When buying a new PC, it usually pays to cut out the middle man. This means ignoring the usual high-street suspects such as PC World. PC Specialist is an online retailer that enables you to do just that, competing with the likes of big guns Dell and Mesh in the process.

We decided to find out what kind of system it could supply for a not unreasonable budget of £900. We wanted it to cover a lot of bases, ranging from low-end tasks such as email/Internet and business/office tasks, to more demanding uses such as gaming and photo/ video editing.

The company states that it can deliver a fully configured and tested system between 12 and 15 working days. Our print deadlines meant that it had to rush a system out to us overnight, which might explain why we had a few gripes on getting the system to boot into Vista. The problem was easily solved and so we're confident that this was a one-off glitch.

After this slightly wobbly start we were back on firmer ground with the build quality of the case. Externally it's nothing to write home about - it's a black and silver plastic/metal combination - but inside it's a different matter.

The expansion bays utilise a clever tool-free design, there's a welcome absence of tangled cables that in turn improves air-flow, and there's a large piece of ducting that directs air from the fan onto the motherboard. Unfortunately, the excellent air-flow means that it's not a quiet system: we found the noise to be distracting at times.

Quality core components

We had no quibbles with the core components of the system, which were all major brand names. The processor spec and graphics card, together with the 2GB of RAM, is enough to run the Home Premium version of Vista that's supplied with the PC.

However, the Vista Experience score was strangely low at 4.1; given what's installed in the system, we'd expect it to hit a higher mark. We attempted to rate the system more accurately with benchmarking software.

However, our benchmarking software isn't Vista compatible. Plan B involved installing one of the latest, graphically intensive games: Supreme Commander. This ran without a hitch, as expected. Older games such as Quake 4 and Far Cry played to the best of their abilities.

The V7 monitor initially failed to grab our interest. In these digital times it was a shame to discover that there was just an analog input. The cheap finish and limited tilt option merely reinforced the view that this was a no-fills model. Surprising, then, that even this basic monitor produced a decent viewing experience. Still, we'd be happy paying a bit more for a digital input and a better-known brand.

Overall, this is a powerful home system that'll keep you in good stead for the next few years at least. We could end this review here, but PC Specialist has one more card up its sleeve to play. The guys in Yorkshire have put together a PC that's significantly cheaper than anything similar from larger, competing, online system builders.

You'd need to shell out at least £1,200 for an equivalent PC from Dell, Mesh or Evesham. We'd certainly recommend seeing what kind of deal the company can do for you.