Despite its inclusion of a slower 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 CPU, the Arbico Elite i7890 HD provides excellent performance. Indeed, the Elite got a score of 138 in WorldBench 6 and was only four points shy of the 950-based Eclipse.

Graphics performance from the standard HD 4890 is very good but not up to the standards of the Eclipse's souped-up GTX 275. The Arbico Elite i7890 HD's 460W PSU is also less impressive than our Best Buy's 800W model and is unlikely to be sufficient for overclocking.

The Arbico Elite i7890 HD does offer advantages over the Eclipse, however; not least the £100 price difference. The set of surround-sound speakers and a Blu-ray drive are a good match for the 24in full-HD Iiyama monitor, which also includes an HDMI input.

Visit Business Advisor for the latest business news, reviews and blogs

More desktop PC reviews

A pair of 500GB hard drives has been arranged in a Raid 0 configuration, while a third has been left spare. This is a wise choice by Arbico, since it allows the operating system to benefit from increased disk performance while providing the added security of a second volume for backups.

The Gigabyte motherboard has been used successfully in Arbico's PCs for many months. Its performance credentials are indisputable, but it lacks the expandability of some models, with only four memory slots available - three of them already filled with the Elite i7890 HD's 6GB of DDR3 RAM.

The Arbico Elite i7890 HD's Cooler Master system case is smart and tidy, although it doesn't offer the build quality or cooling found on the CyberPower.

Chart rankings: Power desktop PCs (October 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Armageddon X58-i795N275
  2. Arbico Elite i7890 HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Turismo
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix
  5. Chillblast Fusion Thunder


>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice



Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (October 09 issue)


Processor: Intel’s quad-core Core i7 CPUs offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-gen chips. With the superb 920 and 940 soon to retire you may find some excellent deals available. The dual-core E8600 is still a very fast processor and delivers excellent value.

Memory: A £1,000-plus Core i7 PC should come with 3GB of RAM (preferably 6GB). For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

Core i7 PCs require you to buy your chips in threes, in order to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You’ll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM.

A 64bit operating system can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you’re running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage:
Expect a terabyte. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single unit; it will boost performance and prevent the risk of total data loss. Raid setups are an option. Consider mirroring for added security. SSDs can provide speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above. 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 in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1,080p (full-HD) playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, some of the newest 22in (16:9) monitors can also display full-HD – and with a considerable saving, making them excellent value for money.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality.

Graphics card:
For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia’s GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. The latest GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 cards also offer great performance and very good value for money.

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

Motherboard:
If you’re considering any upgrades, check that the motherboard offers enough memory slots to support additional chips. SLI or CrossfireX support will enable to you add extra graphics cards to boost your gaming performance.

Power supply: The level of power you require will largely depend on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for a known and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card setup later. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

Sound card and speakers:
Onboard sound is still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or X-Fi card at this price. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico Elite i7890 HD: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0 configuration)
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 24in Iiyama E2407HDS-B1 (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 71/27fps
  • Fear = 259fps)
  • onboard 7.1-channel sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 138
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 3x 500GB SATA (2 in Raid 0 configuration)
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 460W Cooler Master PSU
  • 24in Iiyama E2407HDS-B1 (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 71/27fps
  • Fear = 259fps)
  • onboard 7.1-channel sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 138

OUR VERDICT

If you're looking for excellent performance without giving your wallet a battering, the Arbico Elite i7890 HD is almost as good as our Best Buy machine but costs £100 less.

Find the best price