By far the most impressive - but also the most expensive - system this month is the Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix from CyberPower.

Take one look at this PC and you can tell it's going to be pricey. The CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix's Cooler Master Storm Scout case is finished in stealth black and looks so sturdy and over-engineered that you'd almost expect to be able to drive it home. Four front-facing USB ports are provided at the top of the case, along with an eSATA connector next to the power switch.

Fans are placed at the front, rear and top of the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix's case, with a powerful 850W WinPower PSU installed at the bottom.

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A design such as this would be an embarrassment without the performance to back it up, but the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix has it in spades. The second system here to use Intel's brand-new Core i7 950 processor, the Phoenix delivers our highest ever WorldBench 6 score: 147 points.

Graphics performance is also very good, but the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix's standard 275 card can't match the Chillblast's 285 or the Eclipse's overclocked 275 on the most demanding games.

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix offers 1.5TB of storage in the form of two 750GB drives in a Raid 0 configuration. This is a high-performance setup but is less secure than those systems with two separate volumes.

Twin optical drives provide optimal performance for burning DVDs and playing back Blu-ray films on the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix's 24in monitor, which comes with digital and HDMI inputs.

Chart rankings: Power desktop PCs (October 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Armageddon X58-i795N275
  2. Arbico Elite i7890 HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Turismo
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix
  5. Chillblast Fusion Thunder


>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice



Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (October 09 issue)


Processor: Intel’s quad-core Core i7 CPUs offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-gen chips. With the superb 920 and 940 soon to retire you may find some excellent deals available. The dual-core E8600 is still a very fast processor and delivers excellent value.

Memory: A £1,000-plus Core i7 PC should come with 3GB of RAM (preferably 6GB). For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

Core i7 PCs require you to buy your chips in threes, in order to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You’ll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM.

A 64bit operating system can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you’re running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage:
Expect a terabyte. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single unit; it will boost performance and prevent the risk of total data loss. Raid setups are an option. Consider mirroring for added security. SSDs can provide speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display:
We’re seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1,080p (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 – and with a considerable saving, making them excellent value for money.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality.

Graphics card:
For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia’s GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. The latest GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 cards also offer great performance and very good value for money.

Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

Buying a single-card setup keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard:
If you’re considering any upgrades, check that the motherboard offers enough memory slots to support additional chips. SLI or CrossfireX support will enable to you add extra graphics cards to boost your gaming 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 and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card setup later. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

Sound card and speakers:
Onboard sound is still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or X-Fi card at this price. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix: Specs

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i7 950
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2x 750GB SATA (Raid 0 configuration)
  • MSI X58 Pro
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 850W WinPower PSU
  • 24in ViewSonic VX2433WM (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 896MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce GTX 275 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 79/28fps
  • Fear = 264fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888S
  • speakers not included (headset supplied)
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • 22x/22x/8x/8x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 147
  • 3.06GHz Intel Core i7 950
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2x 750GB SATA (Raid 0 configuration)
  • MSI X58 Pro
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 850W WinPower PSU
  • 24in ViewSonic VX2433WM (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 896MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce GTX 275 (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 79/28fps
  • Fear = 264fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888S
  • speakers not included (headset supplied)
  • 4x BD-ROM
  • 22x/22x/8x/8x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 147

OUR VERDICT

The CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Phoenix is an excellent PC that delivers superb build quality and top-notch performance – albeit at a price premium. Note that a gaming headset instead of speakers is supplied for sound.

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