Computer Planet is a custom builder with a good pedigree, but when challenged with a £500 budget, we were surprised what we ended up with - and not in a good way.

The basic tower is a Vista Home Premium machine with dedicated NVIDIA graphics, 3.0GHz dual core CPU, 2GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, but no monitor or peripherals.

More than £500 is a lot to spend without some serious hardware behind you - this system has plenty to offer, it's just not the value package we had hoped.

Ugly casing

The cheap nature of the budget COLORSit case is an unfortunate housing.

Ugly, weak and without any cooling fans, we were surprised that the otherwise excellent components (including 2GB premium RAM from Geil) were given such a sub-standard home.

The red and green lights on the front are bulky and unattractive whilst the front USB2 ports are hidden behind a flap that needs to be placed off the floor or beyond a desk edge to actually be lowered enough for you to access them!

Strong performance

Sadly, the Asus P5K SE motherboard and 3.0GHz dual core Intel CPU is let down by a poor cooling fan from Speeze that's noisy, probably being overworked by a lack of cooling elsewhere.

The Speeze QuadroFlow VIII cooler has a nice solid feel and has one of the toughest, but easy to use, clamping mechanisms around, but it's far too noisy and causes a lot of vibrations.

What we did get out of the machine though is excellent pace, with a good motherboard, CPU and RAM combination - Windows Vista scored the unit at a very respectable 5.0 on the Windows Experience Index.Even the GeForce 8500GT card performed well, easily getting past the 3,000 mark in 3DMark.

Not a budget gaming system

Gaming is possible here, but the latest and greatest creations are beyond it. Overall, some good components here, but it should be a whole lot cheaper.