Once again, PC Specialist has produced a PC that looks and feels considerably more expensive than it really is. The PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro's Trigon case is pleasingly solid, visually appealing and complimented by the 22in Edge 10 monitor.

Although the PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro also uses one of the new E8600 chips, its Worldbench 6 score was disappointing at 121 points. It’s by no means a slow system, but we expected more.

Like the Arbico and CyberPower, the PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro features a 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card to provide adequate power for casual gaming.

The PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro comes with a standard 500GB hard drive and 2.1-channel speakers, and you’ve no right to expect any more from a PC at this price. Nevertheless, we’d have liked to see a plug-in sound card and a more powerful motherboard included in the spec.

Chart ranking: £501-£750 desktop PCs

  1. Zoostorm 62-4409
  2. Arbico Elite 8685 RDX
  3. PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT

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Buying advice

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs that we review.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips - such as the Q9300. We're starting to see some decent results where these processors are used with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips may be available and offer good performance with multithreaded apps, but only go for them if the price is right.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB. Memory will only ever become more important.

Storage: Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400GB-500GB drive will make a good investment. If you've got space, consider a pair of smaller drives - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the -R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that also read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but you're unlikely to find one included at this price point.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out first.

At this price point you could be offered a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same number of pixels. This means 22in monitors will display larger text and icons.

Consider whether you need built-in speakers. A DVI input will provide considerably better image quality than a VGA port, so look for a display supporting the digital connector. If you want to connect additional devices to the display you'll need at least two inputs. Finally, look for a good response rate - 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC - after all, the top graphics cards alone can cost £400. But you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category. Look for a system that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. Just don't expect to be able to run the latest cutting-edge titles at the very highest-quality settings.

ATI's Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money at this price point, making even the most demanding games playable if you're prepared to drop the resolution and quality settings a notch or two.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price point, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound.

To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may have to settle for a 2.1-channel stereo system, which will be good enough for most users.

PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Edge10 HW223 (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Gainward ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 170fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC1200
  • 2 x Creative Inspire T3100
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 (trial)
  • Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 121
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE/EPU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Edge10 HW223 (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Gainward ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 170fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC1200
  • 2 x Creative Inspire T3100
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 (trial)
  • Nero
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 121

OUR VERDICT

The PC Specialist Apollo 4850 Pro is a good-looking and well-made system with solid gaming performance. It’s let down slightly by general office performance, but remains a desirable system for the money.

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