The lack of a Full HD monitor makes this poor value compared to other PCs here, but we're more concerned by the lack of extra cooling for the overclocked CPU, coupled with the minimal warranty.
3.4GHz Intel Core i3-530, 2.000000 RAM, 22in 1,680×1,050 display, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
PC Specialist’s Aurea i3-530X is based on a new Intel Core i3-530 processor, which means it has an integrated HD graphics chip, and as a result there’s room on the motherboard for a dedicated graphics card, should you wish to upgrade. As it stands, it’s not capable of playing games – even with settings turned right down, we couldn’t get a playable frame rate in Call of Duty 4.
It can however play HD video content, although it’s a shame the monitor won’t be able to display it at its full 1,920×1,080 resolution. The supplied HannsG 22in monitor only supports 1,680×1,050, but at least it has a DVI input, and PC Specialist bundle a decent DVI cable in the box. We found its colours to be reasonably natural, although a slight red cast and average contrast meant images didn’t look quite as punchy as we’d like.
While a free graphics card slot will please those who prefer to choose their own graphics card, those who aren’t interested in gaming will appreciate the raw power that PC Specialist have achieved by overclocking the Core i3 chip from its stock speed of 2.93GHz to 3.4GHz. This resulted in a gain of 13 points overall in our benchmarks compared to a similarly specified PC, and makes it one of the fastest Core i3 PCs we’ve seen.
However, PC Specialist only offers a one year warranty, which may worry those who are concerned that the extra speed may come at the expense of reliability, especially as the company hasn’t replaced the stock Intel CPU fan. Enthusiasts might be happy to upgrade the fan, but those looking for a PC that won’t require much maintenance should be wary.
Elsewhere in the case, we found plenty of room for expansion. Two free hard disk bays should suffice for most people, and there are three free RAM slots. This is unusual, as DDR3 memory is dual channel and is normally found in pairs, but we tested the system with two 1GB modules and found no significant difference in performance. Your first upgrade should be to add one more 2GB module, however, especially if you plan on editing large images or video files.
On the outside, there are nine USB ports but no eSATA or FireWire ports. A memory card reader is useful for those with a digital camera. As well as 5.1 surround sound outputs, the HDMI port can output digital audio to an AV amplifier. The wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse set only use one USB port, and are of a good quality: the keyboard has a light action, and the mouse has a large wheel that can be pushed side-to-side for horizontal scrolling.
The inclusion of a new Core i3 processor, leaving a spare PCI-E x16 slot for a future graphics upgrade, is a sensible design. However, overclocking the processor without upgrading the stock CPU fan is a bit worrying, especially as PC Specialist don’t offer a longer warranty, and the lack of a Full HD monitor lets the Aurea down. Mesh’s Ice3 530CS also has a Core i3-530 and a free graphics card slot but comes with a Full HD monitor, while CyberPower’s Ultra Triton XT has a Full HD monitor and comes ready to play games.
|Processor||Intel Core i3-530|
|Processor external bus||150MHz (3.3GHz QuickPath Interconnect)|
|Processor clock speed||3.4GHz|
|Level 1 cache||2x 64KB|
|Level 2 cache||2x 256KB|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel H55|
|USB2 ports (front/rear)||3/6|
|Firewire ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|eSATA ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||none|
|PCI-E x1 slots (free)||2 (2)|
|PCI-E x16 slots (free)||1 (1)|
|Free Serial ATA ports||4|
|Free memory slots||3|
|Free 3.5in drive bays||2|
|Hard disk model(s)||Samsung SpinPoint F3 HD502HJ|
|Total storage capacity||500GB|
|Graphics card(s)||Intel GMA HD|
|Graphics/video ports||HDMI, DVI, VGA|
|Sound||Realtek High Definition Audio|
|Sound outputs||5.1 line out, stereo line out, mic in|
|3.5in floppy drive||no|
|Supported memory cards||SDHC, MMC, Memory Stick Pro, CompactFlash, MicroDrive, SmartMedia|
|Optical drive model||TSSTcorp SH-S223C|
|Optical drive type(s)||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
|Viewable size||22 in|
|Screen model||HannsG Hi221|
|Screen inputs||DVI, VGA|
|Keyboard||Logitech Deluxe 660 Cordless|
|Mouse||Logitech Cordless Optical Mouse RX 650|
|Software included||Nero Burning ROM 9|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||Windows disc|
|Warranty||one year collect and return|