The Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro is an appealing machine, with a fast graphics card, a good monitor, external speakers and a Blu-ray drive. Unfortunately, Arbico’s decision to include a P67- rather than a Z68-chipset motherboard has backfired.

The Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro is thus unable to use an SSD to boost hard-drive performance via SRT, and it can’t take advantage of the graphics integrated to its processor for accelerated video encoding. Bluetooth and superior overclocking controls do feature, however.

The Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro's otherwise competitive specification includes 8GB of system RAM and a 1TB, 7,200rpm, 6Gbps Seagate hard drive.

In our tests system performance was acceptable, if not outstanding. The Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro scored 168 points in WorldBench 6, putting it slightly ahead of the Eclipse and Dino PC’s slightly older machine. The top performers here have piled on the RAM or taken advantage of SRT to achieve staggering tallies of 180 and 184 points.

Graphic performance is better, with the ATI Radeon HD 6970 able to deliver framerates that rival those of the best on test. Although the Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro's HD 6970 features the same clock speeds as the MSI version selected by Chillblast, it doesn’t feature that card’s enhanced cooling solution.

A 23.6in LED-backlit AOC monitor provides above-average picture quality and support for full-HD. Arbico also throws in a pair of Logitech S220 speakers and a bass-enhancing subwoofer with the Elite i7-2697 Pro.

The CiT Storm 710B system case is a low-cost choice, yet contains useful features such as meshed grilles for improved airflow and a fan-speed controller. Plenty of room is available inside the Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro for extra fans, while tool-free drive bays and slide-out trays make upgrades a simple and painless process.

£1,000 PC chart ranking

  1. 1. Chillblast Fusion Volt
    2. Eclipse Cosmos i726n57
    3. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin
    4. Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro
    5. Dino PC Ravenous 2600K

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£1,000 PC buying advice

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.

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

Paired with a Z68 chipset, an SSD can boost hard-drive performance using Intel’s Smart Response Technology.

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.

All twisted-nematic (TN) screens now have a response time of 8ms or less to minimise blur on fast-moving images. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important – look for better in-pane switching (IPS) tech here.

An LED backlight doesn’t guarantee a superior display, but such models are often slimmer and more stylish. A digital input preserves picture quality.

Graphics card: At this price, the ATI Radeon HD 6990 is an excellent choice for gamers. It offers multi-screen and DirectX 11.0 support. nVidia’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti delivers similar performance, as well as support for 3D Vision.

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 graphics cards can be upgraded to dual-card setups. However, current motherboards have 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.

Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • 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 AOC E2436VWA (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6970 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 92/54fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 183/112fps)
  • 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: 168
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • 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 AOC E2436VWA (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6970 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 92/54fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 183/112fps)
  • 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: 168

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro has a good spec and a useful two-year warranty, but Arbico’s decision to use a P67 chipset has backfired.

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