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PC Specialist Apollo HD2600 - PC Specialist Apollo HD2600
Round the back, it's good to see a large 120mm exhaust fan. Its extra size means it can spin nice and slowly to keep noise to a minimum while maintaining enough airflow to keep things cool. The back panel of the motherboard is well stacked with a sextet of USB ports and a pair of FireWire ports providing ample connectivity for all manner of peripherals. There's even an eSATA port adding the option of attaching a super fast external hard drive. For network connectivity, a single Gigabit Ethernet port and a connection for the external Wi-Fi aerial are also present. A PS2 port for an old keyboard is also provided but given that the system ships with a wireless keyboard and mouse this will likely never get used. The onboard audio has both optical and coaxial digital S/PDIF output as well as a full complement of six analogue inputs and outputs. All in all you shouldn't be left wanting on the connectivity front with this setup.
One of the attractions of buying a system with a large cheap case like this one is that there is ample room to add in extra components or to easily replace the original parts if they start to show their age. This is especially true if you plan on playing games as invariably it's the graphics card that will be the first component to fall behind the times. If you don't plan on playing games then there is very little need to buy a system of this size and opting for one with a small tidy case like the HP Pavilion S3000 series would probably be a better bet. However, for anyone that does anticipate that they may like to tinker with their PC further down the line, it's good to see the Trident case has a number of labour saving devices that make upgrading that much easier.
When the system arrives, the side panels are both screwed on and held fast by a pair of clips but by removing and discarding the screws the clips are sufficient to hold the panels in place. When upgrading in the future, this makes taking the panels off a much simpler and quicker operation (though of course it won't do your warranty any good). Once inside, the front fascia can be easily popped off by pulling on the green handle at the bottom of the case. This makes adding extra drives or other hardware into the front of the case a much simpler process. Helping the process even more are the simple push/pull retention clips used to hold hard disks and CD/DVD drives in place. Simply slide the drive in and push the green buttons into the screw holes of the drive and you're done (well, apart from attaching the cables). The final trick up the Trident's sleeve is the hinged hard drive cradle that swings outside the case, making it easy to access the drives within.
Nestling at the heart of the system is an Intel E6850 Core 2 Duo, which is the fastest dual core CPU on the planet. Ably assisting is an ASUS P5K-E motherboard, which uses Intel's own P35 chipset, and 2GB or Corsair XMS2 800MHz DDR2 RAM. It's great to see such high quality components being used on a budget system but, if anything, I would say the CPU is overkill for most peoples' needs and saving a few pennies by opting for an E6550 would be a good bet.
An ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT powers the graphics side of things and in terms of features this a great choice. HD video acceleration, HDCP compliant outputs, and DX10 support are all present and as an all-rounder it should cope with everything you throw at it. Unfortunately, for the more discerning gamer, the sheer horsepower of the HD 2600 XT may not be enough to satisfactorily game at the resolutions that the included monitor demands. Though they're quite a bit more expensive, going for a HD 2900 XT or 8800 GTS would be a much better solution.