The Chillblast Fusion Stronghold teams Intel’s popular Core i5 750 with the excellent Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard to deliver great performance and some cutting-edge features.

The Chillblast Fusion Stronghold teams Intel’s popular Core i5 750 with the excellent Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard to deliver great performance and some cutting-edge features.

The 2.66GHz Core i5 750 has a significantly lower clock speed than the 3.46GHz Core i5 670 used by Eclipse, but its true quad-core design means the Chillblast Fusion Stronghold has the potential to dominate with applications that are able to benefit from multiple cores. Our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test doesn’t include many multithreaded applications, so it’s to be expected that the quad-core machines in this group test will score slightly lower than dual-core PCs.

The Chillblast Fusion Stronghold’s 129-point tally is two points lower than that of the similarly specced Palicomp. Support for USB 3.0 and 6 gigabits per second (Gbps) SATA wins the battle for Chillblast, however, with these forward-looking technologies enabling faster performance with compatible hard drives.

Chillblast has selected the same ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card as the Palicomp and Arbico PCs. This card is capable of good framerates with most current games, and offers powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration for transcoding audio and video. With only one PCI Express x16 slot on the Chillblast Fusion Stronghold's motherboard, upgrading the graphics will require replacing this card rather than adding another – luckily, the HD 5770 is a pretty fast card to start with.

The Chillblast Fusion Stronghold's other upgrade opportunities are more plentiful, with several PCI and PCI Express x1 slots available. The motherboard also offers some useful overclocking options.

The 23in Digimate monitor is a slightly larger version of the display supplied with the Arbico and bettered in size only by the Palicomp’s 24in screen. Unlike the Arbico and Eclipse monitors, it’s able to display a full-HD (1920x1080) picture without scaling the image down. Also unlike those two systems, the Chillblast Fusion Stronghold comes with a set of stereo speakers and a subwoofer.

Budget desktop PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Stronghold
  2. Palicomp Core i5 Blast 750-24 Plus
  3. Arbico i5 6607 Pro
  4. Eclipse Galaxy i567r557
  5. CyberPower Ultra Triton XT

Also see:
More budget desktop PC reviews
Business Advisor

>> Next page: Budget desktop PCs buying advice

The Chillblast Fusion Stronghold teams Intel’s popular Core i5 750 with the excellent Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard to deliver great performance and some cutting-edge features.

Budget desktop PCs buying advice

Processor: Intel’s latest naming scheme is confusing: if you want a quad-core PC, look for a Core i5 700-series CPU; the newer Core i5 600 series are dual-core.

Quad-core chips offer greater multi-processing capabilities, but the higher clock speeds of dual-core chips mean they can run single-threaded applications faster. Non-gamers should also note that their integrated graphics chips will allow them to play back full-HD video without a discrete graphics card installed.

The dual-core Core i3 540 provides great performance and is compatible with the most up-to-date motherboards and DDR3 memory, but it lacks the integrated graphics and performance boosting features of the Core i5. 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.

Some AMD processors contain hidden extra cores that can be enabled in the Bios. Ensure that any tweaks are backed by the vendor.

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 800-series CPUs use DDR3 memory rather than DDR2, but there’s no need to buy the chips in threes as you do with i7 900-series systems.

Storage: Digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized hard drive; buy the biggest you can afford. At least 500GB should be expected at this price point.

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: Note that 19in screens offer a lower resolution than 20in/22in monitors; 22in models display larger icons. Newer 21.6in (16:9) 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; 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 not room in the budget for a really top-end graphics card at this price point, but you should still be able to find a decent model.

We test PCs using Fear and Crysis. Although 25fps is enough to make a game playable, you can set your sights higher at this price point – look for 50fps.

Current pricing will limit you in this area, but ATI’s Radeon HD 5770 and nVidia’s GeForce GTX 260 both deliver great performance and value for money, making the latest games playable if you drop the resolution and settings a notch.

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.

If you don’t play games at all, you may be able to make do with the integrated graphics provided with Intel’s Core i5 600 series processors.

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).

Also see:
More budget desktop PC reviews
Business Advisor

>> Next page: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Stronghold: 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
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • EZCool 650W PSU
  • 23in Digimate L-2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/25fps
  • Fear = 126fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 2 x Trust 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 return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 129
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 750
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Asus P7P55D-E LX motherboard
  • EZCool 650W PSU
  • 23in Digimate L-2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5770 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/25fps
  • Fear = 126fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 2 x Trust 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 return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 129

OUR VERDICT

The combination of a quad-core CPU, a full-HD display, a speaker set and, uniquely, USB 3.0 makes the Chillblast Fusion Stronghold a winner.

Find the best price