The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC comes with a configuration much like many others at this price point. But there are two exceptions: a high-quality 24in monitor and two Raid 0-configured 500GB hard drives.

Another system powered by a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860 processor, a Radeon HD 5850 graphics card and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, the Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC comes with a configuration much like many others at this price point. But there are two exceptions: a high-quality 24in monitor is supplied and the Blitz's 1TB of storage is provided in two 500GB drives.

Raid 0 configurations stripe data across multiple drives. This means the Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC can write data to disk much faster than the competition can with their single 1TB drives, but it also makes total data loss a higher risk should one drive fail.

The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC's 24in Acer monitor is the largest display in the chart. It's an excellent model that comes with dual inputs and supports a 1080p full-HD resolution. A pair of stereo speakers and a subwoofer are also provided.

The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC's Cooler Master Scout case is a smart, solid-looking chassis with a mesh front and a black paint job inside and out. It features four front-facing USB ports, which are conveniently tilted upwards for easy access, as well as eSATA and auto connectors.

The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC's Gigabyte GA-P55-US3L motherboard offers plenty of expansion slots and can support a pair of graphics cards in CrossFireX mode. It also comes with greater upgrade potential than its sibling, the GA-P55M-UD2, which is favoured by the Arbico i7 HD8650 Pro.

With such well-specified hardware, we expected decent performance from this system. However, our tests revealed some decidedly underwhelming results. Later investigation found that the Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC's 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor was underclocked in the Bios to 2GHz. As a result, the Blitz fared worse than many sub-£500 systems, with just 105 points scored in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test - some 30 points lower than its competition here.

Chart ranking (July 2010 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Reactor
  2. Eclipse Evolution i786R587
  3. Arbico i5 HD6650 XL
  4. Arbico i7 HD8650 Pro
  5. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC comes with a configuration much like many others at this price point. But there are two exceptions: a high-quality 24in monitor and two Raid 0-configured 500GB hard drives.

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, some 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 but can still compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Intel's dual-core Core i5 CPUs are also worth considering, offering higher clock speeds for your money.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, 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 considered small. With prices falling, it's more typical to find 1TB 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. Keep an eye out for new motherboards with USB 3.0 and 6GBps SATA support too.

Display: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply cheap 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 setups 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 or 750W upwards if you plan to add another card. A known brand is also likely to give better stability. Overclocking also demands 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

Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 500GB SATA (Raid 0)
  • Gigabyte GA-P55-US3L motherboard
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 750W Thermaltake Evo Blue PSU
  • 24in Acer V243HBD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express MSI ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/38fps
  • Fear = 255fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 105 (with underclocked processor - see review)
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2 x 500GB SATA (Raid 0)
  • Gigabyte GA-P55-US3L motherboard
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 750W Thermaltake Evo Blue PSU
  • 24in Acer V243HBD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express MSI ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/38fps
  • Fear = 255fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 105 (with underclocked processor - see review)

OUR VERDICT

The Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24 power desktop PC has some good specifications on paper, but its underclocked processor gave poor performance.

Find the best price