Despite using a slightly slower 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545 processor than the competition, the Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC still managed to turn in some creditable performance results.

Despite using a slightly slower 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545 processor than the competition, the Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC still managed to turn in some creditable performance results. Its 114-point tally in our WorldBench 6 speed test is just two points lower than that of the fastest PC we've seen in this category.

Losing that tiny 100MHz of speed also leads to cost savings, which the Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC puts to good use with a high-quality 19in (1440x900) monitor. This is a distinct advantage over the 18.5in displays supplied by Eclipse and CyberPower, which offer a lower resolution and a considerably more cramped desktop.

A 4GB allocation of DDR2 memory and a 500GB hard drive are standard fare at this price point. And the HD 5670 graphics card offers decent performance, although the Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC's offering is some way behind the Eclipse's HD 5850.

The Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC's system case is a budget model but looks smart nonetheless, with rounded corners and just enough design details to differentiate it from your average box. Inside the case you'll find lots of space, but little room for expansion: the Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2H motherboard isn't the best choice for upgrades, but that's to be expected at this price point.

Chillblast provides a generous two-year collect-and-return warranty with its Fusion Hades budget desktop PC, which could save you a considerable amount of money were something to go wrong.

Chart ranking (July 2010 issue)

  1. Eclipse Matrix a55R575
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hades
  3. CyberPower Ultra Athenna XT
  4. Palicomp Excalibur 630-19 System
  5. Arbico Phenom 5467 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Despite using a slightly slower 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545 processor than the competition, the Chillblast Fusion Hades budget desktop PC still managed to turn in some creditable performance results.

Desktop PC 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 630 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 require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or 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.

ATI's HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but if you shop around you may be able to find an HD 5850. This will give you considerably better gaming performance, but will require compromises to be made elsewhere.

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.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Hades: 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
  • Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2H motherboard
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 600W CCIVO PSU
  • 19in ViewSonic VA1913WM (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 46/15fps
  • Fear = 114fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114
  • 3GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2H motherboard
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 600W CCIVO PSU
  • 19in ViewSonic VA1913WM (0.28mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5670 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 46/15fps
  • Fear = 114fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • speakers built into monitor
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114

OUR VERDICT

It doesn't offer the fastest performance in the chart, but Chillblast's Fusion Hades budget desktop PC has a very decent monitor.

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