Chillblast's Fusion Isis is an updated version of the Fusion Anubis we reviewed in our April issue. Like Arbico, Chillblast has largely stuck with a tried-and-tested formula that has served it well.

Intel's E8600 chip powers the Chillblast Fusion Isis to a speed score of 123 points in our WorldBench 6 test. This is a decent result, but it's eight points behind the Anubis, despite the PCs having almost identical hardware. It's also seven points behind the Best Buy Arbico.

The Chillblast Fusion Isis is a gamer-friendly system, with ATI's popular Radeon HD 4850 graphics card making its second and most impressive appearance in our chart - it delivers an excellent gaming experience across several modern titles. Note that you may have to wind down the quality settings a little in demanding games such as Crysis, however.

You get a set of Logitech S220 stereo speakers and a subwoofer with the Chillblast Fusion Isis. This is an entry-level offering - if you want full surround sound, consider the Mesh - but it's luxury compared with the CyberPower's speakers, which are built into its monitor.

The Chillblast Fusion Isis comes with a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM; this is now a standard specification at this price point. Two memory slots are available for future expansion.

The Chillblast Fusion Isis' 22in Digimate monitor offers analogue and digital inputs, but it lacks the full-HD 1,080p resolution of the Iiyama display provided by Mesh.


Chart ranking: budget desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

  1. Arbico CD 8850 XL
  2. Chillblast Fusion Isis
  3. Mesh Matrix II 920
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 850
  5. RL Supplies Modula AX2-920

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

Processor: Intel's Core 2 Duo range offers almost unbeatable performance for the price. The 3.33GHz E8600 now supersedes the E8500 as the CPU of choice, appearing in the vast majority of desktop PCs in this price category.

Alternatively, go for one of Intel's latest quad-core chips, such as the Q9300. These processors are performing well with newer applications and games. Older Q6600 chips offer good performance with multithreaded apps, but only go for them if the price is right.

AMD's latest Phenom II X4 920 also offers excellent value for money and quad-core performance.

Memory: If fast processors speed up your PC, a large bank of memory stops it from slowing down. Get the most out of your CPU by including at least 4GB of RAM. You can get by with 2GB, but your PC will run more smoothly with 4GB.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. A 500GB drive is a good investment. 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 can read Blu-ray are becoming affordable, but they're still quite rare at this price.

Display: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out before buying.

Be aware that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in and 22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in flat-panels in the 16:9 format are capable of displaying full-HD content at a screen resolution of 1,080p.

A DVI or HDMI connector will provide a considerably better image than a VGA port, so look for a display with a digital input; if you want to connect additional devices you'll need at least two. Finally, look for a good response rate: 8ms or below should be fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: Truly hardcore gamers are unlikely to be happy with a sub-£750 PC, but you should be able to find a decent graphics card at this price.

We test PCs on the three-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 80-100fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area but ATI's Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch. If you're not into gaming, cutting back on graphics won't harm general performance.

Power supply: The PSU is less important at this price point, but look for a model with a full set of SATA and PCI Express connectors to ease later upgrades.

Sound card and speakers: You may find a budget sound card at this price, but most motherboards depend on a decent built-in audio chip that can handle six-channel sound. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). A 2.1-channel stereo system will be good enough for most users. A monitor's built-in speakers seldom offer a satisfying audio experience.

Chillblast Fusion Isis: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • MSI P43 Neo-F motherboard
  • 500W Bosse PSU
  • 22in Digimate L-2248WD monitor (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 57/20fps
  • Fear = 170fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1 sound card
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • MSI P43 Neo-F motherboard
  • 500W Bosse PSU
  • 22in Digimate L-2248WD monitor (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 native resolution)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 57/20fps
  • Fear = 170fps)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1 sound card
  • 2 x Logitech S220 speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • one-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

We’ve awarded the Best Buy to Arbico, largely because the Chillblast Fusion Isis scored significantly fewer points in our WorldBench 6 test. But those in the market for a PC in this price bracket would do well to note the Isis’ superior warranty and RAM expandability.

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