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It’s a hard fact of life that nothing you buy is perfect. However when you’re buying on a budget, significant compromises have to be made. The difference between a good product and a poor one is where those compromises are made.

To fit our minimum specification into a £999 PC has been a struggle for the contestants in this group test, but it has at least produced some excellent value machines. Overall we’ve seen that when it comes to PC styling, black is very much the new beige - with copious amounts of blue lighting thrown in for good measure. Multivision and Mesh have got this side of things right, Jal and Scan could do with a touch more refinement and the jury is still out on the Evesham.

When it comes to storage capacity, you shouldn’t have less than 120GB in a £999 system. Mesh disappointed here with a measly 80GB, but hats off to Multivision for getting it right.

You’ll note that neither of the winners sport DVD Writers. While some might see this as essential, we were looking for an overall family PC and for most that means that DVD writers are not essential. The systems that did include them made too many sacrifices in other areas. If you want a system with a DVD Writer and quality throughout the rest of the machine you’ll have to spend over the £1,000 mark.

If you’re after a good budget gaming system, the Multivision is the best of this bunch. The graphics and 17in monitor are all top notch and the cavernous hard disk won’t go unappreciated either. The processor isn’t a Barton but you could pick up higher a rated one in a few months when Athlon XP prices drop as the Athlon 64 enters the mainstream. While the graphics card may not have integrated the TV Tuner and video inputs this functionality is provided by the MSI TV Tuner card instead.

Multivision Ionix 59 Delta

What we were looking for though is the best overall family package and the Jal fits the bill nicely. The case may not look as stylish as some of the others but its internal components are quality throughout. The All-in-Wonder 9800SE graphics card provides a great mix of features and performance and is a good partner for the 15in flat panel screen. The wireless keyboard and mouse are superb, saving desktop clutter and enabling you to use the PC from a distance if you hook it up to a larger display. You might want to use the Jal as a main DVD player as the system is supplied with a quality set of surround-sound speakers in the guise of the Altec Lansing 251s. The icing on the cake though is the Lexmark multi-function printer, which combines scanning and inkjet printing in a one box. For an all round package you couldn’t’ ask for more.

Jal TR2800F

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