Scoring 139 points in our real-world speed benchmark, Chillblast's Fusion Midas budget desktop PC is the fastest machine on test.

Featuring in four of our top five PCs, Intel’s 2.8GHz Core i5-760 processor is, without doubt, the most popular CPU at this price point. Fastest of all is Chillblast’s Fusion Midas budget desktop PC, which achieved a convincing lead in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test with 139 points.

A 4GB allocation of DDR3 RAM and a terabyte (TB) hard drive are fairly standard inclusions. More interesting is the Chillblast Fusion Midas's 23in Digimate full-HD monitor and set of two Gigabyte external speakers. These are a big step up from the tinny speakers built into most monitors, but they lack a subwoofer, and thus can’t match the bass response of the speakers supplied with the Palicomp budget desktop PC.

The Chillblast Fusion Midas is one of three systems to house an nVidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card. This card outpaced the ATI Radeon HD 5770 favoured by the Arbico and CyberPower budget desktop PCs in our Crysis tests, but Stalker: Call of Pripyat favoured the ATI model. The 768MB version of the GTX 460 installed here is a slightly slower card than the one used by Palicomp, and both delivered slower performance than Eclipse’s 1GB version.

The Asus motherboard is another popular inclusion this issue, also featuring in the Eclipse and Palicomp PCs. It’s an excellent board that provides the Chillblast Fusion Midas budget desktop PC with plenty of connectivity options and two USB 3.0 ports.

The Chillblast Fusion Midas budget desktop PC's two-year warranty is reassuring.

Chart ranking: Budget PCs

  1. Chillblast Fusion Midas
  2. Eclipse Fusion i76n460
  3. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 760-24 USB3
  4. Arbico i5-7670 XL
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo (repeat)

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

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Scoring 139 points in our real-world speed benchmark, Chillblast's Fusion Midas budget desktop PC is the fastest machine on test.

Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s latest naming scheme is confusing: if you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5-700-, 800- or 900-series CPU; the newer Core i5-600 series chips are dual-core.

Quad-core chips 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.

Intel’s 2.8GHz quad-core Core i5-760 is the current king of the £501-£750 desktop PCs category and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory.
AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money, although they can’t match the Core i7 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 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 more.

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 systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. At least 500GB should be expected at this price point.

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.

Your DVD drive should write to the +/-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. 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 may be able to get a 23.6in display at this price if you make compromises elsewhere.

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 with Crysis and Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the latter able to benchmark DirectX 11.0-capable graphics cards. Although 25fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher at this price point – look for 50fps.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI’s Radeon HD 5770 and nVidia’s GeForce GTX 460 both deliver great performance and value for money, making the latest games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch.

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, consider using only the integrated graphics of Intel’s Core i5-600-series processors.

Power supply: A large 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: Most motherboards at this price point depend on onboard sound. To get surround sound, look for a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

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Chillblast Fusion Midas: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DRR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L-2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 768MB Asus nVidia GeForce GTX 460 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 83/27fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 82/46fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-4600 speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/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: 139
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5-760
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DRR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L-2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 768MB Asus nVidia GeForce GTX 460 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 83/27fps
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat [Medium/Ultra] = 82/46fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Gigabyte GP-4600 speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/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: 139

OUR VERDICT

The Eclipse offers a better specification on paper and will appeal more to gamers, but we prefer the faster general performance of the Chillblast Fusion Midas budget desktop PC.

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