Relying solely on the integrated graphics of its Core i3-550 processor for gaming, the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC is an ideal choice for non-gamers who would prefer the cash spent elsewhere.

Relying solely on the integrated graphics of its Core i3-550 processor for gaming, the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC is an ideal choice for non-gamers who would prefer the cash spent elsewhere.

Unlike many of the desktop PCs we review that follow this money-saving route, the Chillblast Fusion Assassin doesn’t come with a magnificent full-HD screen – rather, Chillblast supplies a basic 19in model that supports a 1440x900 resolution. In fact, the areas that have benefited the most from the graphics budget cutbacks are sound and processing power – the Assassin comes with a full set of external speakers and a subwoofer, while its 3.2GHz Core i3-550 is the fastest processor in the chart.

A problem handling one component of our benchmark meant the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC was unable to live up to its potential in real-world testing, however, scoring just 123 points in WorldBench 6. Under normal circumstances, we’d expect the Assassin to steal top honours with around 129 points.

Gaming framerates were less than impressive, as you might expect from integrated graphics. The Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC scraped 17fps in Fear, demonstrating that even older games will be unplayable unless you drop the quality and resolution settings.

The Asus motherboard offers limited expansion options, but two spare memory slots are available. A more pleasing finding was the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC's beefy 700W-rated power supply unit (PSU). A 500GB hard drive is also provided.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-22 USB3
  2. Chillblast Fusion Assassin
  3. Eclipse Solar i54r567
  4. Arbico i3-5445 XL
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo XT

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

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Relying solely on the integrated graphics of its Core i3-550 processor for gaming, the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC is an ideal choice for non-gamers who would prefer the cash spent elsewhere.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s Core i3 processor has the sub-£500 PC category sewn up. This issue we have examples ranging from the 2.93GHz Core i3-530 to the 3.2GHz Core i3-550. These chips have integrated graphics processors, which let vendors build a capable system at lower cost by omitting a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s Phenom II X2 550 is another good choice of CPU for a budget PC, while quad-core processors can be found from both Intel and AMD at this price point. The AMD Athlon X4 630 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

Memory: In the post-Vista era, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Some CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper and bodes well for performance. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price point, although you can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized drive. Hard-drive space is easy to add later, however.

If you’re planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you’ve got spare drive bays inside your PC’s case.

Get a drive that can write to the KR formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to get 8.5GB on to one disc, get a drive that can write to dual-layer discs (+/-R DL) at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

Flat-panel: It’s the component you’ll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good at this price. Look for a monitor with a DVI or HDMI digital connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one, too.

If display size or quality is of critical importance to you – and you’re willing to cut costs elsewhere – you may be able to get a 22in 1080p flat-panel.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. However, decent graphics cards get cheaper all the time, and budget PCs can now handle games that were unthinkable a few months ago.

ATI’s HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but you may be able to find an HD 5850 if you shop around. This will give you better performance, but may require compromises elsewhere.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version. And if you don’t play games, consider a PC that relies on integrated graphics.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older integrated solutions. These PCs support HD video and Windows 7’s Aero effects.

Lower-spec cards such as the HD 5450 don’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel integrated graphics, but do offer DirectX 11.0 support. Many can also drive multiple monitors, so you can hook up your TV and display at the same time.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components installed, there’s simply no need for a more powerful supply. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point. Most motherboards can handle six-channel sound.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

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Chillblast Fusion Assassin: Specs

  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i3-550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P7H55-M motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Asus VW193D-B (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • Intel GMA HD (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-4600 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i3-550
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P7H55-M motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Asus VW193D-B (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • Intel GMA HD (games scores: Fear [1024x768] = 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-4600 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

Benchmarking issues aside, the Chillblast Fusion Assassin budget desktop PC is a powerful, well-rounded budget PC, with enough graphics power to run Windows’ Aero interface and deliver smooth video playback.