Making good use of Intel’s 3.2GHz Core i7 960 processor, the Arbico Elite 9655 HD records a blistering 156 points in WorldBench 6.


No stranger to the top of our performance charts, Arbico has once again delivered a storming system, in the form of the Elite 9655 HD. Making good use of Intel's 3.2GHz Core i7 960 processor, this system records a blistering 156 points in WorldBench 6.

The Arbico Elite 9655 HD comes with 6GB of DDR3 memory in a three-channel configuration. It also packs three 500GB hard drives and a powerful 850W PSU.

As is the case with most PCs in this category, a 24in monitor is supplied with the Arbico Elite 9655 HD. The AOC 416V is a 16:10-format display with a 1920x1080 resolution: an ideal companion for the Blu-ray drive. You get more pixels than with the 16:9 models supplied by CyberPower and Mesh, although this screen is a little narrower.

Completing the Arbico Elite 9655 HD's multimedia credentials is a set of 5.1-channel speakers (five speakers and a subwoofer).

Only the choice of graphics card prevents the Arbico Elite 9655 HD from taking top honours: whereas the competition has gone for AMD's flagship single-GPU card, the Radeon HD 5870, Arbico has stepped things down a notch with the HD 5850. The Elite's gaming framerates are therefore a little slower than those of the competition.

Chart ranking (issue 177)

  1. Mesh Ice7 5870 HD
  2. Arbico Elite 9655 HD
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Heaven (April 2010)
  4. Chillblast Fusion Eagle
  5. Eclipse Titan X58 i795R585

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Making good use of Intel’s 3.2GHz Core i7 960 processor, the Arbico Elite 9655 HD records a blistering 156 points in WorldBench 6.

Buying advice


Processor:
Intel's quad-core Core i7 CPUs offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips. At this price, the Core i7 950 or 960 would be a great choice.

Memory: A £1,001-plus Core i7 machine should come with at least 6GB of RAM, although 3GB is acceptable if the manufacturer compensates with other extras. For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow expansion.

The triple-channel architecture of Core i7 9xx-based PCs requires you to install chips in threes. Core i7 8xx-series CPUs use a two-channel system, which will save you some cash. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM, but the price of such memory is falling fast.

A 64bit operating system can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you're running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect at least 1TB. Look for a pair or even a trio of drives rather than a single unit; it will boost performance and prevent the risk of total data loss. Raid setups are an option. Consider mirroring for added security. SSDs can provide speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1080p (full-HD) playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, some of the newest 22in (16:9) monitors can also display full-HD - and with a considerable saving.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality and an extra HDMI port is great for hooking up additional devices such as games consoles without having to switch cables.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia's GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and AMD's DirectX 11.0-compatible ATI Radeon HD 5870. The GTX 275 and HD 4890 cards also offer great performance and very good value for money. Radeon cards seem to be the current favourite for raw performance, but nVidia's cards offer unique features such as support for PhysX in-game physics effects and stereoscopic 3D using special glasses.

Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value and are approved by chip manufacturers. Buying a single-card setup keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard: If you're considering any upgrades, check that the motherboard offers enough memory slots to support the chips. SLI or CrossFireX support will enable to you add extra graphics cards to boost your gaming performance.

Power supply: The level of power you require will largely depend on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for a known and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card setup later. Any form of overclocking will also demand a powerful PSU.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite 9655 HD: Specs

  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 960
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3 x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 850W AvengePower PSU
  • 24in AOC 416V (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 86/38fps
  • Fear = 332fps)
  • onboard 7.1-channel sound
  • 5 x Trust Soundforce speakers and subwoofer
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • BullGuard Internet Security (12-month licence)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 156
  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 960
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3 x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 850W AvengePower PSU
  • 24in AOC 416V (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 86/38fps
  • Fear = 332fps)
  • onboard 7.1-channel sound
  • 5 x Trust Soundforce speakers and subwoofer
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • BullGuard Internet Security (12-month licence)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 156

OUR VERDICT

For an extra £50, the CyberPower offers the same processor and a Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, but you lose the speakers and Blu-ray drive. The £1,599 Chillblast, meanwhile, comes with the speakers and the quicker graphics card, but uses a slower processor. The Arbico Elite 9655 HD therefore delivers the best overall balance of performance and features, provided you’re willing to settle for slightly less than top-end graphics.

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