CD8500 PRO’s audio hardware.

Considering that the Arbico CD8500 PRO costs a full £100 less than the other PCs in this chart, while producing the fastest benchmark scores across the board, it’s an astonishingly good deal.

Power PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 PRO
  2. Chillblast Fusion Anaconda
  3. Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI
  4. Mesh Pulse 24
  5. Chillblast Apollo

Verdict

Some compromises have been made – but the Arbico CD8500 PRO is well-built, extremely fast and excellent value for money if you’re not too fussy about having top-of-the-range peripherals.

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Power PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: We may shortly reach the tipping point in the delicate balance of power between Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo chips and the quad-core stunners in the Core 2 Quad range, but we haven’t got there yet. All the systems in this month’s chart use dual-core processors.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, a quad system may be worth a gamble. You may have to sacrifice a little speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains.

Yet dual-core chips continue to improve: the E8500 is among the best. Even in the age of quad-core, you should get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

Memory: At this price point, 2GB should be a minimum, especially if you’re running Vista. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, most PCs at this price come with 4GB – expect this to become the norm.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space: four of this month’s systems come with a hefty 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files shouldn’t compromise.

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. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed – although 10-speed or 16-speed would be better still. DVD-R DL is a bonus rather than essential.

Flat-panel: Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard, with 20in models becoming increasingly scarce. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at the screen for long periods so, if you’re plumping for a cheap 22in display, give it a try to ensure that you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images – in games, for example – but for image-editing tasks, other specifications such as contrast ratio and colour fidelity are much more important.

Graphics card: At this price, you should be able to get something rather special. The GeForce 8800 GTS 512 has just jumped on the scene and is already making waves. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. The latter is a cheaper card, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a PC housing not one but two of them. In scaleable link interface (SLI) mode, this will produce outstanding results. In exceptional circumstances – namely the Eclipse Platinum, page 183 – you may get hold of dual 8800 GTS cards.

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 card from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers. For audio excellence, hold out for a set of 7.1-channel speakers in this price range.

See also:

Arbico CD8500 PRO: expert review

Power PCs chart ranking

Arbico CD8500 PRO: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Gigabyte P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Cibox C2201 (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express MSI nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
  • Creative Labs Audigy SE 7.1
  • Cyber Acoustic 2.1
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Gigabyte P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Cibox C2201 (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express MSI nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
  • Creative Labs Audigy SE 7.1
  • Cyber Acoustic 2.1
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

Some compromises have been made – but the Arbico CD8500 PRO is well-built, extremely fast and excellent value for money if you’re not too fussy about having top-of-the-range peripherals.

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