A bargain starter media centre that offers a lot for the money
Good basic spec
Poor power supply
Awkward monitor connections
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The £500 price tag is clearly the big attraction in this PC, which boasts a feature-packed version of Vista, 2GB RAM, a 250GB SATA hard drive and a powerful graphics card. Monitor and peripherals included, this latest Zoostorm from the Versatile range has a lot going for it, but it's not all smooth running.
An excellent Foxconn motherboard and 1.8GHz Intel Dual Core chip made for a promising start, but a poor 230W power supply let an otherwise decent configuration down.
That aside, performance of Vista Home Premium was good, reporting a respectable 4.8 on the Vista Experience Index. The 2GB RAM is welcome and the large hard drive means that this PC is ideally placed to become the family media centre.
We were surprised by the performance of the nVidia GeForce 8600GT card however, scoring just 3,987 in our 3DMark tests. We expected around 1,000 points more with this kind of setup, but a decent gaming experience is still possible with this configuration.
The plastic case helps to bring the price down to the £500 mark and although the side panels feel quite delicate the general build is fairly sturdy. On the front is a top-mounted on/off button with two USB port and head/microphone jacks.
There are also four USB ports at the back to expand your options, such as always keeping a regular flash memory stick in place for use with Vista's ReadyBoost.
There's also a 52-in-1 card reader in the first 3.5-inch drive bay, which can be concealed by a sliding plastic flap to keep things looking tidy.
The 19-inch widescreen GNR LCD monitor with 1,440 x 900 resolution gave reasonable clarity for the price, but was let down by some awkward design of the rear connections. We were barely able to use a DVI cable due to a lack of room and there was no place to clip the wire neatly out of the way.
The microATX motherboard leaves plenty of room in the case, but limits options. There are no spare RAM slots and you're running the maximum RAM supplied with it anyway. PCI slots are kept to just two and it's all screw-in slots for any additional hard drives, making hard drive removal a bit of a pain.
That said, most components here can be upgraded without much fuss and with a good power supply in place you'll boost the efficiency of the 8600GT graphics card.
On the software side you get Microsoft Works, as you do with most PCs in this price range, and Windows Media Centre thanks to the inclusion of Vista Home Premium.
There's a lot to be said for PC Next Day's system. As a PC that comes free of bad freeware and just concentrates on the real products to keep the system clean from the start, it does very well.
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