Cons: Poor graphics capabilities
Bottomline: The lack of a graphics card is the only fault we can find in this impressive computer.
Manufacturer: PC Nextday
This compact computer houses a surprising amount of power. It also demonstrates the main reason for continuing to buy desktop PCs rather than the increasingly popular notebook computers for which many people opt.
That is, for the same price – £500 – as a mid-range notebook, you get here a pretty impressive desktop, with a more powerful processor, more memory and a larger hard disk than we'd expect to find in a notebook. It even comes with a reasonable monitor, so you get a fully working, more impressive computer for the same price.
If mobility isn't important – and for many buyers of so-called 'desktop replacement' notebooks, it isn't – and you have the space at home, it's always worth considering the extra value you can get from a desktop such as this.
The Advanced Premium PC comes with an Intel quad-core processor (a Q6600, running at 2.4GHz) as well as 2GB of memory. Both are ideally suited to the Windows Vista Home Premium with which it's supplied, and they're accompanied by a 250GB hard disk and a multi-format DVD writer. The case is short and stubby, but reasonably well designed.
The DVD writer and memory card reader are hidden behind black flip-out panels (there's a free slot behind another panel should you wish to add another drive, such as a Blu-ray player). Inside the case there's plenty of room, with only one of the two memory slots taken up (meaning you can easily add more) and none of the other expansion slots used. There's also a spare internal bay for fitting an extra hard disk.
Everything is fairly neatly tidied away inside, with lots of room for air to flow, meaning it runs cooler and quieter (the cooler it is, the less it needs to use the fan). The reason none of the expansion slots are used is that the computer lacks a graphics card: it uses a built-in graphics processor rather than relying on an add-in card.
On such a powerful computer this puts little extra strain on the main processor, and it's fine for video playback and editing. Playing games causes more of a problem, though: it will only cope with recent games if the detail levels are turned down.
Given the other abilities of the computer, though, and the fact that a decent graphics card can be had for under £100, it's something that can be added later on by anyone who wants to play games. Another potential pitfall is that there's no DVI port (for more modern monitors), only a standard VGA socket (to which the supplied screen connects).
Again, it's not a big deal because adapters are available, and any graphics card will contain one. There are, however, six USB ports (four on the back, two under the panel at the front) and a network socket, although there is no Firewire connector. There's no extra software (in addition to Windows), but it comes with a decent Microsoft keyboard and mouse and there is a one-year collect-and-return warranty.
In all, despite the lack of a graphics card and Firewire port, there is more than enough inside the 3364-2354 to justify its price.