The Mesh Ice 7 DX11 Windows 7 desktop PC offers staggering gaming performance with an HD 5850 chip under its belt.

With the release of AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5800 series of graphics cards, we're seeing the first DirectX 11.0-capable PCs submitted to our Test Centre. It's no surprise that all four of the new PCs featured here include a 1GB Radeon HD 5850 card, including the Mesh Ice 7 DX11.

The strongest overall performance is delivered by the Mesh Ice 7 DX11. Despite its Intel Core i7 920 processor having now been discontinued, it's still widely available and offers great value for money. The performance of this chip is superb, propelling the Mesh to a WorldBench 6 speed score of 139 points.

A 6GB allocation of DDR3 RAM is provided, fitted into an Asus P6T SE motherboard. This is a good offering - the two machines based on Intel's newer Core i7 860 CPU come with only 4GB - yet the price of the Mesh Ice 7 DX11 remains reasonable.

Gaming performance is very good indeed, and the Mesh Ice 7 DX11's HD 5850 delivers a noticeable increase in performance over the HD 4890 found in older systems in this price category. It comes with support for DirectX 11.0, which is necessary for several forthcoming games as well as some new functions built into Windows 7.

A pair of 500GB hard drives are provided in a Raid 0 configuration. This setup offers enhanced performance over single-drive offerings, but it takes only one drive to fail in the Mesh Ice 7 DX11 for you to lose the data stored on both.

The Mesh Ice 7 DX11's 22in full-HD monitor delivers high-quality images. You don't get a Blu-ray drive, but this remains an excellent PC for both work and gaming.

Chart ranking (issue 174)

  1. Mesh Ice 7 DX11
  2. Eclipse Fusion Crossfire i792R585
  3. Chillblast Fusion Warrior
  4. Arbico HD8658 XL
  5. Chillblast Fusion Apex

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Buying advice

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.

The latest Core i7 800-series processors use lower-cost motherboards and can compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Dual-core CPUs are still available, but the time has come to switch to the quad-core architectures.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). The Core i7 800-series and Core i5 chips install memory sticks in twos, however, making them excellent value for money.

A 64bit OS 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 OS 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 on a single disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you may also 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 or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply budget screens in order to leave more room in the budget for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work primarily 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 model.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even GTX 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. nVidia cards offer some unique features, including support for 3D gaming with compatible monitors and glasses.

The GTX 260 and HD 5850 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 be 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: Specification and our expert verdict

Mesh Ice 7 DX11: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 500GB SATA (Raid 0 configuration)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 22in Iiyama E2208HDS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080
  • 1GB PCI Express ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 70/35fps
  • Fear = 308fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 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)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 500GB SATA (Raid 0 configuration)
  • Asus P6T SE motherboard
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 22in Iiyama E2208HDS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080
  • 1GB PCI Express ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 70/35fps
  • Fear = 308fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 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)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139

OUR VERDICT

An excellent PC for both work and gaming, we highly recommend Mesh's Ice 7 DX11.

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