Beaten on both day-to-day and gaming performance, Chillblast’s Fusion Blizzard offers some nice multimedia options.

With a slower AMD Athlon X2 245 under the hood, Chillblast’s Fusion Blizzard is unable to keep up with the Phenom-powered Arbico or the speedier quad-core machines in the chart. Although it scores fractionally higher in WorldBench 6 than our Best Buy PC, these tests don’t push the CyberPower’s four cores to their full potential as they do with the Chillblast’s two.

The Chillblast Fusion Blizzard's nVidia GeForce GT 240 graphics card is also outpaced by the gaming framerates of the top two. You’re therefore unlikely to get as satisfactory an experience from this PC as you would from the leading systems, with the Blizzard offering neither the speed of the faster systems, nor the extensive software support of the lower-placed Packard Bell.

To its credit, it comes with a rather nice 19in Acer monitor and the Chillblast Fusion Blizzard is the only system here to be supplied with a set of speakers and a subwoofer. So it’s a shame that the screen doesn’t have a digital DVI port.

A standard 4GB of DDR2 memory is installed, along with a 500GB hard drive. The Chillblast Fusion Blizzard's upgrade options are rather limited, with no free memory slots and only a PCI Express x1 slot and a standard PCI slot available for expansion cards.

The Chillblast is an attractive system, with its glossy black case adorned in a silver trim and an illuminated power switch surround. A pair of front-facing USB ports and audio jacks are also conveniently placed.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (issue 176)

  1. CyberPower Ultra Athenna Elite
  2. Arbico Phenom 5570HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Blizzard
  4. Packard Bell x5620uk
  5. RL Supplies Modula 9010


>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Beaten on both day-to-day and gaming performance, Chillblast’s Fusion Blizzard offers some nice multimedia options.

Budget desktop PCs 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 era of Vista and Windows 7, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Make sure you're getting the full benefit of the memory - some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. 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.

With VAT reverting to 17.5 percent at the beginning of January, don't expect to see HD 4870s at this price point.

For nVidia and ATI cards, always look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version if possible. 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 have built-in chips that can handle six-channel sound. To get the best out of them, you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Blizzard: Specs

  • 2.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 245
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M2N68-AM
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Acer V193W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express nVidia GeForce GT 240 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 36/10fps
  • Fear = 75fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 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: 101
  • 2.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 245
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus M2N68-AM
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 19in Acer V193W (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 1GB PCI Express nVidia GeForce GT 240 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 36/10fps
  • Fear = 75fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 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: 101

OUR VERDICT

There are no major faults with the Chillblast Fusion Blizzard, but it’s hard to justify its purchase when you can buy a quad-core machine with a better graphics provision for the same money.

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