Half a thousand pounds isn't a lot to pay when you get an entire PC system these days. Wired2Fire has made a careful choice of components to produce a balanced, if somewhat unexciting, system that can chug through most everyday tasks without causing pulses to race. Take a look at Group test: What's the best mid-range desktop PC?
The processor is one of AMD's Fusion chips, the 3.8GHz A10-5800K. Despite the big clock-speed number, this chip doesn't offer a great deal in the way of power, but we're not really expecting lightning pace given the price tag. See also: Chillblast Fusion Raven review.
The CPU is bolstered by 8GB of memory, and these particular chips, from Patriot's Viper range, offer very capable performance. The system’s lack of firepower isn't helped by the storage drive options. It comes with decent capacity, courtesy of a 1TB Seagate Barracuda. This relatively slow storage is the other reason for an uninspiring score of 2779 points in PCMark 7. Visit: Arbico i3 5600 XL review.
The graphics card is a low-key option that's regularly paired with the A10-5800K. The AMD Radeon HD 6670 with 2GB video memory was always intended as a cost-effective solution, and it's now past its best.
Having said that, you can coax some playable frame rates from this card, just as long as you're prepared to compromise on resolution.
Stalker: Call of Pripyat gave us the best figures, going up to 45.5fps at 720p, but dropping to just 13.8 at full-HD resolution.
Hard Reset was able to push up to 30.9fps at the same size at Medium quality, although Ultra quality caused it to skitter to a meagre 22.2fps.
Even at 1280 x 720-pixels, Alien vs Predator lumbered to just 22.1fps. However, those Stalker tests show that relatively undemanding settings can yet produce decent frame rates with this card. You'll have to be prepared to drop the detail and render at the semi-HD size or lower, though.
The Zalman T1 case is modestly sized, and can prove tricky to access later. We struggled to get at the memory chips - only two slots are provided - and even accessing the graphics card isn't particularly easy. The drive bays are restricted, and the case itself feels extremely cramped, despite the small CPU cooler.
Neither is the Xigmatek PSU prepared for major upgrades, specified at 400W. In short, this isn't a PC you'll relish upgrading.
The machine is light on power draw though, slurping about 61 watt while idling. Even with Stalker: Call of Pripyat running, this figure only went up to 138 watt - an impressively low maximum figure for a cheap PC with an AMD processor.
It's not amazingly quiet, adding around 14dB to the room noise. This level of disturbance isn't completely distracting.
Predictably given the price tag, the Samsung SH-224BB optical drive won’t know what to do with Blu-ray, although it does offer smooth 24-speed writing to DVD-R and DVD+R discs. As DVD writers go, it's a nice model.
Eight USB ports are available, two of these covering USB 3.0. Both of the front one are v2.0 only though.
The usual ports and connectors at the rear include HDMI and eSATA. The Cit wired keyboard and mouse are adequate, although they don't offer the positive touch and experience of higher quality peripherals.
The system price includes a flat-panel monitor. AOC isn't famed as a high-end screen manufacturer, but its budget screens tend to offer good valuey. The 21.5in AOC E2250SWDA is another in this line, with its balanced palette and slimline styling.
Wired2Fire has added IvoSoft's Classic Shell software, giving Windows 8 users a more accessible way to operate Microsoft’s unpopular OS. The warranty is strong for the price level, two years that cover both parts and labour.