The Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX is the cheapest PC here by some distance.

Despite its lower price tag, however, the Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX comes with the same Intel Core 2 Duo 8500 and 4GB of RAM as the other PCs in the chart. We therefore hoped for more than 116 points in our WorldBench 6 processing-speed tests.

Gaming performance wasn’t bad, although the Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX was significantly behind the Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer, despite both using 512MB GeForce 9800 GTX graphics cards. The version in this system is clocked slightly slower.

The Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX's case is quite small and internal space is cramped, especially as the motherboard and graphics card are so large. But the system has a key advantage: its SLI-capable motherboard makes it easy to add a second graphics card.

The Hanns-G HG216DP display offers strong performance and great value for money. It’s well matched to the Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX, even if it’s not quite as good as the Arbico Elite 4850's SyncMaster.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (September issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer
  3. Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX
  4. CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD
  5. Arbico CD9800 PRO

>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Power desktop PCs buying advice (September issue)

Processor: All of the systems here use dual-core processors. In fact, it’s a clean sweep for Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500, which continues to dominate our charts. Even in the age of quad-core computing, you should still get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, however, a quad-core system may be a wise choice. You’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it. AMD’s Phenom X4 9850 offers good value for money, as do the later revisions of Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q6600.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. All of the PCs here come with this amount.

Get a 64bit operating system to take full advantage of your RAM. But check beforehand that all your software and drivers are supported.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – this month’s manufacturers have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users can get by comfortably with 320GB, but those intending to store lots of video, games and audio files should stock up.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer formats 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, but it won’t burn them, and DVD burning speeds will generally be slower.

Display: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many PC manufacturers supply budget screens, but it’s worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video – you’ll probably have to stare at the monitor
for long periods. Give the display a try 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 such as games. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important. A digital input can preserve picture quality, so avoid displays that provide analogue inputs only.

Graphics card: The new GeForce 9800 GTX offers better performance than the 8800 GTS, although it’s based on almost identical technology. The extra power may not always justify the higher price. Both support DirectX 10.0, which means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

The 8800 GT isn’t far behind. It’s cheaper and you may be able to get two of them in scaleable link interface (SLI) mode – this will produce outstanding results. The 9600 GT is a still cheaper option that can also be used in SLI mode.

AMD’s Radeon HD 3820 X2 is another blisteringly fast card. Containing two graphics processors, it gives you bags of performance without requiring a specially designed motherboard. ATI’s new HD 4850 card is also worth looking at, but make sure you have the latest drivers.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has improved, but it’s still 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 (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they’re high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers.

Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • AsRock Penryn1600-SLI
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG21DP (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (gaming scores: Crysis 54fps
  • Fear 96fps)
  • onboard sound
  • Logitech S220 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • AsRock Penryn1600-SLI
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Hanns-G HG21DP (0.277mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX (gaming scores: Crysis 54fps
  • Fear 96fps)
  • onboard sound
  • Logitech S220 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return to base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116

OUR VERDICT

Despite its lower performance figures and cramped housing, the Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX is a good-value system. The money has been spent on the essentials rather than expensive high-end options.

Find the best price