Zoostorm hits the top of our chart with one of the fastest WorldBench 6 scores we’ve seen. With the brand-new 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 under the hood, the Zoostorm 62-4409 not only racks up 130 points in our benchmark but still manages a saving of £150 compared to the competition.

Despite its compact case, the Zoostorm 62-4409 offers two external 3.5in drive bays – and there’s room for another inside – a built-in memory card reader and a pair of front-facing USB ports. Inside, the Foxconn G31MX-K motherboard is equally compact, while the 4GB allocation of RAM fills both the available memory slots – if you have plans to upgrade here, you’ll need to start from scratch.

The Zoostorm 62-4409 is supported by the company's own-brand 500W power supply.

For general use the Zoostorm 62-4409 offers superb performance, but compromises have inevitably been made in order to hit that £599 price tag. It’s the only PC here to come with a 19in monitor and, while the Hanns-G XM New York is a popular and well-made display, size does matter – you lose not just screen space but pixel resolution when you compare this model to the 22in displays supplied elsewhere in the chart.

Likewise, the Zoostorm 62-4409’s 320GB hard drive will be adequate for most users, but it’s significantly less capacious than the 500GB or 750GB disks you’ll find in the more expensive PCs in this price bracket.

But the most significant compromise made by Zoostorm is the relative lack of graphics processing power. The Zoostorm 62-4409's 384MB nVidia GeForce 9600 GSO is certainly capable of gaming, but you’ll have to keep the display resolution low to enjoy a demanding game, such as Crysis.

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

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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.

Zoostorm 62-4409: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Foxconn G31MX-K
  • 7 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hanns-G XM New York (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 384MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 9600 GSO (games scores: Crysis = 40fps
  • Fear = 95fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • 2 x Edifier M3200
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • Windows Live 2.1 (trial)
  • one-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 130
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Foxconn G31MX-K
  • 7 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Hanns-G XM New York (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,440x900)
  • 384MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce 9600 GSO (games scores: Crysis = 40fps
  • Fear = 95fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC662
  • 2 x Edifier M3200
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • Windows Live 2.1 (trial)
  • one-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 130

OUR VERDICT

Some of the Zoostorm 62-4409's cost-saving measures are more obvious than the manufacturer might have liked. Its upgrade potential is limited and hardcore gamers may want to look elsewhere. Nonetheless, the 62-4409 offers outstanding performance for the money, and wins our Best Buy award.

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