The fastest Windows 7 PC we’ve ever tested, the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth desktop PC scored a phenomenal 192 points in WorldBench 6.

The fastest Windows 7 PC we’ve ever tested, the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth desktop PC scored a phenomenal 192 points in WorldBench 6.

This fantastic performance is due to the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth's combination of Intel’s Core i7-2600K processor, a 64GB Kingston SSD and a staggering 16GB of RAM. Only certain parts of our benchmark are able to make use of this extra memory, however. For the most part, performance was on a similar level to competing PCs using the same CPU.

The only PC here to select an ATI graphics card, the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth takes a Radeon HD 6970 with 2GB of video memory. This card delivers broadly similar performance to a GeForce GTX 570, but results varied between games in our tests. The 6970 shone in Crysis, but fell behind in Stalker.

The Palicomp’s ‘Stealth’ credentials are provided by the Cooler Master Sileo 500 system case, which incorporates sound-damping material, quiet fans and anti-vibration drive mounts. This PC would be quieter still, and more capable of withstanding overclocking, had Palicomp replaced the standard Intel processor cooler with a decent third-party model.

More pleasing was Palicomp’s decision to select the ‘Pro’ version of the Asus P8P67 motherboard. It also supplies a Blu-ray drive, a 24in BenQ LED-backlit monitor and a set of five speakers and a subwoofer with the Phoenix i7 Stealth desktop PC.

Power desktop PCs: chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Solar
  2. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth
  3. Mesh Evolution 2600K PCA
  4. Arbico i7-2656 Stealth Gamer
  5. Dino PC Maxosaur 2600

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NEXT PAGE: Budget PCs buying advice

The fastest Windows 7 PC we’ve ever tested, the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth desktop PC scored a phenomenal 192 points in WorldBench 6.

Power desktop PCs: buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ 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 Core i7 chips. It’s also available in a ‘K’ version.

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

Core i7-950 and -870 CPUs cost less, but use a different type of motherboard.

Memory: A £1,001-plus Sandy Bridge Core i7 PC should come with at least 8GB of RAM. The triple-channel architecture of Core i7-900-based PCs requires you to install chips in threes. Core i7-800- and -2000-series CPUs use a two-channel system. 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.

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.

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.

Model’s 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 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.
 
SLI or CrossFireX support lets you add extra graphics cards. Sandy Bridge motherboards support this mode of operation, but those currently available aren’t able to deliver the full bandwidth required for peak performance.

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


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NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth: Specs

  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 64GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 750W Thermaltake PSU
  • 24in BenQ G2420HDBL (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6970 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 98/52fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 195/112fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Creative A500 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x/8x/2x/12x (BD-R/-R DL/-RW/-RAM)
  • 16x/16x/8x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 192
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1.5TB SATA
  • 64GB SSD
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard
  • 750W Thermaltake PSU
  • 24in BenQ G2420HDBL (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 2GB Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 6970 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 98/52fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 195/112fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 5 x Creative A500 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x/8x/2x/12x (BD-R/-R DL/-RW/-RAM)
  • 16x/16x/8x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW)
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 192

OUR VERDICT

The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Stealth is the fastest Windows 7 PC we’ve seen, but it’s in desperate need of a better CPU cooler.

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