Chillblast's Fusion Vortex is a great-value general-purpose PC. It combines one of Intel's latest Core i3 530 CPUs with good graphics and sound capabilities.

Chillblast's Fusion Vortex is a great-value general-purpose PC. It combines one of Intel's latest Core i3 530 CPUs with good graphics and sound capabilities.

The Chillblast Fusion Vortex desktop PC doesn't comes with a discrete graphics card, instead relying on the integrated graphics processor of its Core i3 chip. When used with the correct motherboard, such as the Asus model found here, this processor can deliver 3D graphics that are quite capable of processing HD video. The chip also provides accelerated multichannel audio. You can forget about immersive 3D games, however.

This decision has allowed Chillblast to set aside some cash for use in other areas, as well as enabling it to reduce the system noise and power drain that result from using a powerful graphics card. This makes the Chillblast Fusion Vortex attractive as a media-centre PC.

Chillblast has put the extra money to good use, offering a 19in (1440x900; 16:10) Asus monitor with its Fusion Vortex desktop PC. You also get a pair of Trust stereo speakers, complete with a subwoofer. The 4GB allocation of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive are more standard inclusions.

But while the Chillblast Fusion Vortex desktop PC offers good multimedia potential, it isn't particularly powerful. In fact, its 113-point score in WorldBench 6 was the lowest recorded here and 10 points short of our Best Buy.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Palicomp Core i3 Blast 540-19
  2. Chillblast Fusion Vortex
  3. Eclipse Quantum a55r575
  4. CyberPower Ultra Athenna XT
  5. Arbico Phenom 5524 GT

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

Chillblast's Fusion Vortex is a great-value general-purpose PC. It combines one of Intel's latest Core i3 530 CPUs with good graphics and sound capabilities.

Buying advice

Processor: AMD's Phenom II X2 550 is a great choice of CPU for a budget PC. You can also now find quad-core CPUs in this price range from both AMD and Intel. The AMD Athlon X4 630 and Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 are good examples.

The Core 2 Duo E8500 is still a good choice if you have no interest in gaming and want to spend your money on fast general-purpose performance. Low-cost alternatives, such as Intel's E7000- and E4000-series chips, offer weaker performance at any clock speed.

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 now, and bodes well for performance. Check your motherboard has free memory slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Expect up to 500GB at this price; 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.

Look for a DVD drive that can write to the KR 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 (+/-R DL) 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. The most common size is 18.5in - the quality of larger monitors is unlikely to be good at this price. Look for a monitor with a DVI or HDMI digital connector to ensure the best picture quality. Make sure the PC has one, too.

If display size or quality is of critical importance to you - and you're willing to cut costs elsewhere - you may be able to get a 22in 1080p flat-panel.

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.

ATI's HD 5670 is a popular choice for a budget PC, but if you shop around you may be able to find an HD 5850. This will give you better performance, but may require compromises elsewhere.

For nVidia and ATI cards, look for a 1GB rather than 512MB version. And if you don't play games, consider a PC that relies on integrated graphics.

Intel's Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with graphics processors that deliver around double the performance of older integrated solutions. Such a PC won't be up to most games, but it will support HD video and Windows 7's Aero effects.

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.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Vortex: Specs

  • 2.93GHz Intel Core i3 530
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA II
  • Asus P7H55-M SI motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Asus VW193D-B (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • Intel GMA HD (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 6/2fps
  • Fear = 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 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 collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 113
  • 2.93GHz Intel Core i3 530
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB SATA II
  • Asus P7H55-M SI motherboard
  • 650W EZCool PSU
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 19in Asus VW193D-B (0.29mm pixel pitch
  • 1440x900)
  • Intel GMA HD (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 6/2fps
  • Fear = 17fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 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 collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 113

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Vortex desktop PC offers good multimedia potential, but you can get better performance for the money.

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