A fully fledged fast desktop computer for a low price
There's no beating about the bush: a computer with four processors for £700 sounds like fantastic value for money.
The idea of having more than one processor (or 'core', as Intel calls them) on a chip is fairly new, and it can mean getting things done faster, as there's more power to go round.
But in the past it's been tough to justify buying such a computer, because programs, and Windows, need to be optimised for the four processors, or there's no gain in performance.
Now though, more and more applications can take full advantage of having four cores. This includes the Winrar compression software, Adobe Premiere Elements for arranging photos, Nero 7 Suite for creating DVDs, and lots of new computer games, which have been programmed to work much quicker with four processors - in some cases twice as quick.
Even if a program can't use more than one core, Windows will still make the most it by assigning each important program a processor of its own. This means the PC can do multiple things at full pelt and still feel responsive, unlike older PCs on which Windows would seem to stutter when it was busy.
PC World's Advent T9509 can do all of that, thanks to an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 running at 2.4GHz. It comes with 2GB of memory and a spacious 320GB hard disk. Vista Home Premium is installed, and for the majority of system tasks, it was blindingly quick. Where it struggled was with graphics, which are more important than ever in Vista Home Premium because the interface relies on them for a smooth desktop experience.
Nvidia's budget graphics card, the Geforce 8300GS with 256MB of memory, is r esponsible for graphics here, and although it doesn't break a sweat running Vista's intensive graphical display, it struggled with our gaming tests. It's no good for the latest titles but it will run games from a year or two ago, or some newer games with the detail turned down.
The mini-tower case has one exciting feature: a hidden front panel that slides down to reveal two USB ports, a Firewire port, a headphone socket and a 7-in-1 card reader to quickly access photos from a digital camera. Otherwise the case is a manageable size, standing just 55cm tall, and it doesn't stand out, looks-wise. It's painted an odd shade of grey which, frankly, looks extremely cheap.
A19in widescreen LCD monitor is included in the box. It has a simple silver bezel bordering it and lacks any kind of branding. The size and decent 1,440x900 pixel resolution make it a valuable inclusion, despite it only having a VGA connection, not a DVI socket. Widescreen movies look good on it, but the computer doesn't come with separate speakers to provide an aural punch: instead the monitor integrates two rather tinny speakers.
To keep costs down, other extras are limited to a DVD writer fitted near the top of the case, and a wired mouse and keyboard. Costs have also been cut inside, with the system being powered by a relatively small 450W power supply unit, which warns not to exceed a power draw of 350W. This is smaller than for other quad-core PCs and makes the Advent T9509 a poor candidate for upgrading the innards, for example putting in a better graphics card.
Ultimately, though, the system was responsive and at £700 it brings a lot of bragging rights for very little money. It's available in-store at PC World, or delivered for £5 when bought online.
Vista compatible: Yes
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Good points Fast performance Quiet Cheap Bad points Poor graphics Bland looks No separate speakers Overall This quad-core PC lets you do an awful lot very quickly.
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