It wasn’t easy separating them, but the sleek Arbico Elite 8626GTX edges out Zoostorm's impressive 64-6406 to claim the Best Buy badge.

The Arbico Elite 8626GTX comes with a larger hard drive: its 1TB of storage compares favourably to the Zoostorm 64-6406’s 750GB. The company also bundles a better display – LG’s excellent L226WTQ – and a Blu-ray/HD DVD drive.

Admittedly, Arbico has compromised a little on the Elite 8626GTX's graphics, packing a GeForce GTX 260 card instead of a GTX 280. But the computer’s BFG MaXcore is no ordinary GTX 260. With its GPU core and memory running at 655MHz and 1,125MHz respectively, this card is clocked higher than the GTX 280 and delivers performance that’s almost indistinguishable from the more expensive card – and at a considerable saving.

Like the Zoostorm 64-6406, the Arbico Elite 8626GTX uses Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600 processor to devastating effect. It achieved a staggering 133 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, one of the best scores we’ve seen across any of our price brackets.

The Arbico Elite 8626GTX's Elite 330 case doesn’t offer the same impressive features as the Dominator 690 favoured by the CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Ultimate DDR3 and Mesh Xtreme GTX260 PCA. But it does provide plenty of expansion room.

The Arbico Elite 8626GTX's Gigabyte motherboard also offers room for expansion with two free memory slots, although it won’t be possible to add a second graphics card. Its 460W PSU is considerably less powerful than that supplied with the Zoostorm 64-6406 desktop PC.

Creative’s Audigy SE 7.1 sound card provide the Arbico Elite 8626GTX with multichannel surround sound through a 5.1-channel set of Cyber Acoustics – five  speakers and a subwoofer – making this a good all-round computer for work, gaming or multimedia.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (January issue)

  1. Arbico Elite 8626GTX
  2. Zoostorm 64-6406
  3. Chillblast Fusion Photon
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Ultimate DDR3
  5. Mesh Xtreme GTX260 PCA


>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (January issue)

Processor: All the systems here use dual-core processors. Intel's E8600 chip now dominates the chart, although we're still seeing E8500-based machines delivering very good performance.

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 apps but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it.

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

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM - but check beforehand that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for the 8GB Chillblast, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space - the manufacturers of the systems in this month's chart have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users will get by comfortably with a 320GB drive, but with hard-drive prices continuing to fall it shouldn't be hard to find a 1TB (one-terabyte) drive at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer format 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 - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray and DVD burning speeds will 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. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important.

A digital input can preserve picture quality, so think twice about displays that provide analogue inputs only.

Graphics card: At this price point, it's a pitched battle between nVidia's latest GeForce GTX 260 graphics card and the ATI Radeon HD 4870. If you can find a GTX 280, as seen in our Best Buy PC, then that's even better.

The GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4870 both offer strong performance and can be doubled up into dual-card solutions later on. In order to take advantage of such a setup, however, your motherboard and power supply will need to be compatible with this mode of operation.

It's also possible to go for a ready-made dual-card solution, such as a pair of Radeon HD 4850s. This can work out to be more expensive in the long run. Keep an eye out for factory overclocked graphics cards which come pre-configured to run at much faster speeds.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has come on in leaps and bounds, 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-channel speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: SPECIFICATION AND OUR EXPERT VERDICT

Arbico Elite 8626GTX: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG L226WTQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 73fps
  • Fear = 244fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics 5150
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG L226WTQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 73fps
  • Fear = 244fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics 5150
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133

OUR VERDICT

The Zoostorm’s potentially overclockable GTX 280 graphics card gives it an advantage over the Arbico Elite 8626GTX. But in other respects this excellent PC, with its better all-round spec and superior display, is a cannier choice.

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