Chillblast’s Fusion Anaconda system is a top performer, thanks to its 3.16GHz Core 2 Duo E8500 processor and 8800GTS 512MB graphics card. Coming in at a single point slower than Arbico's CD8500 PRO, it offers almost identical performance, a higher-quality display and better audio hardware.

The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda's Asus Vento A8 case is finished in black and silver with a large central power switch that lights up in blue. It also has a pair of conveniently placed USB sockets at the front, along with headphone and mic docks. These are always exposed rather than being hidden behind a panel. The DVD drive bay is fitted with its own doors to maintain a consistent look, no matter what additional drives you install. It also gives the front of the case a smart, flush finish.

It may be smart, but the Chillblast Fusion Anaconda's case doesn’t feel as robust as the one used by the Arbico CD8500 PRO. But it’s fitted with convenient thumb-screws for easy access and tool-free drive bays inside, of which three 5.25in bays and five 3.5in bays remain free for upgrades.

Audio is provided by the Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme, a relatively high-quality sound card. Unfortunately, the Chillblast Fusion Anaconda's Logitech speakers fail to make the most of its multichannel capabilities by offering only stereo sound.

The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda's other peripherals include a wireless keyboard and mouse from Logitech and a 22in Acer P223W monitor, which delivers significantly better image quality than you’ll find elsewhere in the chart.

Power PCs chart ranking (May issue)


  1. Arbico CD8500 PRO
  2. Chillblast Fusion Anaconda
  3. Eclipse Platinum i84n88GTS-SLI
  4. Mesh Pulse 24
  5. Chillblast Apollo

Verdict

This is actually a more capable system than the Best Buy Arbico CD8500 PRO – the peripherals make a big difference to the overall user experience. The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda costs £100 more, however. For some, the expense will be justified, but we feel that the Chillblast Fusion Anaconda is just pipped at the post.

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Power PCs buying advice (May issue)

Processor: We may shortly reach the tipping point in the delicate balance of power between Intel’s dual-core Core 2 Duo chips and the quad-core stunners in the Core 2 Quad range, but we haven’t got there yet. All the systems in this month’s chart use dual-core processors.

If you want a PC that’ll fly through next year’s software library, a quad system may be worth a gamble. You may have to sacrifice a little speed on today’s applications but, in the long run, the gains could far outweigh the pains.

Yet dual-core chips continue to improve: the E8500 is among the best. Even in the age of quad-core, you should get plenty of performance from the top dual-core chips.

Memory: At this price point, 2GB should be a minimum, especially if you’re running Vista. If you skimp on memory now, you might find yourself having to administer a critical upgrade later on. Indeed, most PCs at this price come with 4GB – expect this to become the norm.

Storage: Anything less than 400GB is now considered a small amount of storage space: four of this month’s systems come with a hefty 500GB. Many users can actually get along very comfortably with considerably less – 320GB is a respectable capacity – but those intending to store lots of video and audio files shouldn’t compromise.

Cover backup with a multi-format DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL with a minimum of eight-speed – although 10-speed or 16-speed would be better still. DVD-R DL is a bonus rather than essential.

Flat-panel: Flat-panels can vary wildly in quality. We’re starting to see 22in flat-panels as standard, with 20in models becoming increasingly scarce. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to stare at the screen for long periods so, if you’re plumping for a cheap 22in display, give it a try to ensure that you’ll be able to put up with the picture quality.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images – in games, for example – but for image-editing tasks, other specifications such as contrast ratio and colour fidelity are much more important.

Graphics card: At this price, you should be able to get something rather special. The GeForce 8800 GTS 512 has just jumped on the scene and is already making waves. Its support for DirectX 10.0 means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games in the future.

However, the 8800 GT isn’t far behind. The latter is a cheaper card, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a PC housing not one but two of them. In scaleable link interface (SLI) mode, this will produce outstanding results. In exceptional circumstances – namely the Eclipse Platinum, page 183 – you may get hold of dual 8800 GTS cards.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard or integrated sound has come on in leaps and bounds, with support for 7.1 channel sound – but it’s still no match for a decent sound card. Hunt around and you should be able to get a PC with a card from Creative’s Audigy 4 family or the excellent X-Fi range. If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they’re high-quality models, but most manufacturers are bundling 5.1 speakers. For audio excellence, hold out for a set of 7.1-channel speakers in this price range.

See also:

Chillblast Fusion Anaconda: expert review

Power PCs chart ranking

Chillblast Fusion Anaconda: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Acer P223W (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resoultion @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia geForce 8800 GTS
  • Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • 3D Mark 2006
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 125
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Acer P223W (0.282mm pixel pitch
  • 1,680x1,050 max resoultion @75Hz)
  • 512MB PCI Express Asus nVidia geForce 8800 GTS
  • Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme
  • Logitech S220
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/+R DL/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Antivirus
  • 3D Mark 2006
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 125

OUR VERDICT

This is actually a more capable system than the Best Buy Arbico CD8500 PRO – the peripherals make a big difference to the overall user experience. The Chillblast Fusion Anaconda costs £100 more, however. For some, the expense will be justified, but we feel that the Chillblast Fusion Anaconda is just pipped at the post.

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