Arbico is no stranger to the top of our charts. And the firm has delivered yet another stand-out system this month: the Elite 4850, based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500 processor.

This value-for-money chip powers PCs across all price categories and provides bags of performance. Although it’s the most expensive PC here, the Arbico Elite 4850’s processing power, extras and all-round quality set it apart from its more budget-conscious rivals.

The manufacturer has spurned the highly popular CoolerMaster Elite 330 case in favour of a GZ-X6 model from Gigabyte for the Arbico Elite 4850. It’s a basic-looking design, but it comes with a glossy black finish, optical drive bay covers and tool-free internal drive bays.

The Arbico Elite 4850's 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card provides plenty of power to keep even the latest games titles running smoothly, although performance differences between ATI and nVidia graphics cards are often highly dependent on the games you play. The Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer’s nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX has a noticeable edge when playing Crysis.

A huge 750GB hard drive is provided as standard with the Arbico Elite 4850, so you’ll have plenty of room to install a decent games library, as well as a large multimedia collection.

Rather than bundle the cheapest 22in monitor available with the Elite 4850, Arbico has opted for Samsung’s SyncMaster 223BW, which provides excellent image quality and stylish looks.

With five Cyber Acoustic speakers and a subwoofer, the Arbico Elite 4850 is well-equipped for gaming, music and film playback, and it comes with a Blu-ray reader that also supports the now legacy HD DVD format. DVD burn speeds are a little slower than those of rival PCs, but ‘only’ 16-speed DVD-R doesn’t represent a huge sacrifice in order to enjoy high-definition (HD) movies.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (September issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer
  3. Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX
  4. CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD
  5. Arbico CD9800 PRO

>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Power desktop PCs buying advice (September issue)

Processor: All of the systems here use dual-core processors. In fact, it’s a clean sweep for Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500, which continues to dominate our charts. Even in the age of quad-core computing, you should still get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, however, a quad-core system may be a wise choice. You’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it. AMD’s Phenom X4 9850 offers good value for money, as do the later revisions of Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q6600.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. All of the PCs here come with this amount.

Get a 64bit operating system to take full advantage of your RAM. But check beforehand that all your software and drivers are supported.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – this month’s manufacturers have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users can get by comfortably with 320GB, but those intending to store lots of video, games and audio files should stock up.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer formats if you want to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also try to get eight-speed DVD+RW. At this price you should be able to find a drive that reads Blu-ray Discs, but it won’t burn them, and DVD burning speeds will generally be slower.

Display: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many PC manufacturers supply budget screens, but it’s worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video – you’ll probably have to stare at the monitor
for long periods. Give the display a try to ensure you can put up with the quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images such as games. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important. A digital input can preserve picture quality, so avoid displays that provide analogue inputs only.

Graphics card: The new GeForce 9800 GTX offers better performance than the 8800 GTS, although it’s based on almost identical technology. The extra power may not always justify the higher price. Both support DirectX 10.0, which means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

The 8800 GT isn’t far behind. It’s cheaper and you may be able to get two of them in scaleable link interface (SLI) mode – this will produce outstanding results. The 9600 GT is a still cheaper option that can also be used in SLI mode.

AMD’s Radeon HD 3820 X2 is another blisteringly fast card. Containing two graphics processors, it gives you bags of performance without requiring a specially designed motherboard. ATI’s new HD 4850 card is also worth looking at, but make sure you have the latest drivers.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has improved, but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Consider Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want a 2.1-channel setup (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they’re high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers.

Arbico Elite 4850: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit or 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Samsung 223BW (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (gaming scores: Crysis 54fps
  • Fear 171fps)
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x/3x (BD-ROM/HD DVD)
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit or 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Samsung 223BW (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (gaming scores: Crysis 54fps
  • Fear 171fps)
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x/3x (BD-ROM/HD DVD)
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite 4850 is an excellent all-round system that justifies the extra money. But if you don’t need Blu-ray – or can’t quite stretch to £999 – then take a look at Chillblast's Fusion Sledgehammer instead.

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