Very nearly as fast as our Best Buy Power PC machine, Arbico's Elite i7 Pro offers excellent value for money.

Despite having just 3GB of DDR3 RAM installed, the Arbico Elite i7 Pro is very nearly as fast as Chillblast's breathtaking Best Buy machine. Its relative lack of memory doesn't hinder performance; the Arbico scored 132 points in WorldBench 6 - just three points fewer than the Chillblast, which costs £400 more.

Aside from the reduced cost of the memory, this system also uses a cheaper, but still powerful, nVidia GeForce GTX 260 graphics card. Arbico has opted for an overclocked BFG model, with performance boosted closer to that of the costlier GTX 280. At very demanding quality settings ?the 280 starts to outperform the 260, but the savings are considerable.

The LG W2252TQ is a smart-looking monitor that offers decent performance and a good set of features. But the best 24in displays - or 16:9 22in monitors - would have enabled full HD playback from the Blu-ray drive, and taken full advantage of the powerful graphics system.

A set of Creative T6100 surround-sound speakers is an impressive addition, even if some buyers may feel this is more than they require. By comparison, the CyberPower and Eclipse systems rely solely on the speakers built into their monitors.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (April 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Titanium
  2. Arbico Elite i7 Pro
  3. Mesh Lexa 280
  4. Eclipse Excalibur i792nGTX260
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Andromeda


>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Very nearly as fast as our Best Buy Power PC machine, Arbico's Elite i7 Pro offers excellent value for money.

Power desktop PCs buying advice (April 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. This has all changed with the release of Intel's incredibly quick Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM. Any less will prevent a Vista PC reaching its full potential. To plan for the future, get 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

A 64bit operating system will ensure you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you're using dual graphics cards - these sap RAM on 32bit systems. If you're going for an i7-based PC, you'll need to buy your chips in threes to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 rather than DDR2 chips.

Storage: Expect at least 750GB. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single larger unit; it will boost performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. 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 above - 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 DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays. This used to be the magic size at which full 1,080p HD playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, newer 22in monitors in the 16:9 aspect ratio are also able to display full HD video and cost considerably less, making them excellent value for money, although the size of onscreen elements will be reduced.

If this doesn't appeal, standard 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 HDMI is useful for connecting to a games console.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between an nVidia GeForce GTX 280 and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

Buying a single-card solution keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Sound card and speakers: There have been improvements in onboard sound, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or one of the excellent X-Fi cards.

If you only want 2.1-channel sound (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they're high-quality models. Some firms are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite i7 Pro: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG W2252TQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG Maxcore nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis High = 74fps, Very High = 25fps
  • Fear = 235fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC885/889A/90
  • 5 x Creative T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • PowerDVD
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in LG W2252TQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express BFG Maxcore nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis High = 74fps, Very High = 25fps
  • Fear = 235fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC885/889A/90
  • 5 x Creative T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • PowerDVD
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132

OUR VERDICT

If you don’t have the budget for the Fusion Titanium, the Arbico Elite i7 Pro is worth a look. It’s a powerful, high-end PC that still offers excellent value for money.

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