Arbico has a history of producing top-performing PCs, and this month is no exception. Like all the other vendors in this chart, Arbico has wisely chosen Intel’s superb Core 2 Duo E8500 processor for its CD9800 PRO, which has been dominating our charts since it appeared on the market.

The Arbico CD9800 PRO is a revamped version of the CD8500 PRO, a previous Best Buy winner. The CoolerMaster Elite 330 case makes another welcome appearance, with its ample drive-bay capacity and solid construction. Once again, the Gigabyte P35-DS3R motherboard delivers excellent performance, and there are a generous 10 USB 2.0 ports.

Perhaps the most significant upgrade is the Arbico CD9800 PRO's inclusion of nVidia’s GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card. The 9800 GTX offers only small performance benefits over the 8800 GTS, but Arbico has managed to include the newer card without bumping up the price.

The 500GB hard drive is a notable improvement on the Arbico CD8500 PRO’s 320GB model, but this system sticks with the less impressive Creative Audigy SE sound card. The X-Fi Xtremes are a better bet.

A 22in Cibox C2201 monitor completes the package. This is an adequate flat-panel, even if it can’t match the superb image quality provided by the Best Buy’s Samsung SyncMaster. We’re also rather disappointed that the Arbico CD9800 PRO's choice of screen doesn’t include a DVI input.

Power desktop PCs chart ranking (September issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Sledgehammer
  3. Eclipse Matrix SLI i85n98GTX
  4. CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD
  5. Arbico CD9800 PRO

>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Power desktop PCs buying advice (September issue)

Processor: All of the systems here use dual-core processors. In fact, it’s a clean sweep for Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500, which continues to dominate our charts. 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 a wise choice. You’ll have to sacrifice a small amount of speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it. AMD’s Phenom X4 9850 offers good value for money, as do the later revisions of Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q6600.

Memory: At this price point, 4GB should be considered a minimum, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. All of the PCs here come with this amount.

Get a 64bit operating system to take full advantage of your RAM. 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 all opted for at least 500GB. Many users can get by comfortably with 320GB, but those intending to store lots of video, games and audio files should stock up.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer formats if you want to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL; DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also 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, and DVD burning speeds will generally be slower.

Display: In this category, 22in flat-panels are the standard. Many PC manufacturers supply budget screens, but it’s worth spending a little more if you intend to work with digital photos or video – you’ll probably have to stare at the monitor
for long periods. Give the display a try to ensure you can put up with the quality.

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

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. Both support DirectX 10.0, which means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

The 8800 GT isn’t far behind. It’s cheaper and you may be able to get 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 requiring a specially designed motherboard. ATI’s new HD 4850 card is also worth looking at, but make sure you have the latest drivers.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has improved, but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Consider 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. Most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: OUR FIRST LOOK

Our first look

Arbico has a history of producing top-performing PCs, and this month is no exception. Like CyberPower and Chillblast, Arbico has wisely chosen Intel’s superb Core 2 Duo E8500 processor for its CD9800 PRO, which has been dominating our charts since it appeared on the market.

The Arbico CD9800 PRO is a revamped version of the CD8500 PRO, a Best Buy winner two months ago (tinyurl.com/ywbak5). The CoolerMaster Elite 330 case makes another welcome appearance, with its ample drive bay capacity and solid construction. Once again, the Gigabyte P35-DS3R motherboard delivers excellent performance, and there are a generous 10 USB 2.0 ports.

Perhaps the most significant upgrade to the Arbico CD9800 PRO is the inclusion of nVidia’s GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card. The 9800 GTX offers only small performance benefits over the 8800 GTS, but Arbico has managed to include the newer card without bumping up the price.

The 500GB hard drive is a notable improvement on the Arbico CD9800 PRO’s 320GB model, but this system sticks with the less impressive Creative Audigy SE sound card. The X-Fi Xtremes are a better bet.

A 22in Cibox C2201 monitor completes the package. This is an adequate flat-panel, even if it can’t match the superb image quality provided by the Chillblast Fusion Viper’s Acer AL2251W. We’re also rather disappointed that it doesn’t include a DVI input.

Verdict

A WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 124 is excellent, but the Arbico CD9800 PRO is narrowly beaten by the Best Buy CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD. The Arbico CD9800 PRO, on the other hand, offers a longer warranty. We favour the CyberPower Infinity Crossfire HD, but your choice of PC could come down to which graphics setup you prefer.

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.

Arbico CD9800 PRO: Specs

  • 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Cibox C2201 (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX
  • Creative Audigy SE
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124
  • 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R
  • 10 x USB
  • 22in Cibox C2201 (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce 9800 GTX
  • Creative Audigy SE
  • 5 x Cyber Acoustic
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 124

OUR VERDICT

A WorldBench 6 speed score of 124 is very good, but the Arbico CD9800 PRO is narrowly beaten by Arbico’s newer model, the Elite 4850. This costs a little more but delivers better all-round performance.

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