CyberPower's Infinity Hercules XT delivered a chart-leading 148-point score in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, despite using the least expensive processor here.

CyberPower's Infinity Hercules XT delivered a chart-leading 148-point score in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, despite using the least expensive processor here. Costing around £50 less at retail than the Intel Core I7 860, the Core i5 660 is a dual-core chip, albeit with a significantly higher clock speed.

Whether the CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT is faster for you in practice will depend on the applications you run - it's worth checking whether your most frequently used software would benefit from a quad-core CPU.

The CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT's single 1TB drive won't provide the speed boost available from a Raid 0 configuration; but such a setup takes up less space, is quieter, consumes less power and can be less prone to data loss.

The 24in Acer X243HQ monitor is the best of the bunch, with the largest screen, dual inputs and a pleasantly thin bezel. Sadly, no external speakers are provided with the CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT.

With graphics powered by ATI's HD 5850, the CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT offers excellent gaming performance and support for DirectX 11.0. The CPU's higher clock speed seems to eke out a few extra frames per second.

The CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT's case is practical and sturdy-looking, with an industrial feel. Its matt black interior offers plenty of space, easy-access drive bays and top-mounted USB ports.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (issue 178)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Goliath
  2. CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT
  3. Eclipse Evolution i792R585
  4. Arbico i7 HD8650 Pro
  5. Mesh Ice7 860 DX Fire

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CyberPower's Infinity Hercules XT delivered a chart-leading 148-point score in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, despite using the least expensive processor here.

Buying advice

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.

The latest Core i7 800-series processors use lower-cost motherboards but can still compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Intel's dual-core Core i5 CPUs are also worth considering, offering higher clock speeds for your money.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). The Core i7 800-series and Core i5 chips install memory sticks in twos, however, making them excellent value for money.

A 64bit OS 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 OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is considered small. With prices falling, it's more typical to find 1TB at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB on a single disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you may also find a drive that reads Blu-ray discs - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray, and DVD burning speeds will be slower. Keep an eye out for new motherboards with USB 3.0 and SATA 6GBps support too.

Display: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply cheap screens in order to leave more room in the budget for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work primarily 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 model.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even GTX 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. nVidia cards offer some unique features, including support for 3D gaming with compatible monitors and glasses.

The GTX 260 and HD 5850 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 setups are available but can be 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 or 750W upwards if you plan to add another card. A known brand is also likely to give better stability. Overclocking also demands 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.

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CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core i5 660
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAm
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 850W WinPower PSU
  • 24in Acer X243HQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 77/38fps
  • Fear = 328fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 148
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core i5 660
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAm
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 850W WinPower PSU
  • 24in Acer X243HQ (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 77/38fps
  • Fear = 328fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC889
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 148

OUR VERDICT

A thoughtfully designed machine, the CyberPower Infinity Hercules XT offers excellent performance for day-to-day tasks and most games.

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