PC Specialist’s quad-core Fusion 9850 X2 offers a number of potential benefits over its dual-core rivals. Applications that lend themselves to multiprocessing – such as 3D rendering or encoding large multimedia files – will run considerably faster, for example.

But what if you’re not buying a system to run this sort of software? Well, it’s going to be some time before we see general office applications and games exploiting multicore technology to the full, and this leaves the PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2 languishing at the bottom of our WorldBench 6 results.

The PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2's graphics are handled by an ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2, which is capable of blistering performance, thanks to its dual graphics cores and 1GB of onboard memory.

Performance issues aside, the PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2 is a very well-made, attractive system. The 22in Edge10 W223 display is solidly built, yet has a pleasingly thin bezel, dual VGA and DVI inputs and good image quality. But if you’re a fan of surround sound, you’ll be disappointed by the Logitech speakers – this is the only non-5.1 system here.

Verdict

Overall, the PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2 isn’t for everyone: general performance lags behind the competition and it costs £100 more than competing systems from CyberPower and Arbico. However, if you want a system that’ll power through media encoding and image rendering tasks, the quad-core Phenom processor is a definite bonus.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (July 08 issue)


  1. CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD
  2. Arbico CD9800 PRO
  3. Mesh Elite HD24
  4. Chillblast Fusion Viper
  5. PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2

See also: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Power desktop PCs buying advice (July 08 issue)

Processor: Four of the systems we've reviewed this month use dual-core processors. The E8500 is a good bet for current applications. Even in the age of quad-core computing, you should still get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, however, a quad-core system may be worthwhile. You’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains. AMD’s Phenom X4 9850 offers good value for money.

Memory: At this price point, 2GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. Skimp on memory now and you might have to administer an upgrade later on.

Indeed, most £751-£1,000 PCs now come with 4GB. If you want to take full advantage of your RAM, you’ll need a 64bit operating system, but check beforehand that all your software and drivers are supported.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – this month’s manufacturers have opted for around 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files should stock up.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must – look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential – and try to get eight-speed DVD+RW. At this price you should be able to find a drive that reads Blu-ray Discs, but it won’t burn them.

Flat-panel: We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at this screen for long periods – give the display a try to ensure you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images such as games. For image-editing tasks, contrast ratio and colour fidelity become much more important. Using a digital input can also significantly improve picture quality, so avoid displays that provide only analogue inputs.

Graphics card: The new GeForce 9800 GTX offers better performance than the 8800 GTS, although it’s based on almost identical technology. The extra power may not always justify the higher price. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future. However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. It’s cheaper and you may be able to find a PC housing two of them. In scaleable link interface (SLI) mode, this will produce outstanding results. The 9600 GT is a still cheaper option that can also be used in SLI mode.

AMD’s Radeon HD 3820 X2 is another blisteringly fast card. Containing two graphics processors, it gives you bags of performance without the requirement for a specially designed motherboard.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has come on in leaps and bounds, but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to find something from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want a 2.1-channel setup (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers.

PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2: Specs

  • 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium (64bit)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 465GB SATA
  • Asus M3A
  • 9 x USB
  • 22in Edge10 W223 (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • PowerDVD 7.0
  • one-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 98
  • 2.5GHz AMD Phenom X4 9850
  • Windows Vista Home Premium (64bit)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 465GB SATA
  • Asus M3A
  • 9 x USB
  • 22in Edge10 W223 (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/10x/10x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • PowerDVD 7.0
  • one-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 98

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the PC Specialist Fusion 9850 X2 isn’t for everyone: general performance lags behind the competition and it costs £100 more than competing systems from CyberPower and Arbico. However, if you want a system that’ll power through media encoding and image rendering tasks, the quad-core Phenom processor is a definite bonus.

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