Mesh's striking Lexa 280 immediately stands out from the crowd, thanks to its large silver system case.

A hinged door at the front hides the external drive bays and Blu-ray-compatible DVD burner, while a small illuminated LCD at the top offers internal temperature updates.

A transparent side panel lets you gaze lovingly at the expensive components inside - in particular, the GeForce GTX 280. This graphics card undoubtedly contributes significantly to the overall price of the Mesh Lexa 280.

When it comes to gaming, the Mesh Lexa 280's GTX 280 outclasses the GTX 260 cards found in the Arbico and Eclipse. That said, the Arbico's overclocked card comes very close, and at a considerable saving. But even the GTX 280 is beaten by the Chillblast's 4870 X2, which managed 10fps more in our ‘Very High Quality' Crysis test.

An Intel Core i7 920 CPU, 6GB of DDR3 RAM and the same Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard used by the Chillblast Fusion Titanium are all present. The Mesh Lexa 280 was unable to match that PC's performance in our tests, but a WorldBench 6 score of 127 is still very fast.

The Mesh Lexa 280's 22in Iiyama Pro Lite E2208 monitor is capable of full HD video playback. This type of display offers good value for money, despite having slightly less screen space than those supplied with the Chillblast and Eclipse. Individual pixels, onscreen text and icons will therefore be much smaller.

A set of Creative speakers is also supplied with the Mesh Lexa 280, providing a great multimedia experience straight out of the box.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (April 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Titanium
  2. Arbico Elite i7 Pro
  3. Mesh Lexa 280
  4. Eclipse Excalibur i792nGTX260
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Andromeda


>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Very nearly as fast as our Best Buy Power PC machine, Arbico's Elite i7 Pro offers excellent value for money.

Power desktop PCs buying advice (April 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. This has all changed with the release of Intel's incredibly quick Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they 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 used to be the magic size at which full 1,080p HD playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, newer 22in monitors in the 16:9 aspect ratio are also able to display full HD video and cost considerably less, making them excellent value for money, although the size of onscreen elements will be reduced.

If this doesn't appeal, standard 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. Some firms are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Mesh Lexa 280: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P6T Deluxe
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Iiyama Pro Lite E2208HDS (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1GB PCI Express GFX nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis High = 72fps, Very High = 26fps
  • Fear = 244fps)
  • onboard AD2000B sound
  • 5 x Creative T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 127
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P6T Deluxe
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Iiyama Pro Lite E2208HDS (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080)
  • 1GB PCI Express GFX nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis High = 72fps, Very High = 26fps
  • Fear = 244fps)
  • onboard AD2000B sound
  • 5 x Creative T6100
  • subwoofer
  • 4.8x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/5x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 127

OUR VERDICT

The Mesh Lexa 280 is a great-looking PC that performs well but loses out on value.

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