PC Nextday Zoostorm 3362-4404 review

£499
Price when reviewed

Buying a Vista-ready PC needn’t break the bank: the Zoostorm 3362-4404 costs only £499 yet is powerful enough to run the Ultimate Edition of Vista and also the Aero graphics interface.

Despite being based around a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 820, it still managed 0.85 in our 2D application benchmarks. Video or audio encoding may take a while longer than with the Carrera, but the Zoostorm was never sluggish in general use.

The GeForce 7600 GS isn’t a terrible performer either. It will happily play most of the latest games at 1,024 x 768 – we recorded over 40fps in Far Cry and 35fps in Call of Duty 2. At 1,280 x 1,024, you’ll have to turn detail settings down low to break 30fps in Far Cry, though.

However, an Nvidia graphics card is an odd choice as the ECS motherboard only supports CrossFire, so you’d have to remove it to add two ATi cards in the future. Unusually, CrossFire is courtesy of Intel’s 945P Express rather than an ATi chipset. Two PCI slots are free and there’s a three-port FireWire card. The front panel FireWire port isn’t connected, though.

But with a dual-layer DVD writer and a 250GB hard disk, we can hardly complain about this or the lack of a second optical drive, especially when there’s a useful card reader occupying the top-most 3.5in front-panel bay.

The audio subsystem isn’t bad either – the six-channel onboard Realtek chip outputs to Zoostorm’s own S2176 2.1 speakers. While they lack a remote control, they provide decent quality sound for music and games alike.

There are some signs of the tight budget, though: no RAID, no Gigabit Ethernet, no additional software and no cordless peripherals. The most obvious sign is the AOC TFT, which only has a VGA input. Its looks are as basic as its image quality – contrast isn’t as good as others here, and backlighting isn’t as even. Thankfully, its response time is quick enough not to introduce smearing.

One surprise, though, is the year of on-site warranty at this price. The Zoostorm isn’t too noisy either – 34dBA when idle is reasonably quiet.

Ultimately, there are sacrifices at this price, but if you want a Vista-ready PC for the lowest possible price, the PC Nextday is a fine choice.

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