Despite the emergence of Intel's super-fast Sandy Bridge chips, the Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC is proof that there are still some good deals to be had with the older Core processors.

Intel’s Core i5-760 processor dominates this category, featuring in four of the five PCs – including the Chillblast Fusion Corona. Despite the superior performance of the Core i5-2400 selected by CyberPower, there are some good deals to be had with PCs based on the older chip.

Chillblast’s Fusion Corona may not offer the stellar speeds delivered by CyberPower, but it still performs very well indeed. With 140 points scored in WorldBench 6, it’s one of the best-performing Core i5-760 desktop PCs we’ve seen.

The Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC also offers a better feature set than the CyberPower: in addition to the standard 4GB of RAM and one-terabyte (1TB) hard drive, you get a fast Radeon HD 6850 graphics card, a 25in Hannspree full-HD (1920x1080 pixels) monitor, an external speaker set and a Blu-ray drive.

The motherboard supports both SATA 6 gigabits per second (Gbps) and USB 3.0. The Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC won’t accept Intel’s new ‘Sandy Bridge’ processors, such as the i5-2400, however.

Gaming performance is good, with the Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC delivering solid speeds across the board in our graphics tests.

The Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC is housed in a Xigmatek Asgard case, which comes with easy-access drive bays for future upgrades. There’s plenty of room to add an extra drive or second graphics card. A large cooling fan at the rear keeps noise levels down.

Arbico’s i576 HD is very similar in specification, but the Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC has the edge with a superior monitor, speakers and case, plus faster overall performance.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Corona
  2. CyberPower Infinity Achilles
  3. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 6870
  4. Eclipse Starburst i576r687
  5. Arbico i576 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Despite the emergence of Intel's super-fast Sandy Bridge chips, the Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC is proof that there are still some good deals to be had with the older Core processors.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s ‘Sandy Bridge’ CPUs are set to revolutionise all our PC chart categories. The 3.1GHz Core i5-2400 seen here delivers formidable performance. The processors demand a new type of motherboard, so buying into this technology now will future-proof your PC.

Previous-generation processors such as the Core i5-760 still offer excellent value and leave more money in the budget to spend on Blu-ray drives, powerful graphics and other components.

If you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; Core i5-600-series chips are dual-core.

Quad-core processors offer greater multiprocessing capabilities, but the higher clock speeds of dual-core chips mean they can run single-threaded applications faster. Non-gamers should note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play full-HD video without a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value, although they can’t match the Core i5 in our tests. Some AMD processors contain hidden extra cores that can be enabled in the Bios. Ensure that any tweaks are backed by the vendor.

Memory: If a fast CPU speeds up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU with 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, however.

Core i5- and i7-800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes (as you do with i7-900-series CPUs).

Storage: Photos and video will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; choose a PC with the most capacious drive you can. Expect at least 500GB at this price.

Consider using a pair of smaller hard drives rather than one large drive – a terabyte (1TB) is a huge amount of information to lose in one go.

With prices falling all the time, you may find a solid-state disk (SSD) affordable. An SSD’s faster file transfers can transform your computing experience, but make sure you get one at least 60GB in capacity and install your programs on a second drive if you want to avoid running into drive-space problems.

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

Display: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 21.6in (16:9) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, but onscreen elements will be even smaller. You’ll find many budget 23.6in displays at this price.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port; 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: We test graphics framerates with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The latter can benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. 25fps is enough to make a game playable, but set your sights at 50fps.

ATI’s Radeon HD 6850 offers excellent performance for the money. Cut back on other components and step up to a Radeon HD 6870 if gaming is very important to you.

nVidia’s GeForce GTX 460 also offers good performance. nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and are able to display 3D content.

If you don’t play games at all, you’ll be fine with the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A 450W-plus power supply unit (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: To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Corona: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit (choose Windows 7 64bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W Xigmatek PSU
  • 25in Hannspree HF257HP (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6850 DirectCu (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/34fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 138/71fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-S4600
  • 12x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/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: 140
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit (choose Windows 7 64bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7H55-M/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W Xigmatek PSU
  • 25in Hannspree HF257HP (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB Asus ATI Radeon HD 6850 DirectCu (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/34fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 138/71fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-S4600
  • 12x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/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: 140

OUR VERDICT

It’s beaten by the CyberPower on general performance, but the Chillblast Fusion Corona desktop PC provides more gaming power, a bigger display and better multimedia support.

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