Eclipse Zenith i82n98GTX review

£499
Price when reviewed

The Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX is the flagship of the company’s new 9000 series of graphics cards and, as such, costs almost £200 – so we really didn’t expect it to appear in a PC that costs just £500 and includes a monitor, keyboard and mouse, too. Sadly, we’re not convinced that the Zenith i82n98GTX offers a well-rounded package compared with other recent contenders for the sub-£1,000 A List crown.

There’s no doubt that the 9800 GTX provides blistering 3D performance. It may use the same G92 core as the older 8800-series cards, but an increase in the core clock speed (1.5GHz to 1.68GHz) and the number of stream processors (112 to 128) help it achieve higher frame rates than the older cards it has replaced.

In our High Quality settings test, for instance, the Zenith breezed to a superb 32fps in Crysis, the most demanding game on the market today – when other machines flounder. The Mesh Elite Pulse HD (web ID 175197) and Dell XPS 420 (web ID: 162588) scored just 20 and 21fps respectively. The Medium and Low quality tests provided similarly impressive results of 58 and 103fps, indicating this machine’s ample gaming ability.

Performance elsewhere follows suit, with the Zenith’s 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8200 processor earning a decent set of results in our application-based benchmarks. The overall score of 1.40 isn’t as high as some of the more expensive systems we’ve seen, but beats the 1.32 scored by the Mesh – and is narrowly behind the 1.51 scored by the Dell XPS 420 with its quad-core processor.

It’s worth remembering, too, that both of these recent competitors are more expensive than the Eclipse, while the A-Listed CyberPower Gamer Infinity 550 (web ID: 164577) scored only 1.27 and costs £595. The Intel processor in the Eclipse also lends itself to overclocking, so you could extract even more performance with little outlay – perhaps only a new heatsink – if you really want to push the processor.

Unfortunately, the presence of the impressive graphics and processor means corners have been cut elsewhere. A 160GB hard disk is positively minute compared with those of rivals – the Mesh Elite Pulse HD has 500GB of storage, and the current A List champion, the PC Specialist Apollo Q6600GT (web ID: 164694) provides a generous terabyte. In contrast, 149GB of formatted space looks positively mean here.

The monitor isn’t too impressive, either: the 19in Hanns.G HW191D is a deeply average panel that, while capable for work and the internet, isn’t up to detailed image editing or getting the most out of games or movies. It looks positively undernourished when compared with the panels offered with rival machines: the Mesh includes a 24in Iiyama screen and the PC Specialist comes with a 22in TFT.

Other peripherals also reflect the lower price of this package. A basic Microsoft keyboard and mouse set are adequate at best, and there are no speakers. The Mesh, by contrast, packed in a 2.1 set, and a full 5.1 surround sound kit is included with the A-Listed PC Specialist.

The chassis is another area where cost-cutting is particularly evident. It’s a flimsy plastic-and-metal design that does little to inspire confidence, although there’s plenty of room inside for potential upgrades. Three 5.25in bays and five smaller 3.5in bays (three internal and two forward-facing) cater for extra optical drives and hard disks, or the addition of a card reader.

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The interior is kept cool by some intelligent and sensible design. A low-profile Intel cooler is about half the height of Intel’s standard CPU fan, and any stray cables have been tied to the side of the case with almost obsessive attention to detail. Wires are lashed to 5.25in bays as well as all sides of the case, and the CPU power cable is even tucked under the motherboard before returning to the powerful 600W PSU.

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