Four Supercharged Desktops For Around £400

Last time, we had a look at what kind of bargain you can get yourself by building a PC system out of components with a total budget of £500.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to build a PC from scratch, though - so today, we’re having a look at four ready-made desktop systems, all priced at around £400.

The Acer Aspire X1301 is a great all-rounder that sells for £399 (including a free copy of SIMS 3 and free delivery) at Dabs. Unlike our systems yesterday, this PC comes complete with monitor, keyboard and mouse - and in many cases, a number of other gems.

First, there's a powerful quad-core processor, something that’s usually unheard of at this price. The AMD Athlon II X4 620, which is clocked at 2.6GHz and comes with 512KB L2 cache, is no slouch either.

The system is housed in a cute little micro tower with flaps that hide the optical drive and the memory card reader, as well as front-mounted USB and audio ports. The bundle also includes a 18.5-inch widescreen monitor with a stylish stand and a resolution of 1440x900 pixels.

Acer has opted for 3GB RAM, which means that you will need to get rid of a 1GB module if you want to upgrade to 4GB, the maximum that the motherboard supports. The 320GB hard disk drive which should be more than sufficient for most users.

Rather than using a separate graphics card, the Aspire X1301 relies on a built-in graphics module, an Nvidia Geforce 7100, which hives off a little bit of the system’s 3GB RAM. The number of expansion options in this system is bewildering.

You get two low-profile PCI Express X16 and X1 slots, one GbE LAN, two PS/2 ports, VGA, HDMI, nine USB ports, eSATA and FireWire, as well as standard audio ports. The system comes with Windows 7 Home Premium installed, as well as a number of software packages such as Microsoft Works 8.5 and Cyberlink PowerDVD.

If you want to upgrade your computer but don't need a new screen or an operating system, then the Zoostorm 7877-1014 may well be the perfect option. It’s an unassuming base unit with a keyboard and a mouse but packs some impressive specifications for the price.

At £405.77 with a full, three-year warranty (or £355.79 without), it’s great for home users and businesses alike. Like the X1301, it packs a quad-core processor - a powerful Intel Q8400 model running at 2.66GHz with 4MB cache.

It might be a few years old, but it still delivers some powerful numbers. The rest of the configuration is equally impressive: 4GB memory (with one memory slot left free to add more), a 1TB hard disk drive, six USB ports, a DVD writer, GbE LAN, audio, VGA and PS2 ports.

The Zoostorm uses a graphics chipset that’s built into its motherboard, which means it isn’t quite powerful enough to play the very latest games or stream full-HD content. It also lacks an onboard card reader - but even so, the Zoostorm 7877-1014 provides with stunning value for money.

Those looking for something a little more stylish may want to have a peek at the Lenovo C200 all-in-one instead. It’s available from Dabs, priced at £411.30.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a sexier PC than the C200 at this price. Its gorgeous shape is reminiscent of the Apple iMac family, except that for their colour scheme. It is based on a dual-core Atom D510 processor, clocked at 1.66GHz, and packs 2GB memory.

The Lenovo has a 320GB hard disk drive, a slot-loading DVD writer, awebcam, card reader, onboard Wi-Fi, five USB ports, two 3w speakers and an Nvidia ION graphics module with 256MB video memory - one of the fastest onboard graphics solutions on the market.

The 18.5-inch, 1366x768-pixel resolution display is also touch-sensitive - although unfortunately it’s of the single-touch variety, which means you won't be able to use more than one finger at a time, say to play piano onscreen.

Lenovo has also bundled Windows 7 Home plus a rescue application package called the OneKey Rescue System, which allows you to quickly diagnose when a system has become corrupted, and allows you to restore your PC back to a former, working state.

The last desktop we've chosen on our short list is the Zotac Z-Box Mini PC. At £438.99, it’s the most expensive of the lot but packs a huge amount of technology into a tiny box.

At 280x187x40mm, the system unit is very easily hide behind a plasma screen or LCD television, making it a very attractive option for a home theater setup. Its unique chassis houses a dual-core Intel Atom 525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, with an Nvidia ION GPU that has 512MB of DDR3 dedicated graphics memory.

Add to that a 250GB hard disk drive, 8-channel HD audio with digital SPDIF output, a slot-loading Blu-ray player and DVD writer, 300Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi and a memory card reader, and you have a near-perfect all-rounder.

Although the Zotac has no free internal expansion slots (except for one vacant SODIMM memory slot), it does have plenty of ports - gigabit Ethernet, six USB, eSATA, HDMI, DVI and VGA outputs. note that the device doesn't come with any operating system, but do include a three-year warranty.

Which of these desktop models you choose will depend on what you intend to do with it. But with options ranging from the Zoostorm, which is an ideal upgrade for those who have an OS and want a snappier PC for everyday use; to the ambitious Zotac Z-box, which specialises in media-centric applications - you’re bound to find something to suit you.