Excellent all-round performance comes from the only power desktop PC in our group test to feature a Blu-ray drive, the Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD.

Based on the ever-popular quad-core Intel Core i7-870, Arbico’s Elite i7-8785 HD is a well-balanced power desktop PC with a base clock speed of 2.93GHz. This increases to 3.6GHz using Turbo Boost, powering the Arbico to a joint-fastest WorldBench 6 score of 143 points.

Also very popular at this price point is the Arbico’s ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card. Its DirectX 11.0 capabilities and sheer graphics clout enable it to outperform the nVidia GeForce GTX 460 in our Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat tests. The Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD power desktop PC is beaten only by Palicomp’s factory-overclocked variation on the same card and Eclipse’s twin-GTX 460 setup.

Arbico has selected the Cooler Master Elite 330 for its Elite i7-8785 HD power desktop PC. This is a well-constructed, smart system case, but it’s almost boring next to the Eclipse’s imposing NZXT Beta. It also lacks the capacity for the level of cooling that would be required for serious overclocking.

A 4GB allocation of DDR3 memory is supplied with the Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD power desktop PC, along with a terabyte (1TB) hard drive and a powerful 850W power supply unit (PSU). The Asus P7P55D-E is a higher-spec version of the motherboard supplied by Chillblast; it supports both USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps, and comes with enough expansion slots to add a further two sticks of RAM and a second graphics card.

A 24in full-HD monitor and a set of five speakers and a subwoofer are also supplied with the Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD power desktop PC, nicely complemented by a Blu-ray drive.

Power PCs chart ranking

Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 930-24 USB3
Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD
Eclipse Tornado SLi i87n46
CyberPower Infinity i7 Hercules XT
Chillblast Fusion Hammerhead

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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Excellent all-round performance comes from the only power desktop PC in our group test to feature a Blu-ray drive, the Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD.

Power 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, some Core i7-900-series chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices.

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.

Intel’s dual-core Core i5 CPUs are also worth considering, offering higher clock speeds for your money.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you’re buying a Core i7-based system, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such PCs 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 considered small. 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.

Keep an eye out for new motherboards with USB 3.0 and 6Gbps SATA support, enabling high-speed drives to be added.

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 on a display 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 seen in three of the five PCs here is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 470 also supports DirectX 11.0 and delivers excellent performance, as well as support for the company’s 3D Vision glasses. Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory.

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 setups 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 or 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

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Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD: Specs

  • 2.93GHz Intel Core i7-870
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E motherboard
  • 850W AvengePower PSU
  • 24in HKC 2249A (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 77/37fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 146/73fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC887 sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 8x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 143
  • 2.93GHz Intel Core i7-870
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E motherboard
  • 850W AvengePower PSU
  • 24in HKC 2249A (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 77/37fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 146/73fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC887 sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 8x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 143

OUR VERDICT

The well-balanced Arbico Elite i7-8785 HD power desktop PC offers excellent all-round performance, while a Blu-ray drive, full-HD monitor and stereo speakers make it an ideal multimedia machine.

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