CyberPower's industrial-looking Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules is set apart from the competition by its imposing system case. The NZXT Beta chassis is festooned with ridges and mesh panels and finished in matt black. When it's turned on, an eerie blue glow emanates through the large transparent cooling fans.

Its WorldBench 6 score of 132 points and Crysis result of 29fps place it in the middle of a tight pack, performance-wise. It doesn't have a full-HD monitor, nor does it come with external speakers. But the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules's system case offers excellent cooling and buckets of overclocking potential. The generous 850W power supply will certainly be of use here.

A full 6GB of DDR3 RAM is supplied with the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules, with three slots free for future upgrades. There's also a terabyte (1TB) of storage space. This is supplied in a single drive, which is a more reliable strategy than using a pair of drives in a Raid 0 configuration, but isn't as fast.

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules's MSI X58 Pro-E motherboard supports CrossFireX and scaleable link interface (SLI) technology, allowing you to add a second graphics card later.

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules's monitor is a 22in widescreen model with dual inputs and an incredibly glossy screen. This will cause distracting reflections, but the image produced appears very sharp and full of contrast.

the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules is covered with a three-year return-to-base warranty.

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

CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (add £10 for Windows 7 upgrade)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI X58 Pro-E motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • WinPower 850W PSU
  • 22in Digimate L2254WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/29fps
  • Fear = 250fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889 sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (add £10 for Windows 7 upgrade)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI X58 Pro-E motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • WinPower 850W PSU
  • 22in Digimate L2254WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 71/29fps
  • Fear = 250fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889 sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 132

OUR VERDICT

Looks are important, and the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules is attractive. Although its performance doesn't particularly impress when set against some of the other machines here, the Hercules offers excellent cooling, buckets of storage space, a generous amount of storage and a long three-year warranty.

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