With the Intel Core i7 920 continuing to offer top-class performance, we're seeing very little change in this price category from month to month. Arbico's HD 7090 Pro is almost identical to last month's Elite i750 Pro, but the company has doubled the RAM allocation to 6GB and dropped the 5.1-channel speaker set.

Arbico's PCs tend to perform very well in our tests, consistently sitting at or near the top of our performance charts. This month's HD 7090 Pro entry edges ahead of its predecessor by a single point in our WorldBench 6 speed test, but its performance is overshadowed by the lightning-fast Chillblast Fusion Apex.

An ATI Radeon HD 4890 graphics card ensures good framerates are recorded by the Arbico HD 7090 Pro across the board, with gaming scores almost identical to those achieved by the Chillblast and CyberPower systems.

The 22in display isn't quite up to the standard set by the Palicomp, Chlllblast and Mesh systems, but it comes with dual inputs. And there's the added bonus that, like the Chillblast, the Arbico HD 7090 Pro comes with a Blu-ray player, allowing playback of HD movies. Less pleasingly, no external speakers are provided.

Inside the HD 7090 Pro's case sits Arbico's favourite power supply (PSU) - an underpowered 460W Cooler Master model. This is paltry in comparison to the 700W and upwards models found in the competition.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Nov 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Apex
  2. Arbico HD 7090 Pro
  3. Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA
  4. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 920-T24-4890
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Power desktop PCs buying advice (Nov 09 issue)


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. All 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 power supply must 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 unit 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 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: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico HD 7090 Pro: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • Cooler Master 460W PSU
  • 22in GNR TB2200W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/27fps
  • Fear = 261fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max disc speeds: 4x (BD-ROM), 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • Cooler Master 460W PSU
  • 22in GNR TB2200W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/27fps
  • Fear = 261fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max disc speeds: 4x (BD-ROM), 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133

OUR VERDICT

The Arbico HD 7090 Pro is a good performer, although an upgraded PSU is in order.

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