If you're a keen gamer, the Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC is for you, with a considerably beefier graphics card and correspondingly higher results than the competition.

If you're a keen gamer, the Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC is for you. Although it matches the 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and 1TB hard drive of the competition, Eclipse has seen fit to bundle a considerably beefier Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. Our gaming tests reveal correspondingly higher results with this chip installed.

But adding more powerful graphics inevitably leads to compromises elsewhere, and the Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC is the only PC here not to come with a full-HD screen - the 22in Hanns-G is limited to 1680x1050. Neither has Eclipse been able to include a Blu-ray drive or external speakers.

And while the Arial AI-01 system case is solidly and stylishly constructed, offering plenty of room for internal expansion, it lacks the internal paint job and cable management of some of the competition. The Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC's MSI motherboard also offers only one PCI slot and one PCI Express x16 slot, so you won't be able to add an extra graphics card - not that you'd need to.

Chart ranking (July 2010 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Reactor
  2. Eclipse Evolution i786R587
  3. Arbico i5 HD6650 XL
  4. Arbico i7 HD8650 Pro
  5. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

If you’re a keen gamer, the Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC is for you, with a considerably beefier graphics card and correspondingly higher results than the competition.

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, some 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, 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 6GBps SATA 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.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Eclipse Evolution i786R587: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 600W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in Hanns-G H222DPB (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 69/42fps
  • Fear = 177fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • Aliens vs Predator
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI H55M-E33 motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 600W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in Hanns-G H222DPB (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1680x1050)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 69/42fps
  • Fear = 177fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • Aliens vs Predator
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 133

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse i786R587 power desktop PC is the fastest system here for games and delivers good all-round performance. Eclipse has even thrown in a copy of Aliens vs Predator. But you’ll be making several compromises to get hold of that speed.

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