Based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600, which has now well and truly stolen the crown from the formerly dominant E8500, Chillblast’s Fusion Osiris is an excellent performer, scoring a superb 131 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test.

This month’s budget desktop PCs chart is even tighter than usual: the top two are so close in specification that they’re very nearly the same PC.

Based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600, which has now well and truly stolen the crown from the formerly dominant E8500, Chillblast’s Fusion Osiris is an excellent performer, scoring a superb 131 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test.

The Chillblast Fusion Osiris's 500GB hard drive is complemented by 4GB of system memory and fitted in a case that includes a pair of front-facing USB ports alongside two 3.5mm audio jacks.

The Chillblast Fusion Osiris's graphics duties are taken care of by an ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512MB of RAM. This mid-range card is capable of playing many games at acceptable quality settings, although it struggles a bit on more demanding titles such as Crysis at higher settings and screen resolutions.

You get a set of stereo speakers and a subwoofer with the Chillblast Fusion Osiris, while Creative’s entry-level Audigy SE 7.1 card provides full surround-sound capabilities in case you wish to add rear speakers.

Arbico's Elite 8850 Pro offers the same processor, RAM allocation and performance. Even the monitors are almost identical to those of the Chillblast Fusion Osiris: they come from different manufacturers but share a case design. With both DVI and VGA connectors, however, the Chillblast Fusion Osiris's monitor is capable of sharper text and better contrast when using a digital cable.

The Chillblast Fusion Osiris also has a slight edge on warranties; both last two years, but Chillblast provides a collect-and-return service not offered by the Arbico Elite 8850 Pro.

Finally, the Chillblast Fusion Osiris’s MSI P43 Neo3-F motherboard features two pairs of memory slots and two free sockets, allowing a less expensive upgrade should you need to add memory later. It also comes with a spare 1x PCI Express slot and two unused PCI slots not available on the Arbico Elite 8850 Pro.

These are minor issues, but they’re just enough to separate these superb PCs.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. Chillblast Fusion Osiris
  2. Arbico Elite 8850 Pro
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity XT Elite
  4. Mesh Elite 9600 GT
  5. Acer ASM3201

>> NEXT PAGE: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600, which has now well and truly stolen the crown from the formerly dominant E8500, Chillblast’s Fusion Osiris is an excellent performer, scoring a superb 131 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test.

Buying advice: Budget desktop PCs (Feb 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.

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, so buy the biggest you can afford. A 400GB-500GB drive will 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 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 the price down. But a poor monitor can ruin your computing experience - try it out.

At this price you may get a 19in, 20in or 22in model. Be aware that 19in displays offer lower resolution; 20in and 22in displays offer the same resolution, with 22in models displaying larger icons.

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: 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 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. Just don't expect to run cutting-edge titles at the most demanding settings.

ATI's Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 and nVidia's GeForce 9800 GTX+ graphics cards deliver excellent performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch.

Sound card and speakers: You may find 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. To get surround sound you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer). You may be offered a 2.1-channel stereo system, which will be good enough for most users. A monitor's built-in speakers seldom offer a satisfying audio experience.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Osiris: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • MSI P43 Neo3-F
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Hyundai Blue H H224W (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Palit ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/20
  • Fear = 174)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • MSI P43 Neo3-F
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 22in Hyundai Blue H H224W (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050)
  • 512MB PCI Express Palit ATI Radeon HD 4850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 55/20
  • Fear = 174)
  • Creative Audigy SE 7.1
  • 2 x Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • 22x/22x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 131

OUR VERDICT

It's an incredibly close call, but a two-year collect-and return warranty, less expensive upgrade potential and a slightly better monitor mark out the Chillblast Fusion Osiris as superior to our second-placed Arbico Elite 8850 Pro.

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