The Chillblast Fusion Rogue is a compact PC that’s capable of big performance. It’s easy to tuck away if you’ve got a restricted work area, but the smaller proportions limit your expansion options – on the other hand, how many of us really need more than two external 3.5in drive bays?

The usual front-mounted audio sockets and pair of front USB ports are hidden behind a sliding door on the Chillblast Fusion Rogue. Inside, things are rather sparse: there’s just one internal 3.5in hard-drive bay, limiting your options if you want to expand the PC’s storage space.

The Asus P5GC-MX motherboard used in the Chillblast Fusion Rogue is fitted with only two memory slots, which means you’ll have to remove the existing sticks if you want to upgrade beyond the installed amount. The supplied 2GB of RAM should be sufficient, however.

The Chillblast Fusion Rogue is also quite low on motherboard expansion slots, and it comes with a rather weak 300W power supply. All in all, this isn’t a PC that’s easy to upgrade.

It’s fortunate, then, that the Chillblast Fusion Rogue delivers excellent performance just as it is. With a WorldBench 6 score of 114 it’ll whizz through office applications, and it’s good enough for occasional gaming, as long as you keep the screen resolution turned down.

The Chillblast Fusion Rogue's Hannspree flat-panel has distinctive styling that may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s undeniably well-built. Image quality is decent for a budget PC.

Verdict

We were pleased (and surprised) by the Chillblast Fusion Rogue's set of five surround-sound speakers and a subwoofer. They’re not the best we’ve heard, but they’re a huge step up from relying on your display’s built-in audio.

Budget desktop PCs chart ranking (July 08 issue)


  1. Arbico Elite 8400
  2. Chillblast Fusion Rogue
  3. Mesh Delta GT
  4. CyberPower Gamer Ultra 930
  5. CyberPower Gamer Infinity 750

See also: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Budget desktop PC buying advice (July 08 issue)

Processor: You’re not going to get the fastest processors at this price, but there are some excellent, affordable chips around if you can find them. Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8400 is a stand-out component and dominates the charts quite convincingly.

We’re also now seeing some quad-core processors in this price range, in the form of the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 and AMD’s latest Phenom X4 9550.

Don’t be tempted to buy older Intel Pentium D chips – their performance is a long way behind today’s Core 2 Duos.

Memory: In this Vista-dominated age, 2GB has almost become a requirement. You may be able to make do with 1GB, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

Check you’re getting the full benefit of the memory – some onboard graphics controllers use system memory, which will slow things down. Also check your motherboard has some free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: You can never have too much storage space. Digital media content such as video and music files will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive, so buy the biggest you can. A 250GB drive is a good investment, although hard-drive space is relatively easy to add later. If you’re planning on upgrading hard drives internally, make sure you’ve got enough free drive bays in your system case.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the -R/+R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to copy 8.5GB at once, get a drive that can write to DVD-R DL and +R DL at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

Flat-panel: Compromises have to be made to keep the price of a PC down, and the monitor is often where the sacrifices start. Just remember that this is the part of the PC you’re going to be spending most of your time looking at.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. The most common size is 19in – be careful when considering larger monitors because the quality is unlikely to be good enough at this price. We don’t see many CRTs, but they’re still a pretty good deal – provided you can put up with the bulky casing, colour depth tends to be better than with flat-panels.

Graphics cards: Given that the best graphics cards can retail for £300 or £400, fervent gamers are unlikely to be best served by a sub-£500 PC. Nonetheless, the cream of the crop tend to come with decent cards.

You should still be looking for PCs that can produce 50 frames per second (fps) if you’re going to be playing games – 70fps or 80fps is better still. The fastest chip in this price range is currently the GeForce 8800GS, but including one of these may require compromises elsewhere.

The GeForce 8600s are a good alternative. They can support DirectX 10.0, but they’re unlikely to be powerful enough to make the most of tomorrow’s DirectX 10.0 games. They’ve got plenty of pace to tackle today’s games.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price – it’s an area where most vendors try to cut costs. Most motherboards have decent built-in audio chips that can handle six-channel sound – but to get the best out of them you’ll need a 5.1 system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you won’t get anything better than a 2.1 system in this category – indeed, you won’t necessarily get a subwoofer or speakers at all.

Chillblast Fusion Rogue: Specs

  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Asus P5GC-MX
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 native resolution)
  • 5124MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard Realtek ALC883
  • 5 x Ozaki DV-808
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero 7.0
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114
  • 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA
  • Asus P5GC-MX
  • 6 x USB
  • 19in Hannspree XM New York (0.238mm pixel pitch, 1,440x900 native resolution)
  • 5124MB PCI Express XpertVision nVidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • onboard Realtek ALC883
  • 5 x Ozaki DV-808
  • subwoofer
  • 20x/20x/12x/16x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero 7.0
  • AVG Antivirus
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 114

OUR VERDICT

We were pleased (and surprised) by the Chillblast Fusion Rogue's set of five surround-sound speakers and a subwoofer. They’re not the best we’ve heard, but they’re a huge step up from relying on your display’s built-in audio.

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