Arbico Excel 2168 CS review

A well-rounded PC with room for expansion and a smart monitor, but AMD Llano-powered systems are better value

9 Jan 2012
Our Rating 
3/5
Price when reviewed 
500
inc VAT

Specifications

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.

Arbico Excel 2168 CS

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 Excel 2168 CS

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.

Arbico Excel 2168 CS

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.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
Processor Intel Core i3-2120
Processor external bus 100MHz (DMI)
Processor multiplier x33
Processor clock speed 3.3GHz
Processor socket LGA1155
Memory 4
Memory type DDR3
Maximum memory 32GB
Motherboard Asustek P8Z68-V LX
Motherboard chipset Intel Z68

Ports

USB2 ports (front/rear) 2/6
Firewire ports (front/rear) 0/0
eSATA ports (front/rear) 0/0
Wired network ports 1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support none

Internal Expansion

Case tower
PCI-E x1 slots (free) 2 (2)
PCI-E x16 slots (free) 2 (2)
Free Serial ATA ports 4
Free memory slots 2
Free 3.5in drive bays 6

Hard Disk

Hard disk model(s) Seagate Barracuda (ST500DM002)
Interface SATA3
Total storage capacity 500GB

Graphics

Graphics card(s) Intel HD Graphics 2000
Graphics/video ports VGA, DVI, HDMI

Sound

Sound Realtek HD Audio
Sound outputs 7.1 line out, optical S/PDIF out
Speakers none

Removable Drives

Supported memory cards none
Optical drive type(s) DVD+/-RW +/-DL

Display

Viewable size 21.5 in
Screen model Acer S220HQL
Native resolution 1,920x1,080
Screen inputs VGA, DVI

Other Hardware

Keyboard Logitech K260
Mouse Logitech M210

Software

Software included none
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Operating system restore option Windows disc

Buying Information

Warranty two years RTB
Price £500
Details www.arbico.co.uk

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