Arbico’s £1,199 Elite 9870EX looks very similar to its £749 Elite 8070EX, which uses the same Coolermaster Elite 330 case. The two PCs also share the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L motherboard, Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 processor and 4GB of RAM.

With so many similarities between the systems, it’s hardly surprising that the two Arbicos produce closely matched scores in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed tests. In fact, the Arbico Elite 9870EX managed three points fewer than its lower-cost stablemate.

But the Arbico Elite 9870EX provides a handful of significant upgrades. Following Mesh’s lead in recent months, Arbico has delivered a system tailor-made for HD multimedia. You get Samsung’s 245B display, one of the original low-cost 24in panels, which enables full 1,080p HD playback from the Pioneer combo Blu-ray reader/DVD writer. This drive’s DVD burning speeds are lower than we’d like, but the ability to read the Blu-ray Disc format is a very welcome feature.

A Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio sound card drives five Cyber Acoustic speakers and a subwoofer, turning the Arbico Elite 9870EX into an all-round entertainment system.

The ATI Radeon HD3870 X2 graphics card, like the CyberPower Sli KO GT’s GeForce 9800 GX2, provides twin processors on a single card and 1GB of graphics memory. Gaming scores were quick, but the Arbico Elite 9870EX trailed the nVidia-based systems on Crysis. If you plan to use the higher resolutions supported by a 24in display you may want a little more graphics power.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (August issue)


  1. Chillblast Fusion Thunderbolt
  2. Mesh Xtreme X9450 GTX Pro
  3. Arbico Elite 9870EX
  4. CyberPower Sli KO GT
  5. Dell XPS ONE DSGi E6550

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice and our expert verdict

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (August issue)

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duos are almost always the processors to go for: their performance is excellent for the price. But don’t power a standard desktop with a processor beginning with ‘E6’ – these chips’ time has passed.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, go for one of Intel’s latest quad-core processors, such as the Q9450. These deliver better performance than the previous generation of quad chips.

Memory: If you’re spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM – only the Dell XPS ONE DSGi E6550 falls short of that here, and that’s an exceptional case.

For a PC that’ll be able to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, get 4GB of RAM in two modules, so you’ll have room for expansion later.
A 64bit operating system will help you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you’re using dual graphics cards – these sap RAM on 32bit systems.

Storage: Expect at least 500GB at this price. Beyond this, go for a pair of such drives rather than a single larger unit. It’ll boost your performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. Hard drives are relatively inexpensive, so 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 more – 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 your DVD-burning speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup duties.

Display: We’re seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our high-end PC charts. You may baulk at the idea of such a large PC screen, but 24in is currently the magic size where full 1,080p high-definition (HD) playback becomes available – so these monitors make ideal partners for Blu-ray Disc 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 HD multimedia interface (HDMI) is useful if you want to share your display with a games console.

Graphics card: It’s possible to spend an eye-watering amount of money on gaming hardware – a top-spec graphics card can easily cost more than the rest of the system put together. For a thrilling gaming experience we recommend at least a pair of GeForce 8800 GTS cards or one GeForce 9800 GX2. ATI’s less costly Radeon HD 3870 X2 can deliver excellent performance – especially when doubled up into a quad-processor setup. The Radeon HD 3870 and GeForce 9800 GX2 also leave slots free for upgrades such as sound cards or TV tuners.

The GeForce 9800 GTX offers better performance than the GeForce 8800 GTS, but will cost you more than a little extra.

Sound card and speakers: There have been big steps forward in onboard sound, with support for 7.1-channel audio (seven speakers and a subwoofer), 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 stereo 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models; most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers, which allow full surround sound when watching films or playing games.

Arbico Elite 9870EX: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (or XP)
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB
  • 24in Samsung 245B (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1,920x1,200)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 43fps, Fear 214fps)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic
  • subwoofer
  • 5x BD-ROM
  • 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • Ahead Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (or XP)
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • 8 x USB
  • 24in Samsung 245B (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1,920x1,200)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 (framerates: Crysis [HQ] 43fps, Fear 214fps)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic
  • subwoofer
  • 5x BD-ROM
  • 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • Ahead Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

While there are many similarities between the Arbico Elite 9870EX and its cheaper sibling, this all-round multimedia system is an enticing buy.

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