If you need a fast machine but don't want to spend a small fortune on a high-end model, then consider Plus Corporation's Aspect 3500, which is the most powerful mid-range PC we have seen to date.
It is based on the DFI LANParty UT NF4 SLI Expert motherboard, which houses an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 256MB GeForce 7800GT graphics adapter. These components make it an excellent gaming system, capable of playing current games at high resolutions with high detail levels.
Its performance in PC WorldBench 5 was on par with many high-end systems we have tested and its 3DMark2005 score was double the score of most other mid-range systems we have tested.
But performance isn't the only stand-out of this machine. It also comes with a 19in BenQ LCD monitor and a cordless Logitech keyboard and mouse. Most of the other mid-range machines we have seen come with corded input devices and 17in LCD monitors, so Plus Corporation has definitely upped the ante in these areas.
For storage, the machine is equipped with a 200GB Seagate drive and a DVD burner. Its Antec case can cater for up to four 5.25in drives and seven 3.5in drives, and its hard drive bays are removable, for easy upgrading. The hard drive mounting points in the drive bay are equipped with rubber washers, which aim to reduce the vibrations of the spinning drives. We didn't notice any vibration or noise problems while testing this machine.
Air-flow inside the case is managed by a 12cm exhaust fan, and there is space for a second 12cm fan to be added at the front of the case, to cool down the hard drive. All cables have been neatly dealt with so there are no loose ends to speak of.
The only thing we don't like about this system is the door on the front panel, which hides the DVD burner. We think this is unnecessary for a home system.
Plus Corporation supports the system with a 3-year on-site warranty.
Verdict: this machine is affordable, fast, expandable and comfortable to use. We highly recommend it for anyone who is in the market for a fast all-round system. Price: $2499 Vendor: Plus Corporation Phone: 1800 007 587 URL: www.pluscorp.biz Specifications: AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU; NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset; 256MB GeForce 7800GT graphics card; 19in BenQ FP91G LCD monitor; 200GB Seagate hard drive; 1GB RAM; DVD burner; integrated sound; 8 x USB 2.0 ports; 1 x FireWire; 2x Gigabit Ethernet; mid-tower case; 4 x 5.25in and 7 x 3.5in drive bays; speakers; cordless Logitech keyboard and mouse; Windows XP Pro