It’s now a previous-generation chip, but the Zoostorm 64-6503’s 2.83GHz Core 2 Quad Q9550 processor is still an excellent performer. And this desktop PC costs considerably less than the i7s.

Scoring 127 points in WorldBench 6, the Zoostorm 64-6503 is capable of running most current applications at breakneck speed, with the added advantage of being able to race ahead of the dual-core systems in CPU-intensive multithreaded tasks such as encoding video.

Powered by nVidia’s flagship GeForce GTX 280 graphics card, the Zoostorm 64-6503 is capable of strong gaming performance; you should be able to play any current title, provided you don’t crank the settings too high. The HD 4870 X2 is a close rival, however, and may perform better on certain games.

The Zoostorm 64-6503’s standard case incorporates three 5.25in drive bays and a vertical sliding panel that reveals a multiformat card reader and a pair of USB connectors.

The MSI motherboard is capable of scaleable link interface (SLI) operation should you wish to add a second graphics card, and the Zoostorm 64-6503 is fitted with a high-quality 880W PSU providing ample power to the rather hungry graphics processor.

When you consider that the Zoostorm 64-6503 is one of the cheaper systems here, it’s really quite impressive. You even get a DVD burner that can read Blu-ray and HD DVD.

Unfortunately, costs have to be cut somewhere. In this case it’s the inclusion of a 22in rather than 24in monitor that lets the Zoostorm 64-6503 down. While the AMW X2210WDS is perfectly capable and offers dual inputs, it’s not exactly stylish – and most importantly, its 1,680x1,050 resolution means it won’t be able to play those Blu-ray movies at their full 1,080p resolution.

Nor will you be able to immerse yourself in their multichannel soundtracks, because only 2.1-channel speakers are provided with the Zoostorm 64-6503.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  2. Mesh i7 920 HD
  3. Arbico Elite 8630 Pro
  4. Chillblast Fusion Medusa
  5. Zoostorm 64-6503