Chillblast’s Fusion Blade is a solid desktop PC, with its 2.66GHz Core i5 750 achieving a creditable 134 points in WorldBench 6.

Chillblast's Fusion Blade is a solid performer, with its 2.66GHz Core i5 750 achieving a creditable 134 points in our WorldBench 6 performance test. In common with every other system in this month's chart, it's supplied with 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive.

Graphics duties are carried out by an ATI Radeon HD 4890, which helps the Chillblast Fusion Blade deliver excellent performance at this price point. It doesn't offer the same features as AMD's 5XXX-series cards, but will outperform an HD 5770 when playing games you can buy right now.

The Chillblast Fusion Blade's ASRock P55M Pro motherboard has two spare memory slots and room for an additional graphics card, should you wish to take advantage of the CrossFireX support. It's a slightly lower-cost version of the P55 Pro favoured by Eclipse.

The full-HD BenQ G2220HD monitor is a high-quality screen that offers good colour reproduction and a clear, sharp image. Some may find that text is more difficult to read on the Chillblast Fusion Blade's monitor than on the second-place Arbico's screen, however; this is due to the smaller pixel size.

A small set of speakers is supplied. No subwoofer accompanies it, meaning bass response is somewhat lacking, but the Chillblast Fusion Blade's setup is an improvement on the tinny examples built into monitors.

The Akasa Genesis system case looks tidy enough, but feels flimsy. In fact the front USB ports on our Chillblast Fusion Blade sample became detached when we inserted a USB drive.

Budget PCs chart ranking: February 10 issue

  1. Chillblast Fusion Blade
  2. Arbico HD7590 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i5 Achilles
  4. Eclipse Matrix Crossfire i786R577
  5. Mesh Matrix II 965 DX11

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice


Chillblast’s Fusion Blade is a solid performer, with its 2.66GHz Core i5 750 achieving a creditable 134 points in WorldBench 6.


Budget desktop PCs buying advice


Processor: The arrival of Intel's Core i5 750 has changed everything in this price range, bringing with it superb quad-core performance and support for DDR3 memory. Core i5 processors use new motherboards with a different CPU socket; buying one now puts you in a good position for future upgrades. If you're lucky, you may find a faster Core i7 8XX-series CPU at this price point.

Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 was once king of this category and is still available, but there's no reason to choose it unless you find a fantastic deal. AMD's Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money and quad-core performance, although they can't match the Core i5 in our tests.

Memory:
If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Core i5-based PCs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there's no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with Core i7 systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. A 500GB drive is a good investment. Consider using a pair of smaller drives rather than one large drive - a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

Your DVD drive should write to the -R/+R formats at 18-speed or better. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for fast DVD-/+R dual-layer drives. Drives that can read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down; always try the monitor before you buy.

Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in (16:10) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, although onscreen elements will be even smaller.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; if you want to connect additional devices you'll need at least two.

Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: There's simply not room in the budget for a top-end graphics card at this price point, but you should still be able to find a decent model.

We test PCs using the four-year-old game Fear and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI's Radeon HD 4890 and nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch. AMD's HD 5770 is a slower card with today's games, but adds DirectX 11.0.

nVidia cards offer unique features, such as support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and the ability to display content in 3D when used with special glasses.

Power supply: A large PSU is less vital at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to make later upgrades easier.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). A 2.1-channel stereo system will be good enough for most users.


>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Blade: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock P55M Pro
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 720W Gigabyte PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 68/29fps
  • Fear = 249fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Trust speakers
  • 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: 134
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock P55M Pro
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 720W Gigabyte PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 68/29fps
  • Fear = 249fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Trust speakers
  • 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: 134

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Blade performs well and benefits from a high-quality full-HD monitor and a set of external speakers. It offers a great deal for the money, although the system case is rather disappointing.

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