Future-proofing may be a contentious issue amongst PC purchasers. Working out exactly what will keep a PC fresh and sprightly two or three years from now is partly down to careful calculation, and partly down to blind luck. In the case of the Apollo R600-X3, PC Specialist has put its eggs firmly in the basket marked 'DDR3'. This next-generation RAM comes in the form of Corsair's new XMS3-1066C7 modules. As such, it offers acres of potential for allowing tomorrow's hardware to run harder and faster. The problem is, with today's technology the RAM doesn't really fulfil its potential. We suspect that most of you would probably get more mileage from double the memory or a quad-core CPU.

With this technology, the PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3 is a good performer, but not really a huge margin ahead of the other PCs. This is despite the presence of the E6850 processor - in dual-core terms, about as fast as it gets - and the WorldBench score of 116 is perhaps not as stonkingly fast as you might expect. And otherwise, there are some slightly disappointing components in the PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3. The 500GB hard drive is ample although, if we're nit-picking (which we should do given the price), then it doesn’t quite compare to the towering pair of 500GB drives found in the Cube247.

The PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3's ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT is something of a disappointment. In a £750 PC, this card would be a great addition. But in the no holds barred world of the £1,001+ machine, such a lack of graphics power (it simply can’t compete with the 8800 GTX) requires some sort of justification. The PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3's V7 screen is a decent flat-panel, and the sound system ample. A special mention must also go to the excellent 20-speed DVD-R/+R facilities.

Chart ranking: £1,001+ power desktop PCs, December 07 issue


  1. Mesh Elite Quad Storm PCA (This PC is no longer in the chart. Click here for more information)
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity SLI GTX - last month 1
  3. Cube247 Electra ST10
  4. Arbico QC6700 Pro
  5. PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3

Verdict

What you're really paying for is a decent but not stunning PC that, possibly, will have some strengths a couple of years ago. Given the hefty £1,499 price tag (£400 more expensive than the still very decent CyberPower Gamer Infinity SLI GTX), we'd suggest the PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3 is a gamble that the majority of you will wish to pass on.

Buying advice: £1,001+ power PCs, December 07 issue

Processor: They might soon face some serious competition from AMD's quad-core processors but, for now, the Core 2s reign supreme. In fact, Intel has been busy adding to its line-up - the quad-core QX6850 is the latest fantastic addition.

Quad-core processors potentially offer 50 to 100 percent extra performance in applications that are programmed to take advantage of the extra cores included within each chip. Don't expect multicore apps and games to flood in, but in a couple of years the software landscape could shift dramatically - and the higher the number of cores, the more impressive the performance boost is likely to be.

You can still get the dual-core E6750 and E6850 processors at good prices. And these chips are devastatingly fast, so don't discount them.

Memory: No sooner had we welcomed the age of the 2GB PC than 4GB machines started appearing in our charts. Three of the models in this chart now include this much memory.

If you want your PC to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, 4GB is the key - but 2GB remains a decent option if you want to save money. For the best performance, buy from a high-quality memory maker such as Corsair.

Storage: Unbelievably, anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage - the PCs in our £1,001+ chart come with between 500GB and 1TB of hardware space. Unless you specialise in a particularly gigabyte-hungry pastime such as video, 500GB should be more than enough. Make sure you get serial ATA cabling for rapid transfer rates.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must, and you should make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or more. Eight-speed DVD-R DL is nice but not essential, and look for good eight-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: You might think all of the flat-panels found in this category would be of superior quality - but you'd be mistaken. The PCs in our chart mostly come with 22in displays, but you should be careful when choosing screens larger than this. Some bigger models produce poor colours and fuzzy images, which might cause problems for those with sensitive eyes. If in doubt, 22in screens are safer bets, but you'll have to accept inferior resolution support.

Graphics cards: At this price point, you should be able to get something rather startling. The GeForce 8800 Ultra is undoubtedly the most prized acquisition. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista adopters can look forward to some impressive games titles in the future.

The Ultra also has bags of performance and sizzling features. The 8800 GTX is nearly as good and, as stocks dwindle, could be available at a juicy price. However, you shouldn't overlook their slightly less exciting sibling, the 8800 GTS, nor the brand-new ATI HD 2900 XT. The latter can't keep up with the Ultra and GTX, but it will eclipse even the 640MB version of the 8800 GTS.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound - but it's still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a Creative Audigy card or, better still, one from the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality. Most manufacturers are bundling 5.1-channel speakers. Strangely, 7.1 speakers are becoming less common but, if you want audio excellence, you'd be best off holding out for a set of these.

PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5K3 Deluxe motherboard
  • 10 x USB ports
  • 22in V7 L22WD flat-panel (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution at 75Hz)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R), 8x/8x (DVD-R DL/+R DL), 6x/8x/12x (DVD-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • Ahead Nero
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year collect-and-return, one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB serial ATA
  • Asus P5K3 Deluxe motherboard
  • 10 x USB ports
  • 22in V7 L22WD flat-panel (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 max resolution at 75Hz)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT
  • Creative SB X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire T6100
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/20x/20x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R), 8x/8x (DVD-R DL/+R DL), 6x/8x/12x (DVD-RW/+RW/-RAM)
  • CyberLink PowerDVD
  • Ahead Nero
  • flash memory drive
  • one-year collect-and-return, one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 116

OUR VERDICT

What you're really paying for is a decent but not stunning PC that, possibly, will have some strengths a couple of years ago. Given the hefty £1,499 price tag (£400 more expensive than the still very decent CyberPower Gamer Infinity SLI GTX), we'd suggest the PC Specialist Apollo R600-X3 is a gamble that the majority of you will wish to pass on.

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