In a chart dominated by the latest i7 quad-core CPUs, the Mesh Matrix 295 HD's dual-core approach could be considered positively old school. By sticking with the tried-and-tested E8600 chip, Mesh recognises that there are other areas in which your money may be better spent. However, should you wish to upgrade at some point, quad-core chips are available that will slot into the Asus P5QL motherboard used here.

Although the E8600 is never going to beat the Core i7 920, it's still a great processor, as the Mesh Matrix 295 HD's 124 WorldBench 6 points attests. It's also a less expensive choice, allowing you to save on the cost of a high-end motherboard and the pricey DDR3 RAM required by Core i7 PCs.

Using the money saved, Mesh provides a 26in Iiyama monitor with the Matrix 295 HD, which combines the same HD-capable resolution as a 24in model with an immersive gaming experience and more readable text on the desktop.

More important, however, is the Mesh Matrix 295 HD's inclusion of nVidia's brand-new GeForce GTX 295 dual-GPU graphics card. With this card installed, the old-school Mesh is a convincing winner over even the fastest of the Core i7 systems when it comes to gaming, taking a lead in our Crysis tests at higher settings. Future-proofing aside, this PC delivers the best gaming experience in the chart.

Also included with the Mesh Matrix 295 HD is a Philips Ambx speaker system that includes a multitude of lighting and even wind effects. A gimmick, yes - but these effects can be excellent.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

  1. Arbico Elite i7 RSX
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hercules
  3. Mesh Matrix 295 HD
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  5. Eclipse Excalibur i792nGTX260

>> NEXT PAGE: Power deskktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. This has all changed with the release of Intel's 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. The E8600 is still a very fast processor and delivers excellent value.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a Core i7 PC, it should come with a minimum 3GB of RAM. For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

Core i7 PCs require you to buy your chips in threes, in order to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM.
A 64bit OS can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you're running a dual-graphics setup.

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. SSDs can sometimes provide additional speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above. 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 in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1,080p (full-HD) playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, some of the newest 22in (16:9) monitors can also display full-HD - and with a considerable saving, making them excellent value for money.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia's GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and an 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.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for a known and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card solution later. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

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 X-Fi card at this price.

If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality models.

Mesh Matrix 295 HD: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P5QL Pro motherboard
  • 700W X-Power 700TW PSU
  • 26in Iiyama ProLite E2607WS monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200 native resolution)
  • 2 x 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 295 graphics cards (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 61/42fps
  • Fear = 319fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC1200 sound card
  • 2 x Philips Ambx Premium speakers and subwoofer
  • 5x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P5QL Pro motherboard
  • 700W X-Power 700TW PSU
  • 26in Iiyama ProLite E2607WS monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200 native resolution)
  • 2 x 896MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 295 graphics cards (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 61/42fps
  • Fear = 319fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC1200 sound card
  • 2 x Philips Ambx Premium speakers and subwoofer
  • 5x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 12x/12x/4x/4x/6x/6x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • CyberLink video-editing software
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124

OUR VERDICT

The quad-core PCs may have greater general speed, but the Mesh Matrix 295 HD top-notch gaming system delivers plenty for your money.

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