Back in this year's damp summer, PCAnswers looked at a £900 model from PC Specialist that proved great value for money. Can this updated model that costs over £100 less win us over?

For a family looking to replace a PC that's just about wheezing and spluttering, it makes sense to invest in newer peripherals, too.

Comprehensive spec

Just a year ago, 22-inch monitors were for only seriously beefed-up systems, but now they're becoming the norm, especially for setups that cost around £800, as we have here.

Throw in a decent Core 2 Duo CPU, robust Asus motherboard, 500GB hard drive, ATI Radeon graphics, a 5:1 speaker system and wireless keyboard/mouse, and you've got yourself a bargain - at least on the surface.

There's no doubt that the latest computer from PC Specialist is good value for money, but its performance didn't quite pack the punch that we'd hoped for.

Mixed results

Interestingly, the 182612 PC model that we tested previously had a slightly faster CPU and twice the graphics RAM than the Apollo Home Pro, but fell well short of the 5.2 Windows Experience Index result that we have here.

Not for the first time has Vista's personal benchmark confused the issue, but with a little further digging we were able to work out the performance difference exactly, and while it's certainly acceptable for the price bracket, we were gunning for just a bit more.

The 3DMark06 score came in at 3,084, which is pretty average. This was backed up by a 1.86x score for multiprocessor power in Cinebench 9.5. While the ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro is a good card, installing a second one for around £55 would enable you to get the most from the system.

Better still, because it's not a doubled-decked card such as the GeForce 8800, it won't take up too much space in the PC's chassis.

The 2GB of system RAM that's installed is standard these days, but it's from the Corsair Value range and, as such, is workaday rather than exceptional. It does the job for most apps, but bear in mind that if you upgrade your graphics then you'd also want beefier RAM fitted with heat dissipaters.

The new stock Intel cooler is present, which is expected for PCs in this range. Cores are kept to around 30 degrees under normal usage and this model is quieter than the 182612 we looked at previously.

Tailor made

Any quibbles that you might have with the performance of a machine like this can be easily rectified because PC Specialist offers custom builds. PCs with almost identical specs from bigger names in the market do cost more, so the Apollo Home Pro certainly gets our thumbs up for value.

The quality choice of an Asus P5K motherboard makes a future SLI upgrade possible. That's as well as being a great board in itself in terms of layout and features, such as six USB ports, eSATA and FireWire. Build quality is excellent and despite an unimpressive case, the cabling is neatly dealt with.

Boasting a 5:1 Creative surround system and perfectly acceptable 7:1 Realtek onboard sound, this machine is home multimedia-ready and won't break the bank. It's a wise choice for a home user who's looking to replace an old system.