The Eclipse Galaxy x58n260's striking looks come not from garish gamer-friendly lighting and transparent panels. Its blank, blacker-than-black exterior is echoed inside the case, creating a ‘stealth' look that's really rather appealing.

Twelve USB ports, dual gigabit ethernet ports and a pair of eSATA connectors are provided. Six memory slots complete the Eclipse Galaxy x58n260's battery of connections, making an upgrade to 6GB of RAM a simple affair.

The inclusion of a 600W PSU is wise, although you may need to upgrade this further if you want to take advantage of the Eclipse Galaxy x58n260's scalable link interface (SLI) and CrossFireX support. These allow you to add a second graphics card, but doing so may require an extra helping of power.

The Eclipse Galaxy x58n260 couldn't keep up with the Arbico in our speed tests, but its score of 125 is creditable nonetheless. Gaming results followed a similar pattern, with the Eclipse's 896MB nVidia GeForce GTX 260 lagging a few frames behind the Arbico's HD 4870 in our most demanding tests. Your mileage may vary, depending on the games you play.

The Eclipse Galaxy x58n260's 21.6in Yuraku display has a digital connection that allows for decent picture quality, although its rather thick bezel gives it a somewhat chunky appearance when compared to much of the competition.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs

  1. Arbico Elite i748 XL
  2. Eclipse Galaxy X58n260
  3. Palicomp Phoenix E86C-22
  4. CyberPower Gamer Ultra HD II
  5. Chillblast Fusion Excalibur

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (May 09 issue)

Processor: Taking this price bracket by storm is Intel's new Core i7 chip. This is a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-gen 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 very popular at this price point, offering good performance and considerably lower overall system costs. Intel's competitively priced E8600 offers the best performance.

Quad-core processors, such as the Q9400, are also available at this price. These chips use the same memory and motherboard as dual-core PCs and can offer huge speed advantages if you run multithreaded applications.

Memory: Generally speaking, you should consider 4GB as a minimum, particularly if you're running Vista. But if you're buying a Core i7-based PC, expect 3GB. These install memory chips in threes.

A 64bit operating system (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 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, with prices continuing to fall, it isn't impossible to find a terabyte of storage 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. Also 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, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video. Try before you buy to ensure you can put up with the quality.

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.

Graphics card: At this price point, it's a pitched battle between nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 and the ATI Radeon HD 4870. If you can find a GTX 280, that's even better. When buying a GTX 260, make sure it's the newer 216-core type.

The GTX 260 and HD 4870 can be used in dual-card setups later on. But to take advantage of this, your motherboard and PSU will need to be compatible with this mode of operation.

It's possible to go for a ready-made dual-card setup, but this can work out more expensive in the long run.

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 PSU 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 powerful, high-quality PSU.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a decent sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want a 2.1-channel setup, make sure they're high-quality models.

Eclipse Galaxy X58n260: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • XFX X58i-CH19
  • 600W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in Yuraku flat-panel (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (game scores: Crysis = 72fps (High), 23fps (Very High)
  • Fear = 212fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/8x/12x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 125
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • XFX X58i-CH19
  • 600W EZCool PSU
  • 21.6in Yuraku flat-panel (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (game scores: Crysis = 72fps (High), 23fps (Very High)
  • Fear = 212fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/8x/12x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 125

OUR VERDICT

Although the Eclipse Galaxy x58n260 is physically more appealing than the Arbico, its slightly weaker speed and briefer warranty edge it into second place.

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