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The single most important element of any gaming system is its graphics, and here CyberPower has stuck with an AMD/ATI Radeon 4850. While this card won an award when we reviewed it last year, things have moved on since then - but it's still a decent option at the Infinity i5 Hercules SE's price point. In Call of Duty 4 for example, it returned an eminently playable 56 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,200 with details at maximum and two samples of anti-aliasing. As usual though, Crysis did not run as happily. At the same resolution, the game was just about playable at high detail with an average of 24fps, but we had to drop down to 1,680 x 1,050 to get a (mostly) smooth 27fps.
At this stage some of you might be considering buying this PC to throw in a second Radeon 4850 card at a later date. However, this is not a good option thanks to a quirk of the Gigabyte motherboard. You see, despite high-end features like Ultra Durable 3 technology and claimed support for CrossFireX, the GA-P55M-UD2's second 16x slot actually runs at only 4x maximum as opposed to the usual 8x (for P55 boards).
Of course there's always the option to upgrade the primary card to begin with, and CyberPower offers the full gamut of nVidia and ATI cards - all the way up to the GeForce GTX295 or fantastic Radeon HD 5870, a single one of which will more than blow dual 4850s out of the water. If you are going this route, the £208 HD 5850 is currently the best value upgrade though. With a 700W PSU there should certainly be enough power for even the biggest cards - despite the generic-looking Win Power unit CyberPower has used here failing to inspire too much confidence.
A minor gripe with this PC concerns its default desktop wallpaper. Of course this is incredibly easy to rectify, but what possessed CyberPower to foist this messy, crowded monstrosity on users in the first place is beyond us. Otherwise the install of Vista Premium 64-bit is nice and clean, just the way gamers like it. Naturally, this close to release date a voucher for a Windows 7 upgrade is also included.
Overall then, how does this PC fare? Its sub-£600 price makes it one of the cheapest gaming systems we've reviewed recently, and it's good to see you can get a very capable and future-proof machine for that money these days, especially considering it's only £80 more than the deplorable Advent PQG9002 we reviewed not too long ago.
In fact the only real weak link in this good-value gamer system is its graphics, which are adequate for most games at moderate resolutions but should be the first port of call when upgrading. While we do usually prefer better graphics over a faster CPU though, in this case the future-proofing provided by the P55 platform is worth the trade-off. Having said all that, the Infinity i5 Hercules SE is not quite as special as its name would imply and not without its faults. As we should be getting a few other systems in soon around this price point it's worth keeping an eye out before making your buying decision.
If you want a new Core i5 gaming system that won't break the bank, CyberPower's Infinity i5 Hercules SE is definitely worth considering, especially if you don't mind upgrading the graphics card at a later date.
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