Despite its chart-leading WorldBench speed score of 133 points, the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro is an inexpensive desktop PC.

Arbico’s Elite 8630 Pro is in essence the same as the £999 Arbico Elite 8626GTX, with the flat-panel and sound card replaced by larger and superior substitutes respectively.

The 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 processor enables the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro to perform extremely well at everyday tasks that don’t make use of multithreaded code.

Despite its chart-leading WorldBench score of 133 points, the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro is the cheapest PC here. Its secret weapon is the BFG GeForce GTX 260 graphics card. This is actually clocked higher than a GTX 280 and delivers performance almost indistinguishable from the costlier card.

The system case doesn’t offer some of the features of the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy and Mesh i7 920 HD cases, but does provide plenty of expansion room. The motherboard offers two spare memory slots, but you can’t add a second graphics card, while the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro's 460W supply is less powerful than most supplied at this price.

A Blu-ray drive, high-quality 24in display and surround speakers complete the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro's spec, making this a good all-round system for work, gaming or multimedia.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  2. Mesh i7 920 HD
  3. Arbico Elite 8630 Pro
  4. Chillblast Fusion Medusa
  5. Zoostorm 64-6503

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Despite its chart-leading WorldBench speed score of 133 points, the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro is an inexpensive desktop PC.

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. Today, quad-core processors such as the Q9550 have begun to match their performance on standard desktop applications. Systems running on four cores can deliver excellent performance at the same price as dual-core machines.

If you demand the ultimate in performance, go for one of Intel's new Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, but require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM. Any less will prevent a Vista PC reaching its full potential. To plan for the future, get 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

A 64bit operating system will ensure you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you're using dual graphics cards - these sap RAM on 32bit systems. If you're going for an i7-based PC, you'll need to buy your chips in threes to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 rather than DDR2 chips.

Storage: Expect at least 750GB. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single larger unit; it will boost performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. Consider mirroring for added security.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above - some more recent drives offer twice this speed. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays. This is currently the magic size at which full 1,080p HD playback becomes available, so these make ideal partners for Blu-ray drives.

If this doesn't appeal, 22in displays are excellent value. Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality and additional inputs if you want to attach other devices. An HDMI is useful for connecting to a games console.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience choose between an nVidia GeForce GTX 280 and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

Buying a single-card solution keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Sound card and speakers: There have been improvements in onboard sound, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or one of the excellent X-Fi cards.

If you only want 2.1-channel sound (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they're high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite 8630 Pro: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 24in LG W2452T (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/26.1
  • Fear = 244)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio 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
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 24in LG W2452T (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/26.1
  • Fear = 244)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio 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
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite 8630 Pro is a value-for-money PC with well chosen components. However, you won’t be able to upgrade it as far as the i7-based systems, while the lack of quad-core processing could be a disadvantage for those who like to perform CPU-intensive rendering tasks or video conversion.

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