Despite confusingly carrying the same name as last month's Arbico Elite i750 Pro, as well as many of the same components, the Arbico Elite i750 Pro reviewed here is actually an updated version of that PC. Improvements include 1TB of storage and a 1GB HD 4890 graphics card.

Intel's Core i7 920 still provides the processing power, and you'll find the same Gigabyte motherboard inside. While the latter performs well, it comes with only four memory slots. This means upgrades will be more expensive, since you'll have to replace rather than add to your existing modules - and this issue is significant, given that the Arbico Elite i750 Pro comes with just 3GB of RAM.

Nevertheless, the Arbico Elite i750 Pro took top honours in our WorldBench 6 speed test with a 132-point tally. It also delivered the best gaming results - if only just.

The 22in GNR monitor is another familiar face in the Arbico Elite i750 Pro's specification list. It's a reasonably good budget display with both analogue and digital inputs, but it can't match the quality of the Palicomp's Acer.

As the only system in this month's chart to come with a set of surround speakers, the Arbico Elite i750 Pro makes a decent multimedia machine. Palicomp hits back with a larger display and a Blu-ray player, however.

The Arbico Elite i750 Pro also retains the 460W PSU. A more powerful unit would allow for easier upgrades and unlock overclocking potential.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Sep 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Titan X58-Crossfire i792R489
  2. Arbico Elite i750 Pro
  3. CyberPower Mega Sales IV
  4. Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24
  5. Dell Studio XPS

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs

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, Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

Dual-core CPUs are still popular at this price point, offering good performance and considerably lower system costs. Intel's E8600 offers the best performance.

Quad-core processors, such as the Q9400, are another option. These chips use the same memory and motherboard as dual-core machines and can offer huge speed advantages if you run multithreaded applications such as video encoding.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum, particularly if you're running Windows Vista. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). A 64bit operating system 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 operating system is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, with prices falling, it isn't impossible to find a terabyte at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you should be able to find a drive that reads Blu-ray discs - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray, and DVD burning speeds will be slower.

Display: 22in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply budget screens in order to leave more cash in the pot for other components, but it's worth spending a little more 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 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 example.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 4890 is an excellent choice for gamers. You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. Two of our Top 5 machines go for the HD 4890.

The GTX 260 and HD 4890 can be used in dual-card setups later but, to take advantage of this, your motherboard and PSU will need to be compatible. Ready-made dual-card solutions are available but can work out 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 PSU at this price point, but consider 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual card solution later. Overclocking will also demand a powerful, high-quality PSU.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 or X-Fi range.

>> NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict

Arbico Elite i750 Pro: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose Vista 64bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 22in GNR TB2200W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 70/30fps
  • Fear = 263fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose Vista 64bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 22in GNR TB2200W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 70/30fps
  • Fear = 263fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132

OUR VERDICT

With some significant improvements to last month's entry into our Power PC chart, the Arbico Elite i750 Pro offers a huge amount of processing power and excellent gaming results.

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