A few Bios tweaks could be all the Chillblast Fusion Scimitar needs to deliver performance that's on par with the fastest PCs at this price point.

Chillblast's Fusion Scimitar harnesses the quad-core processing power of Intel's Core i5 750. Our top two PCs use the same chip, but Chillblast was unable to squeeze the same level of performance from it and lags five points behind the Arbico and Mesh in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test. We suspect that a few tweaks in the Bios would put the Scimitar back on track, however.

The Chillblast Fusion Scimitar rejects the DirectX 11.0 capabilities of AMD's latest 57xx-series graphics cards in favour of an older HD 4890. This card was, until recently, AMD's fastest single-GPU model. While you won't benefit from depth-of-field effects and DirectCompute 11.0 processing advantages, the 4890 can still hold its own against an HD 5770. Indeed, many current games will run considerably faster on the Chillblast.

The 4GB allocation of DDR3 memory, 500GB hard drive, 650W PSU and ASRock motherboard are dwarfed by the Chillblast Fusion Scimitar's Xigmatek Asgard case (named after the home of the Norse gods, of course), which is finished in black inside and out.

The 22in BenQ G2220HD monitor, meanwhile, is one of the best displays here. Its full-HD 1080p screen resolution produces a fantastic image for the price. A set of stereo speakers means you won't have to rely on the tinny models built into the screen but, as with the Arbico, note that no subwoofer is included with the Chillblast Fusion Scimitar.

Chart ranking: Budget desktop PCs (issue 177)

  1. Arbico HD 7577 XL
  2. Mesh Ice5 5750 HD
  3. Chillblast Fusion Scimitar
  4. CyberPower Infinity i3 Apollo
  5. Eclipse Matrix Crossfire i786R577

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

A few Bios tweaks could be all the Chillblast Fusion Scimitar needs to deliver performance that's on par with the fastest PCs at this price point.

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/+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 always 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 enough 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 you'll need a 5.1-channel system (five speakers and a subwoofer).

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Scimitar: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock P55M Pro motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 66/26fps
  • Fear = 245fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Trust speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/22x/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: 130
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • ASRock P55M Pro motherboard
  • 10 x USB 2.0
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Peak ATI Radeon HD 4890 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 66/26fps
  • Fear = 245fps)
  • onboard HD Audio 7.1
  • 2 x Trust speakers
  • max DVD speeds: 24x/22x/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: 130

OUR VERDICT

Chillblast’s Fusion Scimitar will need a few tweaks to bring its performance in line with the competition, but there’s plenty of room for upgrades. Current games will play effortlessly on the full-HD flat-panel.

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