Arbico has taken a similar strategy to Chillblast with the Elite i7-2695 HD, building a PC that performs well all round rather than excelling in any one area. The two machines share a similar specification, yet this PC was the fastest of all in our WorldBench 6 speed test. The Arbico’s 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K processor powered it to a high score of 177 points.

Both PCs use Asus’ P8P67 motherboard, which usefully provides Bluetooth, USB 3.0, 6Gbps SATA and automatic overclocking features. The Arbico Elite i7-2695 HD, too, has 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. And both PCs use an ATI Radeon HD 6950 graphics card.

Power PCs chart ranking

  1. Dino PC Ravenous 2600K
  2. Eclipse Platinum i726n560
  3. Chillblast Fusion Quantum
  4. Arbico Elite i7-2695 HD
  5. Chillblast Fusion Zenith

Like Chillblast, Arbico has plumped for a 23.6in Asus monitor for its Elite i7-2695 HD PC. The VE247H offers LED backlighting and HDMI, DVI and VGA inputs. A 12-speed Blu-ray drive slightly improves on the Fusion Quantum’s 10-speed version, and you get a pair of speakers and a subwoofer.

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Arbico has plumped for a Raidmax Altas case. It has several nice design touches, including matching blue mesh backing plates and tool-free drive-bay mechanisms. There are additional fan-mounting points at top and bottom, although the Arbico Elite i7-2695 HD relies on Intel’s standard CPU cooler. Improved cable management would also be welcome.

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Processor: Intel’s second-gen Core i5 and i7 CPUs are the only serious contenders at this price. These ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips are much faster and use less power than their predecessors.

The 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K is the fastest available, with its ‘K’ designation denoting an unlocked multiplier. K-series CPUs are designed for overclocking, but demand a compatible motherboard.

At 3.3GHz, the Core i5-2500K offers a slightly lower specification. Unlike the Core i7, it has no support for hyperthreading and has 6MB rather than 8MB of level-three cache.

Motherboard: K-series chips require a motherboard that supports overclocking. These boards cost a little more, but a good version will do the hard work for you, providing a significant speed boost without any specialist knowledge.

Never pair a K-series CPU with a motherboard based on the H67 chipset – these don’t support overclocking. If you want to overclock, you should also invest in a third-party CPU cooler.

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM, but check that your software and drivers will be supported.

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Storage: With storage prices falling, expect 1TB. We’re even seeing systems with 2TB at this price. A solid-state drive (SSD) may be available, providing a noticeable improvement in bootup times and system responsiveness. Their price requires cutbacks elsewhere, however.

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.

It’s not uncommon to find a DVD drive that also reads Blu-ray discs, but DVD-burning speeds will be slower. Look for separate Blu-ray and DVD drives for the fastest performance.

Flat-panel: 24in flat-panels are standard at this price. Many vendors supply cheap screens to leave more cash for other components, but it’s worth spending more on a display if you intend to work 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 (HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort) can preserve picture quality.

Graphics card: At this price, the ATI Radeon HD 6950 is an excellent choice for gamers. It offers multi-screen and DirectX 11.0 support.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti is also DirectX 11.0-compatible and delivers similar performance, as well as support for the company’s 3D Vision glasses.

You may find a GeForce GTX 570 at this price, which will give you even better gaming framerates.

Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory.

Many nVidia and ATI graphics cards can be upgraded to dual-card setups. However, motherboards that support the new CPUs have only limited support for multiple graphics cards, so we advise you to buy the fastest single card you can.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend on the graphics card you want to use. Look for at least a 500W unit or 750W-plus if you plan to add another card or overclock the CPU.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is so good these days that you’re unlikely to need a sound card. Look for a set of external speakers and a subwoofer.

Arbico Elite i7-2695 HD: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • standard Intel CPU cooler
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 motherboard
  • 580W Xilence PSU
  • 23.6in Asus VE247H (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 97/47fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 188/101fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-ROM/8x -R/8x -R DL/8x -RE/8x -ROM DL
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/12x -R DL/12x +R DL/12x -RW/12x +RW/12x -RAM
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 177
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • standard Intel CPU cooler
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 motherboard
  • 580W Xilence PSU
  • 23.6in Asus VE247H (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 97/47fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 188/101fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-ROM/8x -R/8x -R DL/8x -RE/8x -ROM DL
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/12x -R DL/12x +R DL/12x -RW/12x +RW/12x -RAM
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 177

OUR VERDICT

Arbico’s Elite i7-2695 HD desktop PC is a strong system and gave the best showing in our WorldBench 6 performance test. Tinkerers may prefer the Chillblast, however, and gamers, the Eclipse.

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