The Arbico Elite 8500GTS scored a comfortable win in our £1,001+ PCs chart last month thanks to its searing price tag. But even with the newly priced CyberPower breathing down its neck, the Arbico Elite 8500GTS retains enough clout to keep its place at the head of the chart. This is mostly down to some juicy hardware components.

The Arbico Elite 8500GTS's brand-new Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Penryn processor is about as good as it gets without paying extortionate amounts of money. Combine this with the 4GB of Corsair DDR2-800 RAM and the resulting score of 127 WorldBench points is staggering. The Arbico Elite 8500GTS also possesses the most powerful single graphics chip here, although its gaming performance is still slightly eclipsed by a number of its rivals offering two rather than one graphics card.

The Arbico Elite 8500GTS's Samsung SM226BW is an excellent 22in flat-panel that pulses with colour and clarity. The Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio is a great sound card, and the PC is also host to one of the best DVD writers in existence. A scorching PC.

Our first look at the Arbico 8500GTS

Money matters, even in the £1,001-plus PCs chart. And so it is that Arbico, pricing its Elite 8500GTS £111 below the second-cheapest machine in this Top 5, grabs itself yet another Best Buy – making it the first manufacturer in PCA history to top all four charts at once.

But it’s not just a bargain price tag that propels the Arbico Elite 8500GTS to the head of the class. Like the £750 Arbico CD8500 XL, the Arbico Elite 8500GTS is an assured performer, thanks partly to a smart choice of chip – the brand-new E8500 Penryn processor is about as good as it gets without handing over extortionate amounts of cash. Combine this with 4GB of Corsair DDR2-800 RAM and you get a powerhouse PC that scores a staggering 127 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed tests.

Not that the Arbico Elite 8500GTS leads the way in every area. The 8800 GTS 512 is the most powerful single graphics card in the chart, but the other four PCs have doubled up with paired 8800 GTs, a more powerful setup in most games. If ultimate gaming performance is your most important requirement, request two 8800 GTs in place of the GTS – but the extra cash this will cost is likely to cancel out your £111 saving.

Otherwise, the Arbico Elite 8500GTS is a top-notch machine. The 500GB hard drive is ample (not as large as those offered by the PC Specialist Apollo 880GT Sli and Mesh G92 Extreme Media machines, but we doubt you’ll need more than 500GB), while the Arbico Elite 8500GTS's Samsung SM226BW is an excellent flat-panel with strong colour and clarity.

The Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio is a great sound card and, if the Arbico Elite 8500GTS's Cyber Acoustics speakers aren’t as sensational as the Chillblast Fusion Zodiac’s Inspire T7900s, they aren’t far behind. The DVD writer is one of the best in existence, offering scorching double-layer speeds.

Verdict

You could quibble about the Arbico Elite 8500GTS's graphics – some may argue that the best PCs at this price ought to be overloaded with power and performance in every area. However, the gaming speed is still very good. As an all-round machine, the Arbico Elite 8500GTS impresses.

See also:

Power PCs buying advice

Buying advice: £1,001+ desktop PCs

Processor: The once all-conquering E6850 processor seems to be on its way out, overmatched by the new Penryn E8500 chip. The E8500 will register the same performance scores as the E6850 with just half the RAM.

The E8500 remains a more expensive option, however. It’ll be worth watching out for bargains on E6850 machines as manufacturers look to offload supplies.

If you’ve got 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 in the short term, but you could see a serious performance boost when multithreaded software applications start hitting the stores.

Memory: No sooner had the age of the 2GB PC been ushered in than PC makers started deluging us with 4GB machines. Virtually all models over £1,000 come with such a configuration. If you want a PC that’ll be able to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, 4GB of RAM is the key. For the best performance, look for high-quality memory from a reputable maker such as Corsair.

Storage: It’s hard to believe, but anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – most manufacturers supply somewhere between 500GB and 1 terabyte (TB). Unless you pursue a particularly gigabyte-hungry pastime such as video editing, however, you’re unlikely to need more than 400GB or 500GB. Get serial ATA cabling for rapid transfer rates.

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

Display: You might think a £1,001-plus PC would be guaranteed to come with a superior flat-panel display – but you’d be mistaken. The PCs in our chart all come with high-quality 22in displays, but there are some 24in screens to be had – and these are of less consistent quality. Some of the 24in monitors out there suffer from poor colours and fuzzy images, which can be a serious problem for those with sensitive eyes. It’s a safer bet to go for a 22in screen, provided you don’t mind inferior resolution support.

Graphics card: At this price point, you should be able to get something rather startling. Of the single cards, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is the most prized acquisition. Its support for DirectX 10.x means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games titles in the future.

The Ultra also has bags of performance and a slew of sizzling features. Stocks of the Ultra are running low, however, and many manufacturers are supplying one or two 8800 GT or 8800 GTS 512 cards. These aren’t actually very far behind the Ultra (and the impressive 8800 GTX) on performance. A pair of 8800 GTs is an excellent choice for high-level gaming speed.

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. You should be able to find 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 then make sure they’re high-quality models; most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers. If you want audio excellence you’d be best off holding out for a set of 7.1 speakers, which are becoming less common.

See also:

Arbico Elite 8500GTS: expert review

Arbico Elite 8500GTS: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Samsung SM226BW (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 maximum resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express XFX nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics CA5150
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 127
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Samsung SM226BW (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 maximum resolution @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express XFX nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics CA5150
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • AVG AntiVirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 127

OUR VERDICT

You could quibble about the Arbico Elite 8500GTS's graphics – some may argue that the best PCs at this price ought to be overloaded with power and performance in every area. However, the gaming speed is still very good. As an all-round machine, the Arbico Elite 8500GTS impresses.

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