Another PC based on an Intel i7 CPU, the Mesh i7 920 HD uses a 2.66GHz Core i7 920 and the same Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard as the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy.

Our WorldBench tests on the Mesh i7 920 HD were a little disappointing (it scored just 121 points), but this turned out to be due to a particular problem running the Nero 7.0 portion of the benchmark. Increasing the system RAM to 6GB rectified the problem, yielding an overall score of 127.

While 3GB of RAM would be a sensible configuration for an i7-based PC running a 32bit operating system, the Mesh i7 920 HD is a 64bit system, and this RAM allocation seems a little mean. However, DDR3 memory is expensive and upgrading to 6GB would add considerably to the price. Three memory slots are free in case you wish to upgrade.

Another cost-saving measure is the Mesh i7 920 HD's omission of external speakers, leaving you to rely on the flat-panel’s built-in audio. This is less than satisfactory when playing HD movies on the Blu-ray-enabled DVD drive.

The Mesh i7 920 HD's monitor is a stylish-looking 22in Iiyama model that offers decent image quality – although this is a bumper chart for monitors, with all five performing well.

The Mesh i7 920 HD's tidy case comes with a memory-card reader and three front-facing USB ports. But it’s nowhere near as good as the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy's case, which is larger and better equipped for cooling and overclocking.

The supremely fast ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card features dual processors, offering potentially twice the performance of the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy's HD 4870. Not all games can take full advantage of this power, but our tests show significant speed increases, especially at higher resolutions and settings. The Mesh i7 920 HD is the fastest gaming system in the chart.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  2. Mesh i7 920 HD
  3. Arbico Elite 8630 Pro
  4. Chillblast Fusion Medusa
  5. Zoostorm 64-6503

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Another PC based on an Intel i7 CPU, the Mesh i7 920 HD uses a 2.66GHz Core i7 920 and the same Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard as the CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy.

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. Today, quad-core processors such as the Q9550 have begun to match their performance on standard desktop applications. Systems running on four cores can deliver excellent performance at the same price as dual-core machines.

If you demand the ultimate in performance, go for one of Intel's new Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, but require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM. Any less will prevent a Vista PC reaching its full potential. To plan for the future, get 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

A 64bit operating system will ensure you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you're using dual graphics cards - these sap RAM on 32bit systems. If you're going for an i7-based PC, you'll need to buy your chips in threes to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 rather than DDR2 chips.

Storage: Expect at least 750GB. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single larger unit; it will boost performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. Consider mirroring for added security.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above - some more recent drives offer twice this speed. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays. This is currently the magic size at which full 1,080p HD playback becomes available, so these make ideal partners for Blu-ray drives.

If this doesn't appeal, 22in displays are excellent value. Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality and additional inputs if you want to attach other devices. An HDMI is useful for connecting to a games console.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience choose between an nVidia GeForce GTX 280 and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

Buying a single-card solution keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more space in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Sound card and speakers: There have been improvements in onboard sound, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or one of the excellent X-Fi cards.

If you only want 2.1-channel sound (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they're high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Mesh i7 920 HD: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P6T Deluxe
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Iiyama ProLite E2207WS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 2GB PCI Express ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 62/33
  • Fear =336)
  • onboard AD2000B
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing suite
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 121 (score distorted: see review)
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 3GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P6T Deluxe
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Iiyama ProLite E2207WS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 2GB PCI Express ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 62/33
  • Fear =336)
  • onboard AD2000B
  • speakers built into flat-panel
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing suite
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 121 (score distorted: see review)

OUR VERDICT

The Mesh i7 920 HD is the fastest system in our chart for gaming, if you can make do with slightly slower general-performance speed.

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