Choosing a Best Buy PC these days often comes down to a simple choice: the fastest chip in today's market or a slightly slower model that will perform dramatically better in a year or two.

The Cube247 Nova ST3 appears to be headed down the latter route. Its Quad Q6600 is currently slightly slower than the dual-core E6850s, but it could turn the tables as multithreaded software becomes more common. Unlike a lot of future-proofed machines, however, the Cube247 Nova ST3 has another sweetener: a bargain price tag. It undercuts its rivals by a good £125.

And the Cube247 Nova ST3's price doesn't signal a raft of compromises. Anything but, in fact - the Cube247 Nova ST3 comes with 4GB of high-calibre Corsair RAM and a pair of 500GB hard drives. The Cube247 Nova ST3 has more storage space than any system we've seen previously.

The Cube247 Nova ST3's WorldBench 6 real-world speed score isn't quite as fast as the dual-core Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC's, but the Cube247 Nova ST3's dazzling components keep the gap to a minimum. And, of course, you'll get a handsome speed increase when you start adding multithreaded applications to your system.

The Cube247 Nova ST3's large Mirai flat-panel provides decent-quality colour and a welcome 22in of viewing space. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, meanwhile, isn't in quite the same class as the 8800 GTX and Ultra chips, but it's still a sizzling graphics card. The Cube247 Nova ST3 showed itself quite capable of carrying off some dazzling framerates in our games testing.

Perhaps the only dull point in the Cube247 Nova ST3 is the sound system - we'd prefer to see a top-drawer Creative card. We might also quibble that a PC costing almost £1,200 deserves more than a one-year return-to-base warranty.

Verdict

We can't get over how much grunt you get for your money with the Cube247 Nova ST3. This show-stopping mix of features and value wins a deserved Best Buy award.

Chart ranking: power PCs October 07 issue


  1. Cube247 Nova ST3
  2. Zoostorm 5-6514 Edge PC
  3. Arbico 888 Extreme
  4. Mesh Elite Q6600 R600 PCA
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity SLI GTX

Buying advice: power PCs as of August 07

Processor: They might soon face some serious competition from AMD's quad-core processors but, for now, Intel's Core 2 chips reign supreme. The E6750 and E6850 have made quite a splash in our power PC chart. For the best performance on today's software, look to the E6850.

Alternatively, you could opt for a quad-core chip such as the Quad Q6600. This potentially offers around 50 to 100 percent extra performance, but only in applications and games that are programmed to take advantage of the extra cores included within each chip. Don't expect multicore applications to flood in, but we could see a dramatic shift in the software landscape over the next couple of years. The higher the number of cores, the more impressive future performance is likely to be.

Memory: No sooner had we welcomed the age of the 2GB PC than 4GB machines started appearing in our charts. Three of the models in the power PC chart now include this much memory.

If you want your PC to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, 4GB is the key - but 2GB remains a decent option if you want to save money. For the best performance, buy from a high-quality memory maker such as Corsair.

Storage: Unbelievably, anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage - most power PCs come with 500GB to 600GB of hardware space. A few machines offer more than this but, unless you specialise in a particularly gigabyte-hungry pastime such as video, 500GB should be more than enough. Make sure you get serial ATA cabling for rapid transfer rates.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must, and you should make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or more. Eight-speed DVD-R DL is nice but not essential, and look for good eight-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: You might think that any flat-panel bundled with a power PC would be of superior quality - but you'd be mistaken. These power PCs come with 22in displays, but you should be careful when choosing screens of this size. Some 22in flat-panels produce poor colours and fuzzy images, which might cause more than a few problems for those with sensitive eyes. If in doubt, 20in screens are safer bets, but you'll have to accept inferior resolution support.

Graphics cards: You should be able to get something rather startling in a power PC. The GeForce 8800 Ultra is undoubtedly the most prized acquisition. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista adopters can look forward to some impressive games titles in the future.
The Ultra also has bags of performance and sizzling features. The 8800 GTX is nearly as good and, as stocks dwindle, could be available at a juicy price.

However, you shouldn't overlook their slightly less exciting sibling, the 8800 GTS, nor the brand-new ATI HD 2900 XT. The latter can't keep up with the Ultra and GTX, but it will eclipse even the 640MB version of the 8800 GTS.

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. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a Creative Audigy card or, better still, one from the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality. Most manufacturers are bundling 5.1-channel speakers. Strangely, 7.1 speakers are becoming less common but, if you want audio excellence, you'd be best off holding out for a set of these.

Cube247 Nova ST3: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 2 x 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5B-Plus motherboard
  • 12/1 x USB ports
  • 22in Mirai DML-522W100 (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
  • onboard ADI sound
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114 points
  • 1-year RTB warranty
  • bundles CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 2 x 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5B-Plus motherboard
  • 12/1 x USB ports
  • 22in Mirai DML-522W100 (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
  • onboard ADI sound
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds: 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/+RW/-RW/-RAM)
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114 points
  • 1-year RTB warranty
  • bundles CyberLink PowerDVD, Ahead Nero

OUR VERDICT

We can't get over how much grunt you get for your money with the Cube247 Nova ST3. This show-stopping mix of features and value wins a deserved Best Buy award.

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