We’ve been finding it hard to choose between the future potential of the quad-core processors and the performance-today merits of the Core 2 Duos. And we’re not the only ones. Arbico has let its existing 880 GTX system fly the flag for the Core 2 Duo, while submitting the Arbico QC2900 XT as a star of the quad world. As you can see, the victory hasn’t gone the way of the Arbico QC2900 XT, but those of you who are prepared to sacrifice a little speed today in return for possible glory a year or two down the line may still find this system the most compelling choice of all.

Should multithreaded applications storm the software world in the coming years, quad-core chips such as the Arbico QC2900 XT’s Quad Q6600 ought to provide a considerable performance boost. In the meantime, though, they don’t offer quite the same burst of speed as today’s E6850 systems.

A RAM allocation of 4GB is another nice touch that today’s software doesn’t really take advantage of. There’s no doubt that higher amounts of memory will become more valuable with time, however. The Arbico QC2900 XT's 320GB hard drive is a touch skimpy, on the other hand, while the Radeon HD 2900 XT isn’t the best card here.

The 22in Hyundai is a solid screen and the Arbico QC2900 XT’s sound system is one of the better ones available. The Audigy SE 7.1 isn’t a stellar sound card, but the 5.1 Cyber Acoustics speakers are suitably throaty.

Chart ranking: £751-£1,000 power PCs, January 08 issue


  1. Chillblast Fusion Tomcat
  2. Arbico 880 GTX (last month 1)
  3. Eclipse Genesis SLI i685n88GTX
  4. Arbico QC2900 XT
  5. Evesham Oxegen RD1500

Verdict

Should multithreaded applications storm the software world in the coming years then the Arbico QC2900 XT will surely impress. For the time being, the Arbico QC2900 XT can't quite keep the pace with similarly priced machines, and some of its components aren't quite up to scratch.

Buying advice: power PCs as of January 08 issue

Processor: We may finally be reaching the tipping point in the delicate balance of power between Intel's Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad chips. If you want a PC that'll fly through next year's software library, the Q6600 is an excellent chip to opt for. You may have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today's applications and games but, in the long run, the gains should far outweigh the pains.

That said, the dual-core chips continue to rise in performance and, for today's programs, the E6850 and E6750 are the superior processors. Even in the age of the quad-core, you should get plenty of performance from these dual-core chips.

Memory: Make no mistake about it. The age of the 2GB PC as standard is here. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, a growing number of PCs are starting to make a case for stuffing 4GB under the lid. It's too early to be specifying such an amount as standard, but the future of computing may well thrive on this extra complement of memory.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space; most manufacturers opt for 400GB or 500GB. Many users can get along very comfortably with considerably less than this, but those intending to store lots of media files should stock up.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities are a must and you should make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed. DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also, you should look out for good eight-speed or 10-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. The safe bet here is a good 20in screen. However, there's an increasing chance you'll be offered a 22in flat-panel at this price. Bear in mind you'll probably stare at this screen for long periods so, if you're buying a relatively inexpensive 22in model, ensure you like the quality of the picture. Try to get a screen with a response time of 8ms or less so the screen doesn't blur on moving images.

Graphics card: At this price point, you should be able to get something rather startling. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT is excellent value for money, although you should be able to get better. Watch out for the GeForce 8800 GTX. This is the fastest graphics card bar the expensive and difficult to buy Ultras, and offers excellent graphics features and wonderful visuals, and enough firepower to make short work of DirectX 10.0. There aren't any real DirectX 10.0 titles around yet, but if anything will be able to handle the demands of DirectX 10.0, you can expect it to be an 8800 GTX or Ultra.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1-channel sound, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a PC with a card from Creative's Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you want only 2.1-channel speakers then you should ensure they're high-quality models - but most manufacturers these days are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.

Arbico QC2900 XT: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI
  • 8 x USB ports
  • 22in Hyundai X220W (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT (PCI Express)
  • Audigy SE 7.1
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics CA5150
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Ability Office
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 111
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5N-E SLI
  • 8 x USB ports
  • 22in Hyundai X220W (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT (PCI Express)
  • Audigy SE 7.1
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustics CA5150
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Ability Office
  • Ahead Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 111

OUR VERDICT

Should multithreaded applications storm the software world in the coming years then the Arbico QC2900 XT will surely impress. For the time being, the Arbico QC2900 XT can't quite keep the pace with similarly priced machines, and some of its components aren't quite up to scratch.

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