The stunning performance of Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 and E8500 processors has tempted many to unleash their full potential through overclocking. Chillblast’s E8500-based Fusion Cobra usually ships overclocked to 3.6GHz, at no extra cost to the user.

We’ve seen WorldBench scores of more than 130 in this configuration. If it’s performance you’re after – and you’re comfortable with running an overclocked system – don’t be put off by the Chillblast Fusion Cobra’s uninspiring stock-speed score of 110.

Gaming performance is excellent, thanks to the Chillblast Fusion Cobra's 512MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card. The 320GB hard drive is a decent size, so you should have plenty of space to install a large selection of games.

You also get a Creative Audigy SE sound card and a set of Logitech S220 stereo speakers, although you’ll need to upgrade these to take advantage of the Chillblast Fusion Cobra’s multichannel surround capabilities.

The Asus P5K SE motherboard can’t be used for scaleable link interface (SLI) upgrading like Mesh's G94 Pulse. There’s still some expansion room remaining in the form of one PCI and a pair of PCI-Express 1x slots, although all four memory slots are filled to provide the Chillblast Fusion Cobra with 4GB of system RAM.

As with the Best Buy Arbico CD8520 XL, the Chillblast Fusion Cobra uses the functional and well-built Elite 330 case; six of its tool-free drive bays remain unused. No memory-card reader is supplied, but two front-facing USB ports have been fitted along with headphone and mic docks.

The Chillblast Fusion Cobra's 19in Hannspree XM monitor may not offer the very best image quality we’ve seen but it’s better than many budget offerings. It’s also solidly constructed, with a metal frame, ergonomic height adjustment and looks that are bold and stylish.

See also:

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (June issue)


  1. Arbico CD8520 XL
  2. Chillblast Fusion Cobra
  3. Mesh G94 Pulse
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 850
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Silent Edition

Verdict

Despite its less than inspiring WorldBench score at stock speeds, the Chillblast Fusion Cobra is an attractive option for gamers and fans of overclocking.

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (June 08 issue)

Processor: The once all-conquering E6850 processor has almost disappeared from the chart, outrun by the mighty E8500 chip – you can put in half the RAM and an E8500 will register the same performance scores. The E8500 will be a little more expensive, however, so it’s worth watching out for special offers as manufacturers try to offload their supplies of E6850s.

If you’ve got one eye on the future, consider a Core 2 Quad chip. You’ll sacrifice a little speed for the money now, but you might make it up in spades when multithreaded software applications start hitting the shops.

Memory: It’s a sign of how important memory has become that, even in the sub-£750 category, 2GB is the bare minimum, with most systems stretching to 4GB. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to go quite this far, but 2GB is a definite must. Memory is only going to become more and more important in the next 12 months, so stock up now.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 320GB or 400GB drive should make a good investment.

It’s a good idea to keep large files archived on DVD, so make sure your PC has a DVD burner. Look for a drive that can write to the –R/+R formats at rates of at least 18-speed. Eight-speed rewriting is good; if you want to copy up to 8.5GB at once, look for a drive with DVD-R DL or +R DL. Write speeds on these have got significantly faster in recent months, and you really need to be looking for an absolute minimum of eight-speed.

Display: Compromises have to be made to keep down the price of a PC and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part of the PC that you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

Virtually all PCs come with flat-panels. We’d recommend a 19in or 20in model – they’re common at this price point. Be very careful, though, when offered anything larger than 20in, as the quality at this price point could be low. Finally, look for a screen with a good response rate – 8ms or below should be more than fast enough.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, feverish gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£750 PC. Nonetheless, the best PCs do tend to come with decent graphics cards.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, at this price you can set your sights a little higher. Choose one that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. The 512MB 8800 GTS 512 is your best option if you find one, although the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. You may be able to find an 8800 GTX if you hunt hard enough, but the GT and GTS 512 are more likely. Stocks may be running a little low.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point, as it’s an area where vendors are likely to cut costs. Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound, but to get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1 speaker system. Unfortunately, you may not get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer at all.

See also:

Chillblast Fusion Cobra: expert review

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs

Chillblast Fusion Cobra: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE
  • 8 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Free
  • three-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 110
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 320GB SATA
  • Asus P5K SE
  • 8 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.283mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 maximum resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 8800 GT
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Free
  • three-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 110

OUR VERDICT

Despite its less than inspiring WorldBench score at stock speeds, the Chillblast Fusion Cobra is an attractive option for gamers and fans of overclocking.

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