Palicomp’s Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin offers an impressive specification that includes a generous 16GB of RAM and a capacious 2TB Hitachi hard drive. It looks rather grand too, courtesy of a Cooler Master Dominator CM690 Advance II system case.

Application performance is also very good, and the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin scored 180 points in our WorldBench 6 speed test.

The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin's Gigabyte motherboard uses Intel’s Z68 chipset. It allows overclocking and supports SRT, should you wish to add an SSD to boost hard-drive performance. The board has four 6 gigabits per second (Gbps) and four 3Gbps SATA ports, plus support for 18 USB connectors – four of them USB 3.0.
Notably absent is an HDMI connection, however, so the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin won’t be able to use the processor’s integrated graphics.

Fortunately, an ATI Radeon HD 6950 is installed. It will be powerful enough for most users, but is no match for the faster HD 6970 and GTX 570 seen elsewhere in the chart. The Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin failed to complete our ‘Very High Quality’ Crysis test, but was able to produce 96fps in Stalker: Call Of Pripyat at its highest settings.

The 23.6in AOC monitor offers very good image quality and LED backlighting. It displays a noticeable improvement over the HKC supplied with the Eclipse, but the Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin's display isn’t as strong as Chillblast’s Asus model.

£1,000 PC chart ranking

  1. 1. Chillblast Fusion Volt
    2. Eclipse Cosmos i726n57
    3. Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin
    4. Arbico Elite i7-2697 Pro
    5. Dino PC Ravenous 2600K

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Processor: Intel’s second-gen Core i5 and i7 CPUs are the only serious contenders at this price. These ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips are much faster and use less power than their predecessors.

The 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K is the fastest available, with its ‘K’ designation denoting an unlocked multiplier. K-series CPUs are designed for overclocking, but demand a compatible motherboard.

At 3.3GHz, the Core i5-2500K offers a slightly lower specification. Unlike the Core i7, it has no support for hyperthreading and has 6MB rather than 8MB of level-three cache.

Motherboard: K-series chips require a motherboard that supports overclocking. These boards cost a little more, but a good version will do the hard work for you, providing a significant speed boost without any specialist knowledge.

Never pair a K-series CPU with a motherboard based on the H67 chipset – these don’t support overclocking. If you want to overclock, you should also invest in a third-party CPU cooler.

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM, but check that your software and drivers will be supported.

Storage: With storage prices falling, expect 1TB. We’re even seeing systems with 2TB at this price. An SSD may be available, providing a noticeable improvement in bootup times and system responsiveness. Their price requires cutbacks elsewhere, however.

Paired with a Z68 chipset, an SSD can boost hard-drive performance using Intel’s Smart Response Technology.

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.

It’s not uncommon to find a DVD drive that also reads Blu-ray discs, but DVD-burning speeds will be slower. Look for separate Blu-ray and DVD drives for the fastest performance.

Flat-panel: 24in flat-panels are standard at this price. Many vendors supply cheap screens to leave more cash for other components, but it’s worth spending more on a display if you intend to work with digital photos or video.

All twisted-nematic (TN) screens now have a response time of 8ms or less to minimise blur on fast-moving images. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important – look for better in-pane switching (IPS) tech here.

An LED backlight doesn’t guarantee a superior display, but such models are often slimmer and more stylish. A digital input preserves picture quality.

Graphics card: At this price, the ATI Radeon HD 6990 is an excellent choice for gamers. It offers multi-screen and DirectX 11.0 support. nVidia’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti delivers similar performance, as well as support for 3D Vision.

You may find a GeForce GTX 570 at this price, which will give you even better gaming framerates.

Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory.

Many graphics cards can be upgraded to dual-card setups. However, current motherboards have limited support for multiple graphics cards, so we advise you to buy the fastest single card you can.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend on the graphics card you want to use. Look for at least a 500W unit or 750W-plus if you plan to add another card or overclock the CPU.

Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin: 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
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Gigabyte Z68X-UD3P motherboard
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in AOC E2436VWA (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB VTX3D ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 88fps/fail, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 176/96fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-ROM/8x -R/8x -RE
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/8x -R DL/8x +R9
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 180
  • 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB SATA
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Gigabyte Z68X-UD3P motherboard
  • 750W PowerCool PSU
  • 23.6in AOC E2436VWA (0.27mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • 2GB VTX3D ATI Radeon HD 6950 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 88fps/fail, Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 176/96fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • 12x BD-ROM/8x -R/8x -RE
  • 16x DVD-R/16x +R/8x -R DL/8x +R9
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 180

OUR VERDICT

The fast Palicomp Phoenix i7 Z68 Assassin has a good specification and a superb system case. Be prepared to sacrifice gaming framerates, however.

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