Arbico Excel 2168 CS review
3.3GHz Intel Core i3-2120, 4GB RAM, 21.5in 1,920x1,080 display, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
The current increase in hard disk prices has led PC makers to produce some interesting systems, with some PCs being fitted with an SSD in place of a hard disk, while others were well-prepared and supplied a 1TB disk – the kind of capacity we’d expect at this price. Arbico has compromised on disk space and opted for a 500GB model, not the rest of the specification is decent, including an Intel Core i3 processor and a 22in Full HD monitor. It has also chosen a decent motherboard with plenty of room for expansion.
Intel's Core i3-2120 may be at the lower end of the company's range, but it's still a capable processor, scoring 67 overall in our multimedia benchmarks - a respectable score, and one that shows that the Excel 2168 CS is capable of taking on most Windows tasks, excluding heavy video- or photo-editing work.
The i3-2120's integrated graphics chip isn't very powerful however. It's capable of decoding HD video content, but its gaming potential is limited. A score of 13.2fps in our DiRT 3 benchmark is about as low as it gets and, even with settings turned down to their lowest, you'll find most games run very slowly, if at all.
While we've come to expect a Full HD monitor with even the cheapest PCs, the Acer S220HQL that ships with the Excel 2168 CS is cut above the usual budget monitors. It's incredibly thin, although this means that it requires an external power brick and can't be wall-mounted. Its LED backlight is bright, if a bit uneven, but image quality is good, with bold colours and good contrast. Arbico cuts a corner by including only a VGA cable in the box, which means you’ll have to buy a DVI lead to use the monitor's digital input.
Arbico's choice of peripherals is also stylish and practical. The wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse set requires only a single USB port for its dongle. The mouse is a bit lightweight for and the keyboard’s keys have a soggy action that provides little feedback for touch-typists.
Buying a PC for £500, you shouldn't expect a decent 3D graphics card. The Excel 2168 CS is perfectly suited to upgrades later, though. Its Asus motherboard has plenty of room for expansion cards as there are two free PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots and three PCI slots. The branded 500W power supply has two free Molex connectors, so you'll just need a Molex-to-PCI-E adaptor to power a new graphics card.
You also get four free SATA headers and plenty of free drive bays for adding extra hard disks or optical drives - three of the bays are externally accessible, so they're ideal for memory card readers or fan controllers. Two of the four RAM slots are free too, so you won't need to throw away the existing memory in order to upgrade. As usual, Arbico has made the case interior tidy, with well-bundled cables, and fans at the front and back of the case for adequate cooling while producing very little noise.
The Excel 2168 CS is a well-built PC with decent components and a sensible approach to graphics, but sadly it can't compete with AMD-powered PCs at the same price, which are faster and have better graphics performance. The Palicomp Hyper Flame is faster in both Windows applications and games, and comes with a Blu-ray drive and a 1TB hard disk, so it's far better value.