PC Nextday Zoostorm 2-4408 Starter PC Inverness

Should your next PC be a desktop or a laptop? Laptop sales are set to surpass desktops sometime this year. On the surface, it's easy to see why. Laptops now come with dual-core processors and plenty of RAM, even in budget models.

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PC Nextday Zoostorm 2-4408 Starter PC

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Should your next PC be a desktop or a laptop? Laptop sales are set to surpass desktops sometime this year. On the surface, it's easy to see why. Laptops now come with dual-core processors and plenty of RAM, even in budget models. You can work where you choose around the home, and pop the portable away when you need to clear some space.

But a desktop PC still has many advantages over a similarly priced laptop. It'll usually be faster, have a far bigger hard disk, and have a 3D graphics card for playing games. Its monitor will be bigger and offer a higher resolution, and you'll get speakers that do justice to your music. This Zoostorm PC from PC Nextday has all these advantages, plus a few others.

Hidden depths

Admittedly, its case isn't very impressive. The black and silver finish is a bit banal, and it's hard to get at the innards, as there's no easy side panel access. Once inside, however, there's plenty of space for upgrades. There are free slots and drive bays for everything you might need, including empty memory slots should you want to upgrade the RAM.

1GB of RAM is fitted as standard, enough to run Windows Vista and cope with demanding tasks like photo and video editing. Alongside is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and the combination proved quick in our application benchmarks, with an impressive score of 142%: faster than we've seen from any budget laptop, and equalling the best budget PCs.

All that computing power will come in handy, as the installed Windows Vista Home Premium operating system uses up a sizable chunk of resources compared to the old Windows XP. Home Premium comes with Windows Media Center, too, making it easier to browse your media files and more fun to play them. Add an internal TV tuner and you can use the excellent TV viewing software to watch and record your favourite shows.

The 250GB hard disk provides ample storage for video, music and photo files. A memory card reader on the front of the PC accepts all the major card formats, making it easy to copy your photos across. There's also the usual DVD writer for making backups or burning your home movies to disc.

This PC is powerful enough to play high definition (HD) movie files smoothly. Unfortunately, the supplied display isn't a widescreen model, but you can't have everything for £600. The monitor is fine for general Windows use, although more demanding tests showed that it has issues with finely graduated colours, so precise photo-editing work could be compromised. Its 8ms response time (lower numbers are better here) is sufficient for enjoying blur-free movies and games.

The Zoostorm comes fitted with an nVidia GeForce 7600GT graphics card. This will run modern games, but you may have to reduce the detail settings a little to get the frame rate really smooth. If you don't play games, this isn't a wasted component: not only does it help accelerate the playback of HD video files, but it's also useful for creating Windows Vista's fancy-looking 3D Aero desktop.

Welcome additions

Despite all the quality components inside this PC, corners haven't been cut with the other peripherals. The mouse and keyboard are decent Microsoft examples. The 2.1 speakers are well built, with both the subwoofer and stereo satellites made of wood. They sound a lot better than many of the budget plastic speakers we see from other manufacturers.

With a decent specification, a good range of peripherals and plenty of space for expansion, the PC Nextday is an excellent buy. Not only will it complete tough computing tasks at speed, it's also far more upgradable than a laptop, which should save you money in the long run too.

System Specifications

Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 (2.0GHz)

1GB RAM

250GB hard disk

Verdict

It may not be as neat as a notebook, but this budget desktop gives you a lot more power. A great all-round budget PC that's well suited for almost any computing task.

Author: Seth Barton

Computer Buyer Online