The Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe is a smart-looking PC, finished in black and silver with subtle blue illumination, while its 3GHz dual-core AMD Phenom II X2 545 offers a great deal of power for your money.

The Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe is a smart-looking PC, finished in black and silver with subtle blue illumination. It's powered by a fast 3GHz dual-core AMD Phenom II X2 545, which offers a great deal of power for your money. This chip also helps the Battleaxe to a WorldBench 6 score of 113 points.

Unfortunately for Chillblast, Arbico's same-priced Phenom edges ahead of the Fusion Battleaxe with the 3.1GHz version of the same processor.

The Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe's graphics are provided by the popular Radeon HD 5670, a DirectX 11.0-compatible card. It offers good performance and fancy in-game special effects, but it can't match the raw speed of older cards, such as the HD 4770 or HD 4850 seen elsewhere.

The 19in Acer display offers good image quality. It has a tidy, minimal design with a thin bezel, and is a good match for the Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe's system case.

Inside, the Asus M2N68-AM Plus motherboard has only two memory slots, both of which have already been filled with the supplied 4GB of RAM. This is true of most AMD-based systems at this price point. If you're thinking of upgrading, note that you'll need to replace rather than add to the Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe's existing chips.

Pleasingly, Chillblast has managed to stretch the budget to include a set of stereo speakers and a subwoofer, making this a far more engaging PC for both gaming and listening to music at no extra cost.

Chart ranking: Budget PCs (issue 178)

  1. CyberPower Ultra Athenna Elite
  2. Arbico Phenom 5570HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe
  4. Mesh Matrix DX 250
  5. Eclipse Matrix A62R567

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The Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe is a smart-looking PC, finished in black and silver with subtle blue illumination, while its 3GHz dual-core AMD Phenom II X2 545 offers a great deal of power for your money.

Buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550 is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. You can also now find quad-core CPUs in this price range from both AMD and Intel. The AMD Athlon X4 620 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

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

Some CPUs mandate DDR3 RAM, while others can use both this and DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper now, 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; 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.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -/+R 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.

AMD's HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC. However, you may find better performance for your money from the older HD 4850 and HD 4770. Performance will vary considerably depending on which games you play.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if available. And if you don't play games at all, consider purchasing a machine that relies on integrated graphics.

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. If you plan to upgrade your system - and in particular the graphics card - then your PSU must be able to deliver enough juice to power your new components. 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.

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>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe: Specs

  • 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M2N68-AM Plus motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 600W Storm PSU
  • 19in Acer V193WA (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 46/15fps
  • Fear = 120fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 113
  • 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M2N68-AM Plus motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 600W Storm PSU
  • 19in Acer V193WA (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 46/15fps
  • Fear = 120fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 113

OUR VERDICT

A fast, good-looking PC, the Chillblast Fusion Battleaxe offers all-round performance. But its specifications are bettered elsewhere.

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