Zoostorm’s 64-6406 is an excellent performer with an impressive specification. Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600 helps it to achieve a WorldBench 6 real-world speed score of 131 points, while the top-drawer nVidia GeForce GTX 280 delivers blistering gaming performance.

Three other systems in this month’s chart also use the powerful E8600 chip, but all three come with nVidia’s inferior GTX 260 card. Only the Arbico Elite 8626GTX, whose GTX 260 has had its GPU overclocked, can keep up with the Zoostorm 64-6406 on gaming framerates.

Zoostorm’s own-brand case is a sleek, two-tone affair. The power and drive-eject buttons are cut into the case itself, creating a smart, flush finish. A sliding front panel can be lowered to reveal the Zoostorm 64-6406's multiformat memory-card reader, along with a pair of USB and audio ports and a reset button.

Inside, there’s room for three extra hard drives. A 750GB drive is supplied with the Zoostorm 64-6406 as standard and a pair of empty memory slots allow easy memory upgrades. Meanwhile, an 880W Hiper PSU provides more than enough juice for the power-hungry GTX 280 card and any later upgrades.

The Zoostorm 64-6406's Crossfire Foxconn motherboard is a good choice, offering a pair of PCI Express slots. However, support for scaleable link interface would have allowed the installation of a second GTX 280 graphics card.

It’s inevitable that compromises have been made in order to keep this desktop PC’s price tag below the £1,000 mark. The Zoostorm 64-6406 is the only system here to lack a Blu-ray Disc drive, and it offers only 2.1-channel speakers.

Likewise, the Zoostorm 64-6406's 22in AMW display is quite acceptable, but no match for the Arbico Elite 8626GTX’s LG. That PC also comes with a larger hard drive and only fractionally inferior games scores.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (January issue)

  1. Arbico Elite 8626GTX
  2. Zoostorm 64-6406
  3. Chillblast Fusion Photon
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Ultimate DDR3
  5. Mesh Xtreme GTX260 PCA


>> NEXT PAGE: POWER DESKTOP PCs BUYING ADVICE

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (January issue)

Processor: All the systems here use dual-core processors. Intel's E8600 chip now dominates the chart, although we're still seeing E8500-based machines delivering very good performance.

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 apps but, in the long run, the benefits are likely to be worth it.

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

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM - but check beforehand that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for the 8GB Chillblast, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space - the manufacturers of the systems in this month's chart have all opted for at least 500GB. Many users will get by comfortably with a 320GB drive, but with hard-drive prices continuing to fall it shouldn't be hard to find a 1TB (one-terabyte) drive at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to dual-layer format 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 - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray and DVD burning speeds will 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. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important.

A digital input can preserve picture quality, so think twice about displays that provide analogue inputs only.

Graphics card: At this price point, it's a pitched battle between nVidia's latest GeForce GTX 260 graphics card and the ATI Radeon HD 4870. If you can find a GTX 280, as seen in our Best Buy PC, then that's even better.

The GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4870 both offer strong performance and can be doubled up into dual-card solutions later on. In order to take advantage of such a setup, however, your motherboard and power supply will need to be compatible with this mode of operation.

It's also possible to go for a ready-made dual-card solution, such as a pair of Radeon HD 4850s. This can work out to be more expensive in the long run. Keep an eye out for factory overclocked graphics cards which come pre-configured to run at much faster speeds.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound has come on in leaps and bounds, 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-channel speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: SPECIFICATION AND OUR EXPERT VERDICT

Zoostorm 64-6406: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Foxconn P45A
  • 7 x USB 2.0
  • 22in AMW X2210WDS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis = 74fps
  • Fear = 254fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888GR
  • 1 x Edifier M2300
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • three-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Foxconn P45A
  • 7 x USB 2.0
  • 22in AMW X2210WDS (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 1GB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis = 74fps
  • Fear = 254fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888GR
  • 1 x Edifier M2300
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • three-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131

OUR VERDICT

Compromises have been made to keep the Zoostorm 64-6406's price tag low, but this computer still boasts an impressive specification.

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