A fast processor, big hard disk and highly upgradeable case make the Core i3 Blast 530OC37-24 a compelling choice, but it's one-year warranty means it just misses an award.
3.7GHz Intel Core i3-530, 4GB RAM, 24in 1,920×1,080 display, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Palicomp’s Core i3 Blast surprised us with its generous specification, considering the low price. Its Intel Core i3-530 has been overclocked from its stock speed of 2.93GHz up to a blistering 3.7GHz, so it was no surprise to find this PC rivalling far more expensive models. Even more generous is the 1TB hard disk, and there’s plenty of room left in the case for future upgrades.
The CoolerMaster Elite 330 case is a popular choice, and it has plenty of room to work in. The numerous free drive bays all have handy tool-free mounting brackets, so you won’t even need a screwdriver to add a new hard disk or optical drive. Palicomp has tidied most of the cables out of the way, but hasn’t completely hidden them, so if you wanted to upgrade to a dedicated graphics card, for example, you won’t have to take the case apart to find a free power connector.
The Core i3’s integrated graphics can’t handle the latest 3D games but there’s a free PCI-E x16 slot, plus a free PCI slot and two PCI-E x1 slots. Expansion isn’t limited to the inside of the case. At the rear you’ll find a USB3 port, which is the latest and fastest standard for external storage. If one port isn’t enough, you can buy a USB3 hub to add more. There’s also an eSATA port and eight USB ports. Audio output is catered for by five 3.5mm sockets as well as an optical S/PDIF port.
At this budget we’d expect some cut corners, and the keyboard and mouse set is as basic as they come. The keyboard is spongy and the mouse is far too light and has only two buttons. The trade-off is that you get a set of Logitech 2.1 speakers which produce a crisp, clear sound at a reasonable volume. There’s also a memory card reader mounted on the front of the case; it accepts a variety of older formats, but can’t read the newer SDHC cards, which are very common now.
For £149 extra, you can order the Core i3 Blast with a 24in BenQ G2420HDBL monitor. This is every bit as good as its smaller cousin, the G2220HD, which won our Best Buy award last year (see Labs, Shopper 261). It has a bright, even backlight and strong colours, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better monitor for this price. Palicomp supplies a DVI cable so you don’t have to rely on the analogue VGA cable that comes in the box.
The Core i3 Blast 530OC37-24’s fast processor and massive hard disk make it great value, and it wipes the floor with most other PCs at this price. However, it falls down on warranty with just one year of return-to-base cover. The OP3 Mars has a far better warranty and although it only has a 500GB hard disk, it’s the better deal for most people.
|Processor||Intel Core i3-530|
|Processor external bus||170MHz (3.7GHz QPI Link)|
|Processor clock speed||3.7GHz|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel H55|
|USB2 ports (front/rear)||3/6|
|Firewire ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|eSATA ports (front/rear)||0/1|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||N/A|
|PCI-E x1 slots (free)||2 (2)|
|PCI-E x16 slots (free)||1 (1)|
|Free Serial ATA ports||3|
|Free memory slots||0|
|Free 3.5in drive bays||4|
|Hard disk model(s)||Western Digital Caviar Green (WD10EARS)|
|Total storage capacity||1,000GB|
|Graphics card(s)||Intel GMA HD|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, DVI, HDMI|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio|
|Sound outputs||7.1 line out, optical S/PDIF out|
|Speakers||Logitech S220 2.1|
|Supported memory cards||SD, MMC, Memory Stick Duo, CF|
|Optical drive type(s)||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
|Viewable size||24 in|
|Screen model||BenQ G2420HDBL|
|Screen inputs||VGA, DVI|
|Software included||Nero 9|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||backup and recovery software|
|Warranty||one year RTB|