Like Palicomp’s ‘Stealth’ system, Arbico’s i7-2656 Stealth Gamer employs Cooler Master’s Sileo 500 case. It’s fitted with sound-damping material that helps to keep the PC quiet, despite its high-performance components.

Like Palicomp’s ‘Stealth’ system, Arbico’s i7-2656 Stealth Gamer employs Cooler Master’s Sileo 500 case. It’s fitted with sound-damping material that helps to keep the PC quiet, despite its high-performance components.

The most important of these are the Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer's Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard and 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600 processor. At stock speeds, this is the fastest chip you can buy.

The 1.5TB hard drive is coupled with a 60GB OCZ SSD, while an 8GB allocation of RAM is installed in four 2GB modules. This means you’ll need to replace rather than add to these if you wish to upgrade the Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer's system RAM.

Arbico has gone to town on extras we don’t usually see in these pages. The Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer desktop PC offers a multi-format card reader, a discrete sound card and wireless networking.

The Asus motherboard selected in its various flavours by every PC here treats the i7-2600 and i7-2600K CPUs slightly differently, in other ways than allowing overclocking. It lets the ‘K’ chip run Turbo Boost on all four cores simultaneously, which explains the Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer's slightly lower WorldBench 6 score of 176 points.

The GTX 560 Ti is the slowest graphics card on test, but it delivers playable framerates and makes good use of the Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer's 24in LED-backlit display. Five speakers and a subwoofer complete the well-rounded specification.

Power desktop PCs: chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Solar
  2. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth
  3. Mesh Evolution 2600K PCA
  4. Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer
  5. Dino PC Maxosaur 2600

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NEXT PAGE: Budget PCs buying advice

Like Palicomp’s ‘Stealth’ system, Arbico’s i7-2656 Stealth Gamer employs Cooler Master’s Sileo 500 case. It’s fitted with sound-damping material that helps to keep the PC quiet, despite its high-performance components.

Power desktop PCs: buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7-2600K offers fantastic performance, hyperthreading, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz and easy overclocking.

You can make a small saving by opting for the non-’K’ version, which does without the overclocking feature. Alternatively, the Core i5-2500 offers a reduced cache, no hyperthreading and a 3.3GHz clock speed, but will still outpace many Core i7 chips. It’s also available in a ‘K’ version.

If you intend to overclock the CPU, upgrade the standard Intel cooler first.

Core i7-950 and -870 CPUs cost less, but use a different type of motherboard.

Memory: A £1,001-plus Sandy Bridge Core i7 PC should come with at least 8GB of RAM. The triple-channel architecture of Core i7-900-based PCs requires you to install chips in threes. Core i7-800- and -2000-series CPUs use a two-channel system. A 64bit OS is essential to take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you’re running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect 1TB. Look for a pair or trio of drives to reduce the risk of total data loss, although noise levels will increase. Raid 0 setups boost speed at the expense of reliability. 2TB drives are also available, but remember to back up regularly. Consider mirroring for added security.

SSDs provide a significant and very noticeable speed boost, from reduced startup times to improved system responsiveness. They’re now priced at a level where you should expect to see one in any PC costing more than £1,000. Go for an SSD with a capacity of at least 60GB if you’re running Windows 7.

Dual-layer DVD+/-R capabilities are useful, preferably at eight-speed or above. Also look for eight-speed DVD+RW. If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds.

Display: PCs at this price are nearly always offered with a 24 or 25in display. This used to be the magic size at which 1080p (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 – for less money.

Model’s with LED backlighting aren’t necessarily better, but can offer improved contrast, lower power consumption and a thinner, more desirable design.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality, while HDMI is great for hooking up additional devices.

Graphics card: For a top-level gaming experience, go for nVidia’s GeForce GTX 580. If you don’t need ultimate performance, the cheaper GTX 570 and AMD Radeon HD 6970 are a great match for a 24in monitor.

Both brands support stereoscopic 3D when used with the correct display hardware and glasses. Recent ATI cards can also be connected to multiple displays.

Look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, as well as those that come with custom cooling solutions.

A single-card setup leaves more space for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard: If you’re considering a RAM upgrade, check there are free slots.
 
SLI or CrossFireX support lets you add extra graphics cards. Sandy Bridge motherboards support this mode of operation, but those currently available aren’t able to deliver the full bandwidth required for peak 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 brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you plan to add a second graphics card. Any form of overclocking will also demand a powerful PSU.


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NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 60GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 800W Xilence PSU
  • 24in Iiyama ProLite 2472HD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Gigabyte nVidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 103/44fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 191/104fps)
  • Asus Xonar DS sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 10x/8x/8x/8x/8x (BD-ROM/-R/-R DL/-RE/-ROM DL)
  • 16x/16x/10x/10x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 176
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 60GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 800W Xilence PSU
  • 24in Iiyama ProLite 2472HD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Gigabyte nVidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 103/44fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 191/104fps)
  • Asus Xonar DS sound
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 10x/8x/8x/8x/8x (BD-ROM/-R/-R DL/-RE/-ROM DL)
  • 16x/16x/10x/10x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL)
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 176

OUR VERDICT

Arbico’s i7-2656 Stealth Gamer is a great PC, but a i7-2600K CPU would make it even better.

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