Unlike the two PCs sitting above it in our chart, Eclipse has plumped for the standard version of Intel’s Core i5-2500 processor for its Plasma P67i525r695. If you aren’t interested in overclocking the processor, a less expensive CPU and motherboard leave more room in the budget for other components. Not that the motherboard seen here is a bargain-basement model, supporting as it does USB 3.0, SATA 6 gigabits per second (Gbps) and a graphical extensible firmware interface (EFI).

The Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695 performed in line with our expectations in the WorldBench 6 speed test, where it scored 160 points.

The 23.6in HKC 2249A monitor is a budget option and, although it’s perfectly usable, larger screens are supplied with the Chillblast and Dino PC. Unlike those PCs, the Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695 doesn’t come with external speakers.

Budget desktop PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Delta
  2. Dino PC Elmisaur 2500K
  3. Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695
  4. Arbico i5-2556 XL
  5. Arbico i5-2568 Pro HD

Its EZCool N800D system case has a smart, glossy black finish, but flipping down the front flap to access the USB ports reveals a plasticky construction. Inside, the Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695 PC has a standard 4GB of DDR3 RAM (with two slots spare), and a 1TB hard drive.

All these budget cuts are explained by the Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695's standout component, however: an AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics card. When pushed to the higher resolution and quality settings, this card enabled the PC to achieve the fastest overall framerates in our gaming tests, albeit by a small margin.

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Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs are revolutionising all our PC categories. The 3.3GHz Core i5-2500 seen here delivers formidable performance, but the Core i5-2400 is also very fast and costs less. The processors demand a new type of motherboard, so buying into this technology now will future-proof your PC.

If you want to eke out the best possible performance from your system, go for a Core i5-2500K CPU. The ‘K’ denotes that it’s designed for overclocking. You’ll also need a P67-chipset-based motherboard, which won’t support the CPU’s integrated graphics.

Previous-generation chips such as the Core i5-760 can still offer good value at the right price.

Every chip in Intel’s Sandy Bridge Core i5 family is quad-core, excluding some rare low-voltage versions. Non-gamers should note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play full-HD video without a discrete graphics card.

Some AMD quad-core processors are also available in this price range, including the Phenom II X 975 BE. None can currently keep up with Intel’s latest offerings, however.

Memory: If a fast CPU speeds up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Don’t buy a PC with less than 4GB of RAM, and get a 64bit operating system to make the most of it. Core i5- and i7-800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes (as you do with i7-900-series CPUs).

Storage: Photos, video and other digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; choose a PC with the most capacious drive you can. Expect 1TB at this price.

Consider using a pair of smaller hard drives rather than one large drive – 1TB is a huge amount of data to lose in one go.

With prices falling all the time, you may find a solid-state drive (SSD) affordable. An SSD’s faster file transfers can transform your computing experience, but make sure you get one at least 60GB in capacity and try to install your programs on a second drive to avoid running into disk-space problems.

Your DVD drive should write to the +/-R formats at 18-speed or above. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD+/-R dual-layer drives. Blu-ray readers are becoming more affordable, but they’re still quite rare at this price.

Display: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. You’ll find many budget 23.6in displays at this price. A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a better image than a VGA port; if you want to connect additional devices, you’ll need at least two.

Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: We test graphics framerates with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The latter can benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. 25fps is enough to make a game playable, but set your sights at 50fps.

ATI’s Radeon HD 6850 offers excellent performance for the money. Cut back on other components and step up to a Radeon HD 6870 or the newer 6950 if gaming is very important to you.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti also offers good performance. nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and are able to display 3D content.

If you don’t play games at all, you’ll be fine with the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5 processors.

Power supply: A 450W-plus power supply unit (PSU) is less vital at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to make later upgrades easier.

Sound card and speakers: To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695: Specs

  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8H67-M Pro motherboard
  • 500W Cooler Master CPU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 85/47fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 169/100fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 22x/22x DVD-R/+R, 12x/16x DVD-R DL/+R DL, 6x/8x DVD-RW/+RW, 12x/16x DVD-RAM/-ROM
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 160
  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8H67-M Pro motherboard
  • 500W Cooler Master CPU
  • 23.6in HKC 2249A (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 85/47fps, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 169/100fps)
  • onboard sound
  • speakers built into monitor
  • 22x/22x DVD-R/+R, 12x/16x DVD-R DL/+R DL, 6x/8x DVD-RW/+RW, 12x/16x DVD-RAM/-ROM
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 160

OUR VERDICT

It’s the best gaming PC here, but the Eclipse Plasma P67i525r695’s multimedia credentials are lacking.

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