This stunning performer from Eclipse brings a new level of speed to this price category. Break down the Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX's complex name and the key to its performance is revealed: Intel's 2.66GHz Core i7 920 CPU. This may be the entry-level model in the Core i7 range, but the results speak for themselves.

Our benchmarks aren't particularly friendly to multicore systems, which usually come into their own only with multithreaded applications or when running several programs at once. This quad-core system tops our WorldBench 6 results table, however, scoring a superb 129 points. In other words, the Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX is able to maintain excellent performance across the board - with any application that you need to run, be it single- or multithreaded.

But building a Core i7-based system to this price point isn't without its disadvantages. The new CPUs, along with the motherboards and memory they require, are more expensive than previous-gen components. This means costs have had to be cut elsewhere in the Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX.

The nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ is an excellent mid-range graphics card, but it's out-classed by the GeForce GTX 260 and ATI Radeon HD 4870 cards found elsewhere in the chart. As a result, the Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX's gaming performance lags behind the competition with more demanding titles.

Eclipse is also the only manufacturer here not to supply external speakers. The Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX lacks a Blu-ray drive and the monitor has only an analogue connector.

The design of the Core i7 CPU dictates that memory modules are best installed in groups of three. The Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX comes with 3GB rather than the more usual 4GB - 6GB would greatly increase its expense.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (March 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX
  2. Arbico Elite 8260 XL
  3. Palicomp Phoenix E86-22
  4. Mesh Elite GTX260 Power
  5. RL Supplies Modula i8470

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Power desktop PCs buying advice (March 09 issue)

Processor: While dual-core processors are the most popular at this price point, quad-core chips are making a big impression. If you want to go down the dual-core route, look for Intel's E8600.

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.

At the top of this price bracket comes 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.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you're running Vista. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, expect only 3GB. These systems install memory chips in threes, so the next step up would be 6GB.


A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM - but check that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for an 8GB PC, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space - the manufacturers of the systems in this month's chart have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users will get by comfortably with a 320GB drive but, with hard-drive prices continuing to fall, it shouldn't be hard to find a terabyte of storage at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to 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: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many vendors 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. 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 both offer strong performance and can be used in dual-card solutions later on. In order to take advantage of such a setup, however, your motherboard and PSU will need to be compatible with this mode of operation.

It's also possible to go for a ready-made dual-card solution, such as a pair of Radeon HD 4850s. But this can work out more expensive in the long run.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound processing has come on in leaps and bounds, but it's 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.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • MSI X58 Platinum
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Yuraku (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ (games scores: Crysis = 67fps
  • Fear = 167fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 129
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 640GB SATA
  • MSI X58 Platinum
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 21.6in Yuraku (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sparkle nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ (games scores: Crysis = 67fps
  • Fear = 167fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 129

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX offers superb performance for £999. Avid gamers may struggle to come to terms with the mid-range graphics, but stepping up to Core i7 means you’ll still be happily upgrading your system when others are forced to start from scratch just to keep up.

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