The Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI is another stand-out system in a highly competitive chart. Its processor may be a notch slower than those offered by the leaders – it uses a 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 rather than the 3.16GHz E8500 – it’s the only system to feature dual graphics cards in a scaleable link interface (SLI) configuration.

With its pair of Asus GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards, the Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI’s gaming performance leaves the competition standing. In most games you should expect to see superb performance: when running Fear, its framerates were at least 60 percent faster than those of any other system.

To get twice as much graphics power under the hood, sacrifices have been made elsewhere. The Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI is the only system in the category to deploy just 2GB of RAM, its 21.6in display is a fairly low-cost model and there’s no sound card. A full set of Logitech 5.1 surround speakers is provided, however.

Non-gaming performance is decent; it’s measurably slower than the top systems here, but you’re unlikely to notice much difference during the Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI's general use.

Five 5.25in bays and three 3.5in bays are free and the motherboard has two unused memory sockets, allowing the Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI's allocation to be easily upgraded to 4GB.

Power PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 PRO
  2. Chillblast Fusion Anaconda
  3. Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI
  4. Mesh Pulse 24
  5. Chillblast Apollo

Verdict

For the gamers among us, the Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI will be first choice. Other potential buyers should look elsewhere.

NEXT PAGE: Power PCs buying advice > >

Power PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: We may shortly reach the tipping point in the delicate balance of power between Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo chips and the quad-core stunners in the Core 2 Quad range, but we haven’t got there yet. All the systems in this month’s chart use dual-core processors.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, a quad system may be worth a gamble. You may have to sacrifice a little speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains.

Yet dual-core chips continue to improve: the E8500 is among the best. Even in the age of quad-core, you should get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

Memory: At this price point, 2GB should be a minimum, especially if you’re running Vista. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, most PCs at this price come with 4GB – expect this to become the norm.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space: four of this month’s systems come with a hefty 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files shouldn’t compromise.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed – although 10-speed or 16-speed would be better still. DVD-R DL is a bonus rather than essential.

Flat-panel: Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard, with 20in models becoming increasingly scarce. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at the screen for long periods so, if you’re plumping for a cheap 22in display, give it a try to ensure that you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images – in games, for example – but for image-editing tasks, other specifications such as contrast ratio and colour fidelity are much more important.

Graphics card: At this price, you should be able to get something rather special. The GeForce 8800 GTS 512 has just jumped on the scene and is already making waves. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. The latter is a cheaper card, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a PC housing not one but two of them. In scaleable link interface (SLI) mode, this will produce outstanding results. In exceptional circumstances – namely the Eclipse Platinum, page 183 – you may get hold of dual 8800 GTS cards.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound – but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a card from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers. For audio excellence, hold out for a set of 7.1-channel speakers in this price range.

See also:

Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI: expert review

Power PCs chart ranking

Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500G SATA
  • Asus P5ND S775
  • 6 x USB
  • 21.6in Hanns.G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 2 x 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
  • onboard nVidia nForce 430 (MCP51)
  • Logitech X530 5.1
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500G SATA
  • Asus P5ND S775
  • 6 x USB
  • 21.6in Hanns.G HG216DP (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resolution @75Hz)
  • 2 x 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
  • onboard nVidia nForce 430 (MCP51)
  • Logitech X530 5.1
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114

OUR VERDICT

For the gamers among us, the Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI will be first choice. Other potential buyers should look elsewhere.

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