It's the slowest PC here in day-to-day tasks, but Chillblast's Fusion Eclipse is no slowcoach. With a Radeon HD 5850 under the hood, it delivers blistering framerates.

Based on a 2.8GHz Core i7 860 processor, the Fusion Eclipse is a fast performer despite recording the lowest WorldBench score here. The Chillblast comes with 4GB of DDR3 memory and makes efficient use of its motherboard’s dual-channel memory architecture. With only three points separating all the PCs on test, we think you’ll hardly notice the difference anyhow.

The Chillblast Fusion Eclipse's graphics performance is excellent, with an ATI Radeon HD 5850 card offering DirectX 11.0 compatibility and blisteringly fast framerates. It’s noticeably speedier than the Arbico’s HD 5770 and in an entirely different league from the HP P6227uk.

The Chillblast Fusion Eclipse's BenQ G2220HD monitor delivers very good full-HD image quality in a tidy and well-designed package. Both VGA and DVI connections are offered. Some rivals have supplied slightly larger displays that’ll prove easier to read, however.

The Chillblast Fusion Eclipse is the only system here to bundle a set of speakers – and a full 5.1-channel (five speakers and a subwoofer) surround-sound package at that.

The Xigmatek Asgard case is an imposing, all-black affair. It comes with tool-free drive bays and mesh front panels. Inside the Chillblast Fusion Eclipse, there’s plenty of expansion room for memory, hard drives and add-in cards, while a spare PCI Express x16 slot allows for a dual-graphics card setup.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (issue 176)

  1. Eclipse Evolution i792R585
  2. Chillblast Fusion Eclipse
  3. Arbico Elite 9257 HD
  4. CyberPower Infinity i7 Andromeda Elite
  5. HP P6227uk

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

It's the slowest PC here in day-to-day tasks, but Chillblast's Fusion Eclipse is no slowcoach. With a Radeon HD 5850 under the hood, it delivers blistering framerates.

Power desktop PCs 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, Core i7 chips require more expensive DDR3 memory and a new motherboard design, so expect to make sacrifices elsewhere.

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.

Dual-core CPUs are still available, but the time has come to switch to the quad-core architectures.

Memory: Consider 4GB as a minimum. If you're buying a Core i7-based system, however, 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 now considered a small amount of storage space. Many users will get by with 320GB but, 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.

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 is an almost unbeatable choice for gamers. It offers multiscreen support and supports DirectX 11.0.

You'll also find good deals on nVidia's GeForce GTX 260 (or even GTX 280). Look for souped-up versions with faster clock speeds or additional memory. nVidia cards offer some unique features, including support for 3D gaming with compatible monitors and glasses.

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 solutions 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; 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 Eclipse: 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
  • Asus P7P55D LE
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/35fps
  • Fear = 305fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5x 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: 133
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (choose Windows 7 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • Asus P7P55D LE
  • 12 x USB 2.0
  • 700W EZCool PSU
  • 22in BenQ G2220HD (0.25mm pixel pitch
  • 1920x1080)
  • 1GB PCI Express Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 73/35fps
  • Fear = 305fps)
  • onboard HD Audio
  • 5x 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: 133

OUR VERDICT

While it may not be the fastest PC in the group and it has a relatively small monitor, the Chillblast Fusion Eclipse is the best multimedia and gaming system here. It’s also covered by a two-year collect-and-return warranty.

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