It's a sign of how quickly prices are falling that many PCs at this price point now feature Quad core processors - rarities just a few months ago. As such, the Evesham Solar, armed as it is with a mere Duo E6600, finds itself seriously short on ammunition.

Not the Evesham Solar is particularly far away from the other PCs - the combination of the E6600 with 2GB of DDR RAM produced a quite workable WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 105 points. We'd suggest that there are better options elsewhere, but this is a perfectly decent system with a number of impressive inclusions to recommend it.

The Evesham Solar's 19in Cibox display is satisfactory, with a steady screen and a reasonably accurate colour palette, even if it's not a showstopper. The 320MB version of the GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card is a handy component that offers good value, but it doesn't compare to the Chillblast Fusion Centaur's 640MB version. The sound, though, is very good - arguably the best in the chart.

Verdict

While the sound is very impressive, the other features fail to impress - and with a mere Duo E6600, the Evesham Solar is seriously short on ammunition.

Chart ranking: power PCs September 07 issue

1st place: Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA
2nd place: Chillblast Fusion Centaur
3rd place: Arbico CD-8870GS
4th place: Evesham Solar
5th place: CyberPower Infinity 860 (last month 4th place)

Click here to read about Evesham's change in ownership.

Buying advice: power PCs as of July 07

Processor: We may finally be reaching the tipping point in the balance of power between dual- and quad-core - or, more specifically, between Intel's Core 2 Duo chips and its Core 2 Quad stunners. If you want a PC that'll fly through next year's software library, the Quad Q6600 is an excellent chip to opt for. You may have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today's applications and games but, in the long run, the gains should far outweigh the pains. Having said that, don't dismiss the E6700 just yet. This remains the fastest processor in today's environment and buying such a chip guarantees you plenty of power for the foreseeable future.

Memory: The age of the 2GB PC is upon us. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Given the power and juggling space required by 2007's software titles, 1GB PCs won't cut it at the top level in the Vista era. Indeed, some PC makers are starting to offer 4GB. No one needs that much at the moment, but in the future, who knows?

Storage: Anything less than 250GB is now considered a small amount of storage space - as much as 400GB is available at this price. Make sure you get serial ATA cabling for rapid transfer rates. Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities are a must, allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed. DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also, look for good eight-speed or 10-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: Flat-panels vary wildly in quality - look for a 19in screen with a DVI (digital visual interface) that supports a resolution of 1,280x1,024 or more. You may even find a good 20in screen, but be careful if you're offered a 22in model at this price - the quality of image is likely to be patchy. You'll probably have to stare at the screen for long periods, so ensure that the picture quality is up to scratch. Try to get a display with a response time of 8ms or less so that the screen doesn't blur on fast-moving images.

Graphics cards: At this price point, you should be able to get something rather startling. The nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS is making great waves in its 640MB incarnation, packing in some excellent graphics features, wonderful visual quality and DirectX 10.0 support. It remains to be seen whether this card is actually powerful enough to handle the demands of DirectX 10, but this remains an excellent card for the price. The 320MB version of the 8800 GTS is also pretty decent, although you'll have to sacrifice a bit of detail.

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 no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get 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. Most manufacturers are bundling 5.1-channel speakers. If you want audio excellence, you may be able to get a set of 7.1-channel speakers at this price.

Click here to read about Evesham's change in ownership.

Evesham Solar: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB Sata
  • MSI P6N SLI motherboard
  • six USB ports
  • 19in Cibox C1905 flat-panel (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 320MB nVidia GeForce 8800GTS PCI Express graphics
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer sound card
  • 7 x Creative Inspire T7900 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • Roxio DVD Media Creator
  • BullGuard Security Suite
  • WorldBench 6: 105 points
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB Sata
  • MSI P6N SLI motherboard
  • six USB ports
  • 19in Cibox C1905 flat-panel (0.285mm, 1,440x900)
  • 320MB nVidia GeForce 8800GTS PCI Express graphics
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer sound card
  • 7 x Creative Inspire T7900 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/8x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • Roxio DVD Media Creator
  • BullGuard Security Suite
  • WorldBench 6: 105 points

OUR VERDICT

While the sound is very impressive, the other features fail to impress - and with a mere Duo E6600, the Evesham Solar is seriously short on ammunition.

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