An expensive family PC, the Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti is going to have to be pretty impressive to justify its £929 price.
The Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti's specs are in general somewhat higher than that of the competition. We have a 2TB hard disk combined with a 64GB Crucial SSD as well as 16GB of memory rather than the 8GB we'd usually expect. But what really sets this system apart are those features which nudge it into 'enthusiast' territory.
The average family user won't care too much about motherboard chipsets, but Eclipse has gone for a premium Z77-Express board which is able to take advantage of the overclocking features of the installed Intel Core i5-3570K processor.
So you could if you wish overclock the Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti to achieve far greater speed. It also supports SATA at 6Gbps and three USB 3.0 ports, of which one has been conveniently routed round to the front of the case.
Another reason for the higher price is the inclusion of an nVidia GeForce GTX 600Ti graphics card with 2GB of memory. This gives the Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti the fastest graphics performance of any family PC we have tested recently. These two systems are able to achieve around twice the performance of the remaining systems, making them a great choice if you like games – but very poor value for money if you don't.
The system also consumes much more power, especially when running flat out. It employs some very powerful and very noisy cooling fans which make it noticeably louder than any of the other PCs reviewed here.
A 23.6in Acer G236HLBbd monitor is included, which is large and relatively slim offering DVI and VGA inputs, but sadly no HDMI. This TN panel also lacks the image quality available from IPS models.
Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti: performance scores
PCMark 7 score: 5058
Sniper Elite V2: 75.1 / 18.3
AVP: 84.1 / 44.2
Power consumption: 76 / 228
Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti: verdict
The Eclipse Solar i5357N66Ti is an undeniably fast PC, but also very expensive. If you're prepared to pay the extra, you'll get a considerable boost in gaming performance and also the possibility to overclock the system. However, we suspect many family users may prefer to spend their budget on more relevant features such as a card reader or Wi-Fi.
How we test: General system performance
Core system performance is measured using PCMark 7, an industry-recognised test suite that uses 25 different workloads to measure areas such as storage, computation, image- and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. We understand that results from this benchmark are not absolute, with Intel driver issues in Windows 8 meaning video-transcoding tests can present sub-optimal results. Nevertheless, the results give an idea of the relative performance.
As well as the overall PCMark 7 result, typically a point score between 3,000 and 7,000 with current hardware, we have also published results garnered from some of the suite's sub-routines. These are designed to gauge performance in, for example, creativity and entertainment scenarios. Another test highlights the difference between storage technologies. This is an area that impacts perceived speed more than ever, now that even the slowest modern CPUs are more than fast enough for everyday PC duties. PC Mark also measures multimedia transcoding performance which can take advantage of GPU acceleration.
How we test: Gaming performance
As entertainment centres plugged into your TV, media PCs might be used to play games. Power and noise requirements usually prohibit the use of the best graphics cards, so we tested each PC running Stalker Call of Pripyat at 720p resolution with Medium quality settings and then at 1080p with Ultra quality settings. We also ran the Aliens vs Predator benchmark at 720p and 1080p resolutions, with both tests set to maximum quality.
How we test: Overclocking
We allow overclocked systems to be submitted only for our dedicated gaming PC reviews. All other components are run at stock speeds, with the exception of factory-overclocked graphics cards designed and sold at boosted speeds. We do, however, allow underclocking for the purposes of reducing power consumption.
How we test: Subjective assessment
We also pay close attention to the physical characteristics of each PC, its noise output and its build quality, delving inside the case and taking note of the quality of components used, cabling and airflow. Good-quality peripherals are also important, and where they are supplied we note the ergonomics of the keyboard and mouse. A media PC also needs a remote control and, preferably, a keyboard that can be operated from the sofa.
How we test: Support
Differences in warranty terms can impact our scoring. Long warranties are sought after, but we also look at the terms and conditions – specifically, whether faulty systems must be returned to the vendor at your own cost and if both parts and labour are included. Ensure the vendor offers full software support and preferably a home installation for more complex systems
How we test: Gaming performance
A typical family PC is likely to be used to play a game or two in its lifetime, but pricey graphics cards tend to be outside the budget of such systems.
However, you'll be able to enjoy most modern games when run at slightly lower resolutions and quality settings. Indeed, we used the Sniper Elite V2 and Alien Vs Predator to test the graphics capabilities of each PC. Sniper Elite is configured with Medium and then Ultra quality settings at 1080p resolution while Aliens Vs Predator is run first at 720p and then at 1080p resolutions with the highest quality settings selected both times. Both of these games have benchmark versions you can download yourself to try out on your own system to see how much improvement you're likely to get.