Chillblast's Fusion Samurai budget desktop PC may have recorded the lowest WorldBench 6 speed test in the group - if only just - but fast gaming framerates, a pleasing 23in full-HD monitor and a stereo speaker set compensate.

Chillblast's Fusion Samurai recorded the lowest score in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, but the fastest framerates in our gaming benchmarks. However, with four of our top five combining Intel Core i5 750 processors with ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics cards, it's doubtful that you'd even notice a difference between them in terms of performance.

The Chillblast Fusion Samurai is housed in a smart black Xigmatek Asgard case. Its paint job extends to the interior, where an Asus P7P55D LX motherboard offers plenty of expansion room for memory, add-in cards and a second graphics card. This is a considerably better component than the similarly named Asus P7P55-M motherboard used by Mesh.

The Chillblast Fusion Samurai comes with a 23in full-HD Digimate monitor. It's a decent display and one of the largest on offer, although it's not quite up to the standard of the 24in Acer V243HBD supplied by Palicomp.

The Chillblast Fusion Samurai's other specifications are fairly standard, including a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM and a 650W EZCool power supply unit (PSU).

Its two stereo speakers and subwoofer can't be taken for granted at this price point, however; along with the 23in full-HD monitor, they give the Chillblast Fusion Samurai considerable appeal in terms of value for money.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (June issue)

  1. Palicomp Core i7 Blast 750-24
  2. Chillblast Fusion Samurai
  3. Arbico HD 7577 XL
  4. CyberPower Infinity Hades
  5. Mesh Ice5 5750 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Chillblast's Fusion Samurai budget desktop PC may have recorded the lowest WorldBench 6 speed test in the group - if only just - but fast gaming framerates, a pleasing 23in full-HD monitor and a stereo speaker set compensate.

Buying advice

Processor: The arrival of Intel's Core i5 750 has changed everything in this price range, bringing with it superb quad-core performance and support for DDR3 memory. Core i5 processors use new motherboards with a different CPU socket; buying one now puts you in a good position for future upgrades. If you're lucky, you may find a faster Core i7 8xx-series CPU at this price point.

Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 was once king of this category and is still available, but with the Core i3 540 hitting the market there's now no reason to choose it unless you find a fantastic deal. The Core i3 540 will give you superb dual-core performance and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory. AMD's Phenom II X4 920, 940 and 965 also offer good value for money and quad-core performance, although they can't match the Core i5 in our tests.

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.

Core i5- and i7 8xx-based PCs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there's no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with Core i7 9xx systems.

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 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: Many PC manufacturers make sacrifices here to keep costs down, so you should ideally try out the monitor before you buy.

Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 22in (16:10) flat-panels are capable of displaying full-HD content, although onscreen elements will be even smaller.

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 is fast enough for games.

Graphics cards: There's simply not room in the budget for a top-end graphics card at this price point, but you should still be able to find a decent model.

We test PCs using the four-year-old game Fear, and Crysis, a far more demanding title. Although 50fps is ample to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher in this category - look for 60fps for decent gameplay.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI's Radeon HD 4890 and nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making even cutting-edge games playable if you drop the resolution and settings ?a notch. AMD's HD 5770 is a slower card with today's games, but adds DirectX 11.0.

nVidia cards offer support for realistic object interactions in games supporting PhysX and the ability to display content in 3D when used with special glasses.

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: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Samurai: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P7P55D LX
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 68/26fps
  • Fear = 201fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 131
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit or XP at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P7P55D LX
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express XFX ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 68/26fps
  • Fear = 201fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/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: 131

OUR VERDICT

If you're willing to sacrifice a tiny bit of general speed, the Chillblast Fusion Samurai offers fantastic gaming performance and some excellent specifications for the money.

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