With 187 points scored and a clear lead in WorldBench 6, Palicomp’s Phoenix i7 Attitude is a beast of a desktop PC. Its extra performance over the competition is due to a 16GB RAM allocation, which boosts one of the component tests in our benchmark suite; whether you see similar performance will depend on the programs you use.

Palicomp has kept down costs by selecting an nVidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics card. Games look great on the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude's 23.6in full-HD Samsung display, even if framerates are a little slower than on competing PCs.

The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude uses an Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard. It lacks many of the advanced features of Z68-chipset models, but costs less and performs well.

A 64GB Kingston SSD is configured as a discrete boot volume, offering faster bootup times and system responsiveness. A 2TB hard drive is also supplied with the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude.

This machine is quieter than most, with a Cooler Master Sileo 500 system case that features internal sound-absorbing material. The standard Intel processor cooler has also been replaced with a quieter and more efficient Arctic Cooling Freezer Pro. The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude isn’t a silent PC, but noise from the disk and fan is kept to a minimum.

The Palicomp Phoenix's ‘attitude’ instead comes from the speakers, which shoot sound at you from five separate units and a subwoofer.

Power PCs chart ranking

  1. 1. Arbico Elite i7-2657 MX mkII
    2. CyberPower Infinity Achilles Extreme
    3. Dino PC Maxosaur 2600K V2
    4. Eclipse Supernova i726n580 Sli
    5. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude

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Power PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7-2600K offers fantastic performance, hyperthreading, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz and easy overclocking.

You can make a small saving by opting for the non-’K’ version, which does without the overclocking feature. Alternatively, the Core i5-2500 offers a reduced cache, no hyperthreading and a 3.3GHz clock speed, but will still outpace many previous-gen Core i7 chips. It’s also available in a ‘K’ version.

If you intend to overclock the CPU, upgrade the standard Intel cooler first.

Memory: A £1,001-plus Sandy Bridge Core i7 PC should come with at least 8GB of RAM. Some come with 16GB, although most of us won’t need this much. A 64bit OS is essential to take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you’re running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect 1TB. Look for a pair or trio of drives to reduce the risk of total data loss, although noise levels will increase. Raid 0 setups boost speed at the expense of reliability. 2TB drives are also available, but remember to back up regularly. Consider mirroring for added security.

SSDs provide a significant and very noticeable speed boost, from reduced startup times to improved system responsiveness. They’re now priced at a level where you should expect to see one in any PC costing more than £1,000. Go for an SSD with a capacity of at least 60GB if you’re running Windows 7.

Z68-chipset motherboards support Intel’s Smart Response Technology, allowing even a low-capacity SSD to speed up hard-drive performance. This technology is still in its infancy, however, and performance gains aren’t always as great you might expect.

Dual-layer DVD+/-R capabilities are useful, preferably at eight-speed or above. Also look for eight-speed DVD+RW. If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds.

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Display: PCs at this price are nearly always offered with a 24 or 25in display. This used to be the magic size at which 1080p (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 – for less money.

Models with LED backlighting aren’t necessarily better, but can offer improved contrast, lower power consumption and a thinner, more desirable design.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality, while HDMI is great for hooking up additional devices.

Graphics card: For a top-level gaming experience, go for nVidia’s GeForce GTX 580. If you don’t need ultimate performance, the cheaper GTX 570 and AMD Radeon HD 6970 are a great match for a 24in monitor.

Both brands support stereoscopic 3D when used with the correct display hardware and glasses. Recent ATI graphics cards can also be connected to multiple displays.

Look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, as well as those that come with custom cooling solutions.

A single-card setup leaves more space for sound cards or TV tuners.

Motherboard: If you’re considering a RAM upgrade, check there are free slots. If you want to overclock, look for automatic overclocking functions on the motherboard. Z68-chipset boards offer more features than their P67 counterparts and cost only a little more.

SLI or CrossFireX support lets you add extra graphics cards. Sandy Bridge motherboards support this mode of operation, but current boards aren’t able to deliver the full bandwidth required for peak performance. For a multi-card gaming system, you may better off with an older Core i7 9xx CPU and an X58-chipset motherboard.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend on the graphics card you use. Look for a known brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you plan to add a second card. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB SATA
  • 64GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 850W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in Samsung B2430L (0.28mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 1.28GB KFA2 nVidia GeForce GTX 570 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 100/43fps, Stalker: Call Of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 192/116fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Creative A520 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-R SL/8x -R DL/2x -RW/12x -RAM
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/8x -R DL/8x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 187
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB SATA
  • 64GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 850W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in Samsung B2430L (0.28mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 1.28GB KFA2 nVidia GeForce GTX 570 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 100/43fps, Stalker: Call Of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 192/116fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Creative A520 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-R SL/8x -R DL/2x -RW/12x -RAM
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/8x -R DL/8x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 187

OUR VERDICT

The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Attitude is a great performer, with good multimedia credentials and comparatively quiet operation. But look elsewhere if you need ultimate gaming performance.

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