The Arbico Elite 9257 HD topped our WorldBench 6 results table, but sacrifices some of its graphics potential in order to add a Blu-ray drive.

Arbico has also plumped for the excellent Intel Core i7 920 running at 2.66GHz. The Elite 9257 HD topped our WorldBench 6 results table with a score of 138 points, narrowly beating the Eclipse and CyberPower machines.

A single 1TB hard drive is supplied as standard. While this doesn’t have the potential performance benefits of the Eclipse’s Raid 0 configuration, the Arbico Elite 9257 HD turned in a better overall performance score without the added complexity and power requirements of Raid. It also has the highest-specified PSU at 800W.

Rather than go with the excellent ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card seen in the top two systems, Arbico has chosen the less-expensive HD 5770. This slower card is able to play Crysis if you’re willing to drop the quality level a tad, and the Arbico Elite 9257 HD leaves the HP in the dust in our gaming tests.

The money saved has enabled Arbico to provide a Blu-ray drive which, combined with the 23in Digimate monitor, makes the Elite 9257 HD a superior platform for film playback – provided that you’re viewing this reflective high-gloss screen in the dark.

The Arbico Elite 9257 HD's Asus motherboard offers three PCI Express x16 slots to add in extra graphics cards. We’d recommend buying a faster graphics card to start with if you’re thinking along those lines.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (issue 176)

  1. Eclipse Evolution i792R585
  2. Chillblast Fusion Eclipse
  3. Arbico Elite 9257 HD
  4. CyberPower Infinity i7 Andromeda Elite
  5. HP P6227uk

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

The Arbico Elite 9257 HD topped our WorldBench 6 results table, but sacrifices some of its graphics potential in order to add a Blu-ray drive.

Power desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel's Core i7 chip is taking this price bracket by storm. It's a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-generation quad-core machine. However, Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

The latest Core i7 800-series processors use lower-cost motherboards but can still compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Dual-core CPUs are still available, but the time has come to switch to the quad-core architectures.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). The Core i7 800-series and Core i5 chips install memory sticks in twos, however, making them excellent value for money.

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM, but check that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for more than 4GB, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, with prices falling, it's more typical to find 1TB at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB on a single disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you may also 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: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply cheap screens in order to leave more room in the budget for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work primarily with digital photos or video.

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.

If you're a movie fan, look for one of the new 16:9 format 22in-plus displays that offer full-HD playback. You may even be able to find a 24in model.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even GTX 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. nVidia cards offer some unique features, including support for 3D gaming with compatible monitors and glasses.

The GTX 260 and HD 5850 can be used in dual-card setups later but, to take advantage of this, your motherboard and power supply must be compatible.

Ready-made dual-card solutions are available but can be more expensive.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for at least a 500W unit at this price point; 750W upwards if you plan to add another card. A known brand is also likely to give better stability. Overclocking also demands a high-quality power supply.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 or X-Fi range.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite 9257 HD: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P6T SE
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 800W WinPower PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/24fps
  • Fear = 192fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 138
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P6T SE
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 800W WinPower PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/24fps
  • Fear = 192fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 138

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite 9257 HD is an ideal PC for film fans, but note that you’ll need to supply your own speakers to listen to those HD movies at their best.

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