A budget PC with the latest Intel processor technology
The Palicomp Alpha Phase is the first desktop PC we've seen that comes with one of Intel's new ‘Ivy Bridge' processors, the Core i5 3570K. This powerful new quad-core chip runs at 3.4GHz, but it can increase this to an even faster 3.8GHz when necessary. In our tests it proved to be one of the fastest PCs we've seen, which is all the more impressive given that the Alpha Phase costs a low £499. This price doesn't include a monitor, keyboard and mouse though.
Palicomp hasn't included a dedicated graphics card, but you may not actually need one. The Core i5 processor has its own integrated graphics chip. In the past, integrated graphics weren't very powerful and were only good for playing older, less-demanding games. The Intel HD 4000 graphics chip used here is surprisingly capable though and it can run current 3D games smoothly with reasonably detailed graphics, although you may have to turn down the resolution of your monitor to do so.
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If you do want a dedicated graphics card then there is space inside the Alpha Phase's inoffensive black and silver case for two of them, although a single powerful card should be more than enough for most gamers. Plus, fitting two cards could block two of the other five PCI and PCI Express expansion slots. These are useful for adding peripherals such as Wifi adapters and TV tuners. If you're worried that fitting lots of internal grades could result in overheating, there's space for mounting an extra cooling fan.
There is a Blu-ray drive for playing high-definition movies discs, although you'll need to buy the required playback software separately. If the 1TB hard disk and Blu-ray playback drive aren't enough for your needs, there is space for more extra internal hard disks and optical drives than most people will ever need. Interestingly, there is also a dedicated slot for a small solid state disk which is used to accelerate start up and wake from sleep times.
If fitting internal upgrades sounds like too much fuss, most peripherals are available in USB versions and the Alpha Phase has plenty of USB ports. There's a pair of USB2 ports on the front as well as four USB2 connectors and four USB3 ports round the rear.
The catch is that the Alpha Phase has a very loud rear cooling fan, so you'll definitely want to keep this PC under your desk. This can always be replaced with a quieter fan later, but it's a shame Palicomp didn't pay more attention to this small, but important area.
Despite this flaw, the Alpha Phase is a good PC if you're looking to replace your current desktop computer but want to keep your current monitor, keyboard and mouse.
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A fast and inexpensive PC for upgraders, but you'll have to put up with quite a racket.
Fast performance; Inexpensive; Lots of expansion options
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