Updated: Evesham Solar 8600GTS review

Price when reviewed

You’ve got to be impressed with what Evesham has managed to cram into this £765 PC: a hefty dual core Intel CPU, 2GB of RAM, 300GB of hard disk space and a huge 22in widescreen TFT. And that’s before we even consider Nvidia’s brand new mid-range DirectX 10 graphics card.

Updated: Evesham Solar 8600GTS review

On the processor front, the Core 2 Duo E6400 runs at 2.13GHz and powers the Solar 8600GTS to a healthy score of 1.09 in our application benchmarks. And there are no problems with the memory-hungry Vista Home Premium Edition either, as Evesham gives you a generous 2GB to play with – more than enough to keep it running smoothly.

But the main attraction here is the graphics card – the freshly unveiled GeForce 8600 GTS. With previous mid-range cards from Nvidia (such as the GeForce 6600 GT and 7600 GT) proving exceptionally good value, the 8600 GTS has a lot to live up to – we’ve detailed the new architecture and the full range of the 8600 series cards here.

At the native 1,680 x 1,050 resolution of the 22in TFT, we saw playable frame rates in all our test games, although we did have to sacrifice antialiasing and anisotropic filtering settings. Call of Duty 2 ran at 33fps, Far Cry at 41fps and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at 40fps – unheard of results for a mid-range card. Pre-release pricing has the 8600 GTS at between $199 and $229, so we’re expecting that to be around £110.

It’s impressive stuff, but there are inevitably areas of compromise, with the Iiyama ProLite E2200WS screen (an analogue-only version of the panel reviewed here) clearly one of them. Despite its imposing physical screen size, the analogue D-SUB input results in a needless digital-to-analogue-to-digital signal conversion process.

Image quality suffers as a result, and it also leaks light from around the edges of the screen at higher brightness settings. But it’s the poor contrast range that’s most annoying, with shadows and brightly lit areas losing significant detail. Given that the screen is what you spend most of your time looking at (and that it may last you longer than your PC), it’s a disappointing, if understandable, compromise.

Another potential problem is the PSU. Rated at only 350W, it only just complies with Nvidia’s minimum requirements for the graphics card and could be a source of system instability. We noticed no problems during testing (even when looping a game test overnight) but you’re right on the limit of the PSU can deliver and issues could arise if you decide to upgrade in the future – even an extra hard disk may tip it over the edge. However, Evesham does back up its design choice with an excellent two year on-site warranty with a third year reverting to return-to-base cover. And if you’re really concerned about the PSU Evesham will upgrade it to a hefty 600W model for only £55 more.

There’s a lot to like here then; the performance of the system – both in games and applications – is massively impressive given the very low price. And while the screen is one area of compromise, it’s adequate for most uses; aliens and the like will look just as scary even if the shadows from which they jump are a bit flat and empty-looking. The power supply is an area of concern, but the upgrade is reasonably priced and gives great peace of mind. As does the excellent warranty. For the money, it’s a seriously attractive system and well worth buying if you’re just not willing to spend much money in your next PC.

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