It's tough to fight against four PCs armed with Intel's mighty Core i7 920 when you've got a mere dual-core processor, but the Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24 makes a valiant effort. And the E8600 is still a very fast CPU, with the bonus that you'll pay less for your motherboard and the memory that populates it.

The money saved has left room in the Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24's budget for a pair of external stereo speakers and a subwoofer, 1TB of storage and an excellent 24in full-HD monitor from Acer.

A WorldBench 6 score of 129 is enough to prove that the Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24 can hold its own against the i7 in the bulk of current applications, although it suffers in CPU-intensive tasks that take advantage of multiple cores.

The GTX 260 graphics card comes with a whopping 1,792MB of memory, enabling high-resolution gaming with high-quality textures enabled. However, in our toughest tests the Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24 couldn't keep up with the ATI Radeon HD 4890 chosen by Arbico and Eclipse.

The Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24's case features a pair of saloon-style doors which don't meet in the middle. Behind this, a number of mesh panels conceal the front-facing fan and 5.25in drive bays - one of which is occupied by a Blu-ray-compatible DVD drive. Unfortunately, these panels come loose and fall away easily.

The Asus motherboard is capable of scaleable link interface (SLI), so you could add a second card to the Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24 for improved graphics performance.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Sep 09 issue)

  1. Eclipse Titan X58-Crossfire i792R489
  2. Arbico Elite i750 Pro
  3. CyberPower Mega Sales IV
  4. Palicomp Phoenix Ballistix E86-24
  5. Dell Studio XPS