It's a close call between Chillblast's Fusion Centaur and the Eclipse Solar Crossfire in second place, with the two PCs built from almost identical core components.

It's a close call between Chillblast's Fusion Centaur and the Eclipse Solar Crossfire in second place, with the two PCs built from almost identical core components.

Both machines are based on Intel's 2.8GHz Core i7 860 CPU, a quad-core chip that delivers a good balance of raw processor speed and multitasking capabilities. It powers both systems to WorldBench 6 scores in the mid-130s. The Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC scored slightly fewer points, however, with 132 against the Eclipse's 136.

This minor downfall is more than made up for by the Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC's selection of supporting hardware. Topping the list is a Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 motherboard that supports USB 3.0 and delivers extra power for fast charging of connected devices.

The Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC's motherboard uses the P55 chipset and offers two PCI Express slots, with one running at x16 speed and the other at x4. You also get two PCI Express x1 slots and three regular PCI slots.

Six SATA 3 gigabits per second (Gbps) ports are provided with full Raid support, but unlike with the Eclipse the Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC offers no potential for SATA 6Gbps.

The Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC's 4GB of DDR3 RAM is provided in two 2GB modules, leaving two slots free for expansion. A terabyte (TB) hard drive is also supplied, while four of the system's 14 USB ports are provided at the front of the case for easy access.

The Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC's other specs include a 23in full-HD monitor and an ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card. Excellent gaming speeds are possible with this card, and framerates vary little between the four PCs here that use it.

Despite the lack of SATA 6Gbps, the Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC improves on the Eclipse's spec with a 5.1-channel sound system (five speakers and a subwoofer) and a beefier PSU. It also comes in a slightly pricier case.

Power PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Centaur
  2. Eclipse Solar Crossfire i786r585
  3. Palicomp Core i7 Blitz 860-24
  4. CyberPower Ultra Scylla GT
  5. Arbico Elite 6885 HD

>> NEXT PAGE: Buying advice

It's a close call between Chillblast's Fusion Centaur and the Eclipse Solar Crossfire in second place, with the two PCs built from almost identical core components.

Buying advice

Processor: Intel's Core i7 chip is taking this price bracket by storm. It's a match for the best dual-core systems and will outpace any previous-generation quad-core machine. However, some Core i7 900-series chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices.

The latest Core i7 800-series processors use lower-cost motherboards but can still compete with the lower end of the Core i7 900-series on performance.

Intel's dual-core Core i5 CPUs are also worth considering, offering higher clock speeds for your money.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, expect 3GB or 6GB of RAM (such machines install memory chips in threes). The Core i7 800-series and Core i5 chips install memory sticks in twos, however, making them excellent value for money.

A 64bit OS will take full advantage of your RAM, but check that your software and drivers will be supported. If you opt for more than 4GB, a 64bit OS is essential.

Storage: Anything less than 500GB is considered small. With prices falling, it's more typical to find 1TB at this price point.

Get a multiformat DVD writer that can write to a dual-layer format if you want to store 8.5GB on a single disc. Look for a minimum of eight-speed DVD+R DL. Try to get eight-speed DVD+RW.

At this price you may also find a drive that reads Blu-ray discs - note that it won't burn to Blu-ray, and DVD burning speeds will be slower. Keep an eye out for new motherboards with USB 3.0 and 6GBps SATA support too.

Display: 22in or 24in flat-panels are the standard here. Many vendors supply cheap screens in order to leave more room in the budget for other components, but it's worth spending a little more if you intend to work primarily with digital photos or video.

A screen with a response time of 8ms or less will minimise blur on fast-moving images. For image editing, contrast ratio and colour fidelity are more important.

A digital input can preserve picture quality, so think twice about displays that provide analogue inputs only.

If you're a movie fan, look for one of the new 16:9-format 22in-plus displays that offer full-HD playback. You may even be able to find a 24in model.

Graphics card: At this price point, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 seen in four of the five PCs here is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

nVidia's GeForce GTX 470 also supports DirectX 11.0 and delivers excellent performance, as well as support for the company's 3D Vision glasses.

Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory.

The GTX 260 and HD 5850 can be used in dual-card setups later but, to take advantage of this, your motherboard and power supply must be compatible.

Ready-made dual-card setups are available but can be more expensive.

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for at least a 500W unit at this price point or 750W upwards if you plan to add another card. A known brand is also likely to give better stability. Overclocking also demands a high-quality power supply.

Sound card and speakers: Onboard sound is no match for a sound card. Consider Creative's Audigy 4 or X-Fi range.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specification and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Centaur: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/39fps
  • Fear = 303fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5 x Chillblast 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: 132
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 motherboard
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 23in Digimate L2362WD (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 72/39fps
  • Fear = 303fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5 x Chillblast 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: 132

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Centaur desktop PC isn't the most powerful PC on test, and it lacks support for SATA 6Gbps, but it offers the best all-round specification here.

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