As a newcomer to our charts, Palicomp has provided a compelling first entry. The Palicomp Phoenix E86-22's E8600 CPU is a great choice, due to its high clock speeds and excellent performance with single-threaded applications. It scored 119 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test.

A full terabyte of storage is supplied, while the Palicomp Phoenix E86-22's motherboard is one of the best available. It offers excellent overclocking potential and support for multiple graphics cards setups with scalable link interface (SLI) technology.

The Palicomp Phoenix E86-22's 22in Digimate monitor offers VGA and DVI connections. Its design is an improvement on previous models, but it can't match the image quality of the LG and Iiyama monitors found elsewhere in the chart.

In common with the Arbico, the Palicomp Phoenix E86-22 has a Blu-ray drive that can burn DVDs and is also compatible with HD DVD.

The Trendsonic system case uses a mesh front panel to allow maximum airflow. Illuminated with striking blue LEDs, a trio of fans keep the system cool. The typical front and rear configuration is augmented by a huge 220mm fan fitted into the side panel, helping to keep the Palicomp Phoenix E86-22's internals cool.

The inside of the Palicomp Phoenix E86-22's case is cramped. Much of the space is occupied by the nVidia GTX 260 graphics card. This is an excellent performer, but a large amount of internal cabling blocks access to spare slots, leaving little room for expansion.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (March 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Storm i7920n98GTX
  2. Arbico Elite 8260 XL
  3. Palicomp Phoenix E86-22
  4. Mesh Elite GTX260 Power
  5. RL Supplies Modula i8470

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Power desktop PCs buying advice (March 09 issue)

Processor: While dual-core processors are the most popular at this price point, quad-core chips are making a big impression. If you want to go down the dual-core route, look for Intel's E8600.

Quad-core processors such as the Q9400 are also available at this price. These chips use the same memory and motherboard as dual-core PCs and can offer huge speed advantages if you run multithreaded applications.

At the top of this price bracket comes Intel's new Core i7 chip. This is a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-gen quad-core machine. However, Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you're running Vista. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, expect only 3GB. These systems install memory chips in threes, so the next step up would be 6GB.


A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM - but check that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for an 8GB PC, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space - the manufacturers of the systems in this month's chart have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users will get by comfortably with a 320GB drive but, with hard-drive prices continuing to fall, it shouldn't be hard to find a terabyte of storage at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also try to get eight-speed DVD+RW. At this price you should be able to 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: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many vendors supply budget screens, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video - you'll probably have to stare at the monitor for long periods. Give the display a try to ensure you can put up with the quality.

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.

Graphics card: At this price point, it's a pitched battle between nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 and the ATI Radeon HD 4870. If you can find a GTX 280, that's even better. When buying a GTX 260, make sure it's the newer 216-core type.

The GTX 260 and HD 4870 both offer strong performance and can be used in dual-card solutions later on. In order to take advantage of such a setup, however, your motherboard and PSU will need to be compatible with this mode of operation.

It's also possible to go for a ready-made dual-card solution, such as a pair of Radeon HD 4850s. But this can work out more expensive in the long run.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound processing has come on in leaps and bounds, but it's no match for a decent sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want a 2.1-channel setup, make sure they're high-quality models.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Palicomp Phoenix E86-22: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (XP and Vista 32bit available at discounted cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus Striker Extreme
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Digimate DVI L-2248WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 66fps
  • Fear = 222fps)
  • onboard AD1988B
  • 2 x Logitch S220
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 119
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (XP and Vista 32bit available at discounted cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus Striker Extreme
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Digimate DVI L-2248WD (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 66fps
  • Fear = 222fps)
  • onboard AD1988B
  • 2 x Logitch S220
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 3x HD DVD
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 119

OUR VERDICT

With 10 USB ports and the dual-network ports provided by the motherboard, the Palicomp Phoenix E86-22 is one of the best connected machines we’ve seen to date.

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