Like the Arbico, Chillblast’s Dreadnought uses Intel’s brand-new 3.33GHz E8600 processor. This CPU is almost unbeatable when it comes to price versus performance and, because most users are still unable to fully take advantage of quad-core processing, represents an excellent purchase for both budget and power systems. Nevertheless, a score of 122 WorldBench 6 points shows a slightly lower real-world speed than we would have expected.

A budget of £1,299 allows Chillblast to make use of higher-quality components with the Dreadnought, not only in the choice of graphics card – a powerful ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 – but also in the selection of an attractive system case and high-spec Corsair power supply.

The Chillblast Dreadnought's CoolerMaster CM-690 case is tall, with five tool-free external 5.25in bays available and a similar number of internal 3.5in bays. Plenty of ventilation is provided, with a pair of large fans blowing the heated air out through the top of the case.

The Chillblast Dreadnought uses the same Asus P5Q Pro motherboard found in CyberPower’s Gamer Infinity. It’s a premium model that supports CrossFire and Express Gate technology, allowing you to add a second graphics card and quickly boot into a mini version of the OS without waiting for Windows to load.

A full terabyte of hard drive storage is provided, along with a Blu-ray-compatible DVD drive. The latter is an ideal companion to the Chillblast Dreadnought's 24in DGM monitor. A Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio sound card and set of Creative 5.1 speakers complete the package.

Chart ranking: £1,001-plus desktop PCs

  1. Zoostorm 64-6503
  2. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Quad Elite
  3. Arbico Elite 8680 GTX
  4. Chillblast Dreadnought
  5. Mesh Ultimate GTX Steath

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Buying advice

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. Today, quad-core processors such as the Q9550 have begun to match their performance with standard desktop applications, and systems running on four cores can deliver excellent performance at the same price as dual-core machines. If you don't know for sure that you need a quad-core system, stick with two cores for a safer, value-for-money solution.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM. Assuming you're running Vista, any less will prevent your PC from reaching its full potential. For a PC that'll be able to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, get 4GB of RAM in two modules to allow room for later expansion.

A 64bit operating system will ensure you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you're using dual graphics cards - these sap RAM on 32bit systems.

Storage: Expect at least 750GB and probably one terabyte (1TB) at this price point. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single larger unit. It'll boost your performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. Hard drives are relatively inexpensive, so consider mirroring for added security.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above - some more recent drives offer twice this speed. You should also be able to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

We're frequently seeing Blu-ray drives appear in our £1,001-plus PC chart. If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on your DVD-burning speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup duties.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our high-end desktop PC charts. You may baulk at the idea of such a large computer screen, but 24in is currently the magic size where full 1,080p HD playback becomes available. These monitors make ideal partners for Blu-ray Disc drives.

If this doesn't appeal, 22in displays are excellent value. Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality and additional inputs if you want to attach other devices. An HDMI port is useful if you want to share your display with a games console.

Graphics card: It's possible to spend an eye-watering amount of money on gaming hardware - a top-spec graphics card can easily cost more than the rest of the system put together. For a thrilling gaming experience choose between an nVidia GeForce GTX 280 and Radeon HD 4870 X2. While the latter is more powerful on paper, the performance you get is going to depend to a large extent on the games that you play.

Buying a single-card solution now keeps your options open for adding a second card later. It also leaves more upgrade space available in your PC for sound cards or TV tuners.

Sound card and speakers: There have been big steps forward in onboard sound, with support for 7.1-channel audio, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to find a PC with a Creative Audigy card or, better still, one from the excellent X-Fi range.

If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality models; most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers.

Chillblast Dreadnought: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P5Q Pro
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 24in Digimate L2242WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 2GB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (games scores: Crysis = 58fps
  • Fear = 339fps)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire A500
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 122
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P5Q Pro
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 24in Digimate L2242WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 2GB PCI Express PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (games scores: Crysis = 58fps
  • Fear = 339fps)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 5 x Creative Inspire A500
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 122

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Dreadnought is a well-specified system, constructed from high-quality components that go well together. However, a little more performance wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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