Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mesh Elite Inspire CA

Mesh Elite Inspire CA

A complete PC with good peripherals

There are two questions people always ask you when your job is writing about PCs. One is when's the best time to buy a PC, and the other is when's the best time to get rid of it. Well, here’s the answer to both: there is no right time. Whenever you do it, you might have got a better deal a month later. Sorry, we realise that’s not helpful. But the good news is, if there’s no right time, there’s no wrong time either.

Setting aside the when, the next question is what to buy - and that also means deciding what to keep. Let’s say you have a five-year-old desktop PC with a keyboard and mouse you picked up in Asda and a 21in monitor that's been looking a bit the worse for wear. In theory, you could hang on to those bits and bobs and plug them back into a new PC. After all, it’s the core components that count. Then again, the parts that interact with your hands and eyes are also pretty important. Shouldn’t you just invest in a whole new setup?

This bundle from Mesh makes a convincing argument for it. It’s a tower system with a fast i5 processor from Intel’s latest Skylake range, a decent Full HD monitor, a solid brand-name keyboard and mouse, and even a set of powered speakers. All for only £549, which you could easily spend on a PC alone.

The 24in monitor, Acer’s K242HL looks smart and gives great picture quality. Deep blacks contribute to punchy contrast, and colour is accurate enough for photo editing. Logitech’s popular MK270 wireless keyboard and mouse are well-made and comfortable to use. Meanwhile, the Creative A250 speaker set provides clear sound from its two compact stereo drivers, backed by lots of bass presence from the subwoofer unit, should you choose to turn it up.

The PC itself comes in a plain black case (made by Fractal Design) that’s no bigger than necessary, while still providing room for expansion. With nothing spent on soundproofing, it’s not the quietest PC, so the best place for it is probably under your desk. In our tests, the i5-6400 processor worked as briskly as we’d expect with everyday Windows tasks. However, unlike some pricier i5 and i7 machines, it plodded a little in more ambitious tasks. You could add a graphics card later in the PCI-Express x16 slot, but bear in mind the limitations of the 400W power supply. You could probably get away with playing more basic 3D games without it.

A sensible 8GB of memory is supplied, and even more sensibly it’s on a single module, leaving the second slot free to add another if required: a cost-effective upgrade at around £30. The 1TB hard drive is a Seagate Barracuda, nippier than the slow drives occasionally found on cheaper PCs. There’s room for more drives inside, of course, as well as three fast USB 3.0 ports for external storage. One of these could also be used for an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, if your router’s too far away to run a cable to the Gigabit Ethernet socket. There are also three USB 2.0 ports – fewer than on some systems, but more than enough for most people.

Although the Elite Inspire CA isn’t a top performer, it’s a notch above a budget PC, and with the extras it works out as great value. Sooner or later there’ll be a better one for less, but if you want our advice, sieze the moment.

The trick to creating value in mid-range computers is not spending money where you don’t have to, and Mesh has got that pretty much spot-on.

2.7GHz Intel quad-core i5-6400 • 8GB memory • 1TB hard drive • 24in 1920x1080-pixel display • Gigabit Ethernet • HDMI • DVI • VGA • Windows 10 Home • 358x175x410xmm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty