The superb performance of the Fusion Hornet from Chillblast is reflected in its 126 WorldBench 6 processing-speed points, thanks to its E8500 processor, which remains unbeatable in this category. It also uses an ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card, which provides very good gaming performance for the money.

Although we think some customers will find the Arbico CD 4850 has the edge, there are a few reasons why others may prefer the Chillblast Fusion Hornet. The monitor, a Chimei CMV 223D DVI, is still a budget model but offers a DVI connector, which can result in a sharper picture. Both systems are fitted with 4GB of DDR2 RAM, but Chillblast supplies this in two sticks rather than four – making memory upgrades easier and cheaper. Chillblast also offers an optional overclocking service that sees the 3.16GHz processor pushed, fully tested, to a blistering 3.8GHz.

The Chillblast Fusion Hornet’s Coolermaster Elite 330 case is an old favourite. It has good build quality and a smart office-friendly design with tool-free drive bays and plenty of expansion room. However, its looks won’t particularly impress gamers and modders. If you’re buying primarily for gaming, you’ll get better performance from Eclipse's Matrix i85A487, which uses a faster ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card – though this system failed to reach its full potential in non-gaming applications.

Furthermore, the Asus P5Q motherboard used by the Chillblast Fusion Hornet comes with Crossfire support, so truly power-hungry gamers have the option to add a second graphics card.

Overall, the Chillblast Fusion Hornet offers top-notch performance and can be easily upgraded. It only lacks the add-in sound card supplied by Arbico.

Budget desktop PCs: chart ranking (October issue)


  1. Arbico CD 4850
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hornet
  3. Eclipse Matrix i85A487
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity GT
  5. Packard Bell imax 3414

>>NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (October issue)

Processor: Intel’s Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price, the E8500 version appearing in the vast majority of PCs we currently review. If you’re feeling adventurous, by all means go for one of Intel’s latest quad-core processors, such as the Q9300. We’re starting to see very good results with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips may still be on sale, with good performance for the multithreaded applications if the price is right.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your processor by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB. Memory is going to become even more important in the next 12 months.

Storage: Digital media files such as video and music will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400-500GB drive should make a good investment. If you’ve got space, consider a pair of smaller drives – 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 also read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but you’ll have to compromise on DVD speeds. As DVD burners are low-cost items, it may be worth buying a second one to complement your Blu-ray unit.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience, so try it first.

At this price point you could be offered a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same number of pixels. This means 22in monitors will display larger text and icons.

Consider whether you need built-in speakers. If you want to connect additional devices to the display you’ll need at least two inputs. Finally, look for a good response rate – 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC – after all, the top graphics cards alone can cost £400. But you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

Although 50 frames per second (fps) is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights a little higher in this category. Look for a system that can manage 80-100fps on a number of titles. Just don’t expect to be able to run the latest cutting-edge titles at the very highest-quality settings.

ATI’s Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money at this price bracket, making even the most demanding games playable if you’re prepared to drop the resolution and quality settings a notch or two.

Sound card and speakers: You’ll occasionally get a budget sound card at this price point, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. These are improving all the time.

To get surround sound you’ll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may have to settle for a 2.1-channel stereo system, which is still good enough for most people.

Chillblast Fusion Hornet: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Chimei 223D DVI (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 171fps)
  • ATI HDMI audio
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or Vista 64bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 750GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Chimei 223D DVI (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis = 55fps
  • Fear = 171fps)
  • ATI HDMI audio
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Nero
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 126

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the Chillblast Fusion Hornet offers top-notch performance and can be easily upgraded. It only lacks the add-in sound card supplied by Arbico.

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