The only PC here to use an AMD processor, the Chillblast Fusion Saturn should prove a great budget desktop machine for enthusiasts.

The only PC here to use an AMD processor, the Chillblast Fusion Saturn should prove a great budget desktop machine for enthusiasts. The 3.2GHz Phenom X4 955 BE powered the Chillblast to a respectable 128 points in WorldBench 6, while its four cores should produce better performance with multithreaded programs than the dual-core i3-series Intel chips.

The Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC's AMD CPU is easily overclocked, too. This task is facilitated by the motherboard’s overclocking and core-unlocking functions. Also providing support for USB 3.0, the motherboard offers two compatible ports in place of the Palicomp’s one.

A 21.5in full-HD monitor is supplied with the Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC. A stylish AOC model, this display offers decent image quality and dual inputs.

The Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC’s 512MB Radeon HD 5450 graphics card delivers similar gaming framerates to Intel machines that also carry this card. The Saturn scored 18fps in our Fear test at 1024x768 and ‘Maximum’ detail settings. The discrete graphics card also provides multiple display outputs.

A 4GB allocation of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive are standard offerings at this price. Only the Palicomp Core i3 Blast offers more than the Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC, with 1TB onboard.

The speakers bundled with the Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC include a subwoofer that delivers better sound than those built into monitors.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-22 USB3
  2. Arbico i3-5500 XL
  3. Chillblast Fusion Saturn
  4. DinoPC Plutosaur 540
  5. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo XT

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>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

The only PC here to use an AMD processor, the Chillblast Fusion Saturn should prove a great budget desktop machine for enthusiasts.

Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s Core i3 processor has the sub-£500 PC category sewn up. This issue, we have examples ranging from the 2.93GHz Core i3-530 to the 3.2GHz Core i3-550. These dual-core chips have integrated graphics processors, allowing vendors to build a capable PC at lower cost by omitting a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s quad-core Phenom II X4 550 BE is another good choice of processor for a budget Windows machine, especially for those who like to tinker – this chip has been designed with overclocking in mind.

Memory: In the post-Vista era, 2GB of RAM is essential. The majority of sub-£500 PCs are now fitted with 4GB.

Some CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while others can use either this or DDR2. DDR3 memory is getting cheaper and bodes well for performance. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect around 500GB at this price point, although you can never have too much storage space. Digital media content will quickly fill a reasonably sized drive. Hard-drive space is easy to add later, however.

If you’re planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you’ve got spare drive bays inside your PC’s case.

Get a drive that can write to the DVD+/-R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to get 8.5GB on to one disc, get a drive that can write to dual-layer discs at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

Flat-panel: It’s the component you’ll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

All the PCs in our chart come with flat-panels. Good-quality full-HD monitors are now available even in sub-£500 systems. Expect to find a 21.5in model, although these are often marketed as 22in screens. It’s best to get one with dual inputs and a digital connection (DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort), letting you get the best image quality available and hook up additional devices.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. However, decent graphics cards get cheaper all the time, and budget PCs can now handle games that were unthinkable a few months ago.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with integrated graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older Intel integrated solutions. These machines support HD video and Windows’ Aero effects without the need for a discrete graphics card.

ATI’s Radeon HD 5450 is a popular choice for a budget PC. It doesn’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel GMA integrated graphics, but it adds support for DirectX 11.0. Many cards can also drive multiple monitors, so you can hook up your TV and display at the same time.

If you really want to play games, nVidia’s GeForce GT 240 will provide some extra speed. Be prepared to lower your graphics settings to achieve smooth gameplay, however.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. Without power-hungry components installed, there’s simply no need for a more powerful supply. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a standalone sound card at this price point. Most motherboards can handle six-channel sound.

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>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Saturn: Specs

  • 3.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 955 BE
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus M4A77T/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC F22+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 512MB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5450 (Fear 'Maximum' settings, 1024x768: 18fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/16x/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: 128
  • 3.2GHz AMD Phenom X4 955 BE
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus M4A77T/USB3 motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC F22+ (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 512MB Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5450 (Fear 'Maximum' settings, 1024x768: 18fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Chillblast speakers and subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/24x/16x/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: 128

OUR VERDICT

It was a few points shy of Arbico’s Core i3-powered i3-5500 XL in WorldBench 6, but the Chillblast Fusion Saturn budget desktop PC delivers excellent performance with the potential for more.

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