The Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA uses Intel's impressive Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, but it's marginally slower than the Arbico CD-8870GS, powered by the cheaper but faster Core 2 Duo E6700. But the difference is fairly small, and the Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA, which comes with a gargantuan 4GB of DDR RAM, will be able to keep pace with future software advances. In two years' time, the Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA should still be rattling through tasks that'll prove something of an obstacle for the likes of the dual-core Arbico CD-8870GS.

We've devoted plenty of column inches to the battle between quad- and dual-core chips. Quad-core chips, as featured in the Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA, are an excellent choice for those with an eye on the future, since these chips work best with multithreaded applications - you can expect plenty of these to come out in the next few years. But on today's (predominantly single-threaded) apps, you won't get much benefit.

The Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA does well in other areas. Its 500GB hard drive is generous, while the Mirai display offers a superb 22in viewing area. The colour quality is pleasing and compares well to other 22in flat-panel screens.

The Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA's graphics card is one component that might need updating to keep pace with game developments. Then again, of today's graphics cards, only the 8800 GTX and Ultra have the clout to cruise through tomorrow's games titles - and they are currently too expensive to feature in a strong £1,000 PC. The 320MB 8800 GTS will do in today's market, and you can upgrade in a year or two.

The sound system, meanwhile, will be good for years to come, and the DVD writer, software bundle and aftersales support are excellent.

Verdict

If you want a PC that'll work well both today and tomorrow, the Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA is your machine.

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)

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.

Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Quad Core Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB Sata
  • Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard
  • seven USB ports
  • 22in Mirai DML-522W100 flat-panel (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 320MB nVidia GeForce 8800GTS PCI Express graphics
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer sound card
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink Video Editing Suite
  • flash memory drive
  • WorldBench 6: 108 points
  • 2.4GHz Intel Quad Core Q6600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB Sata
  • Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard
  • seven USB ports
  • 22in Mirai DML-522W100 flat-panel (0.282mm, 1,680x1,050)
  • 320MB nVidia GeForce 8800GTS PCI Express graphics
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer sound card
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100 speakers
  • subwoofer
  • DVD speeds 16x/18x/18x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink Video Editing Suite
  • flash memory drive
  • WorldBench 6: 108 points

OUR VERDICT

If you want a PC that'll work well both today and tomorrow, the Mesh Elite Quad Express-PCA is your machine.

Find the best price