With the fastest processor in the chart under the hood, it's little wonder that Palicomp's Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1 tops our WorldBench 6 real-world speed tests. Intel's E8500 enables this PC to edge ahead of the competition when it comes to everyday applications.

The Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1 also comes with by far the most storage, with its 500GB SATA hard drive doubling the capacities of the Arbico and Eclipse machines.

Graphics performance isn't quite so exemplary, however. Despite the Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1's GeForce 9600 GSO offering a generous 1GB of onboard memory, it's a notably slower card than that used by the competition.

The Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1 makes a brave attempt at playing games, but hardcore gamers would do better to look elsewhere - sacrificing a little CPU speed in return for faster graphics, perhaps. And although the ASRock motherboard offers scaleable link interface (SLI) for adding a second graphics card, swapping in a single decent card will prove more effective than using two sluggish ones.

The Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1's Hanton H-350WDB is a basic but tidy-looking 19in display with dual inputs. It offers a bright image with good contrast but, like many a glossy screen, it suffers from light reflections.

Look past the Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1's untidy cabling and there's plenty of room inside for upgrades, including a spare PCI Express slot and space for two more sticks of RAM.

Another thing the system case is good for concealing is the Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-1's DVD drive, which lies behind a full-height front door. If you burn a lot of discs you may find this inconvenient.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (September 09 issue)

  1. Arbico CD 8467 XL
  2. Palicomp Ballistix Excalibur E85SLI-19
  3. CyberPower AMD Pre-Build 2 Cores
  4. Eclipse Mirage A995R467
  5. HP Compaq Presario CQ5011uk