Some of us don't like our PCs to make a lot of noise, and the whirring fans and rushing air can really make a racket. If you'd rather not be disturbed by such annoyances, look to Mesh's Elite Ice7 920 PCA. Housed in NZXT's Hush case, it's swamped with sound-damping material that helps to keep everything quiet, even when playing a 3D game flat out.

In common with the competition, the Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA has an Intel Core i7 920 processor and an ATI Radeon HD 4890 graphics card under the hood. The resulting WorldBench 6 score of 128 points is quite acceptable, but speed freaks will hunger for just a little more.

The Asus P6T SE motherboard appears three times in our chart. It offers support for CrossFireX technology, which lets you add a second graphics card later. The Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA's 700W power supply is adequate for such a feat, and certainly preferable to the 460W model supplied by Arbico. If you really want to push your PC to the max, however, more powerful units are available elsewhere.

The Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA is the only PC here to offer just 3GB of RAM, and it doesn't offer standalone speakers. On the plus side, the 22in Iiyama display is an excellent model that supports a full-HD (1,080p) picture. Sadly, it lacks the component that would turn it into a true multimedia machine: a Blu-ray Disc drive.

The Elite offers more disk space than any other PC here, with a pair of 750GB drives in a Raid 0 configuration. While this should give a boost to disk performance, the Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA is hampered by having fewer memory chips than its rivals.

Mesh supplies a full package of software, including Microsoft Works 8.5 and CyberLink video-editing and backup software.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Nov 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Apex
  2. Arbico HD 7090 Pro
  3. Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA
  4. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 920-T24-4890
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Hercules

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Power desktop PCs buying advice (Nov 09 issue)


Processor: Intel's Core i7 chip is taking this price bracket by storm. It's a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-generation quad-core machine. However, Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

Dual-core CPUs are still popular at this price point, offering good performance and considerably lower system costs. Intel's E8600 offers the best performance.

Quad-core processors, such as the Q9400, are another option. These chips use the same memory and motherboard as dual-core machines and can offer huge speed advantages if you run multithreaded applications such as video encoding.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum, particularly if you're running Windows Vista. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). A 64bit operating system will take full advantage of your RAM - but check that your software and drivers will be supported.

If you opt for more than 4GB, a 64bit operating system is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, with prices falling, it isn't impossible to find a terabyte at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a 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. 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: 22in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply budget screens in order to leave more cash in the pot for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video.

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.

If you're a movie fan, look for one of the new 16:9 format 22in-plus displays that offer full-HD playback. You may even be able to find a 24in example.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 4890 is an excellent choice for gamers. You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. All of our Top 5 machines go for the HD 4890.

The GTX 260 and HD 4890 can be used in dual-card setups later but, to take advantage of this, your motherboard and power supply must be compatible. Ready-made dual-card solutions are available but can work out more expensive.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for at least a 500W unit at this price point, but consider 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual card solution later. Overclocking will also demand a high-quality power supply.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 or X-Fi range.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Mesh Elite Ice7 920 PCA: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (free Windows 7 upgrade)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 750GB SATA (Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • X-Power 700W PSU
  • 22in Iiyama E2208HDS-1 (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1GB PCI Express HIS ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/29fps
  • Fear = 255fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • CyberLink DVD suite
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 128
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (free Windows 7 upgrade)
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 750GB SATA (Raid 0)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • X-Power 700W PSU
  • 22in Iiyama E2208HDS-1 (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1GB PCI Express HIS ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/29fps
  • Fear = 255fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • CyberLink DVD suite
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 128

OUR VERDICT

Mesh's Elite Ice7 920 PCA has some strong points in its favour: it's ultra-quiet, it offers a selection of useful software utilities and CrossFireX technology to add a second graphics card, it boasts the largest storage capacity here, and the 22in display is an excellent screen. But its performance isn't breathtaking, and we'd have liked to have seen a Blu-ray drive added to the specification to turn this machine into a true multimedia PC.

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