For many months now, Intel’s 3.16GHz Core 2 Duo E8500 processor has been king of the hill, delivering almost unbeatable performance in systems across all our PC charts.

But things are set to change: the new 3.33GHz E8600 makes its first appearance here in the Zoostorm 64-6502. With this CPU monster under the hood, the 64-6502 achieved 130 points in our WorldBench 6 processing-speed test – making this the fastest system we’ve yet seen.

Add in one of nVidia’s new GeForce GTX 260 graphics cards and the Zoostorm 64-6502 is a truly formidable £999 machine that easily beats anything that has come before it in this category.

The Zoostorm 64-6502 houses a 750GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, providing ample storage and memory for running multiple desktop applications. Two RAM slots remain free for future upgrades, although you’ll have to move to a 64bit operating system (OS) to take advantage of that option.

One aspect of the Zoostorm 64-6502 disappoints, however: the 22in AMW monitor can’t match the quality of such displays as the Samsung SM-2253LW supplied with the Chillblast Olympian. Neither is there a digital connection, meaning that this powerhouse relies on an inferior analogue VGA port for input.

The Zoostorm 64-6502's two-tone, black-and-silver system case is smart, with understated good looks. The bottom half has a brushed metal fascia with rounded edges that incorporate the power switch and hard-drive LED; the top houses the drive bays and a vertical sliding door, which reveals a trio of USB ports, memory-card reader and pair of audio connectors.

Although plenty of internal drive bays are free, the case appears a little cramped. This is mainly due to the Zoostorm 64-6502’s enormous graphics card and high-quality 880W power supply, with its thick, wrapped cables that help to keep things tidy.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Nov issue)

  1. Zoostorm 64-6502
  2. Mesh Elite GTX260 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition
  4. Chillblast Olympian
  5. PC Specialist Apollo HD8600

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (Nov issue)

Processor: All the systems here use dual-core processors. Intel's E8500 chip continues to dominate our charts, but its reign is coming to an end with the arrival of the E8600. However, there have been some teething problems with this new processor, so we'd recommend holding off a few weeks if you plan to purchase one.

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 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 Mesh, 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 be able to get by comfortably with a 320GB drive, but those intending to store lots of video, games, audio and media files should stock up.

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 to 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 such as games. 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 pitch battle between nVidia's latest GeForce GTX 260 graphics card and the ATI Radeon HD 4870 from ATI. Both offer very good performance and can be doubled up into dual-card solutions later. 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.

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 speakers

Zoostorm 64-6502: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Intel Desktop Board DP43TF
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in AMW X2210WDS (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 73fps
  • Fear = 216fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 5 x Edifier M3500
  • subwoofer
  • 4x (BD-ROM)
  • 16x/16x/4x/2.4x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • one-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 130
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Intel Desktop Board DP43TF
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in AMW X2210WDS (0.277mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 896MB PCI Express Inno3D nVidia GeForce GTX 260 (games scores: Crysis = 73fps
  • Fear = 216fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888
  • 5 x Edifier M3500
  • subwoofer
  • 4x (BD-ROM)
  • 16x/16x/4x/2.4x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero 7.0
  • one-year onsite warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 130

OUR VERDICT

Overall, some top-quality components and Intel’s new top-of-the-range processor make the Zoostorm 64-6502 an unbeatable purchase.

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