The Chillblast Fusion Firestorm is the least expensive PC in this category, yet it delivers excellent gaming performance, has a 7.1 speaker system and comes with a two-year collect-and-return warranty for peace of mind.

Like Arbico's HD8570 X2, the Chillblast Fusion Firestorm uses a 1GB ATI HD 3870 X2 dual-GPU graphics card, which delivers some very impressive framerates without the additional space and power requirements of a dual-card setup. It easily matches the performance of systems fitted with a pair of 8800 GTs.

Chillblast expects to sell the bulk of these systems overclocked from 3.16GHz up to a blistering 3.6Hz. We tested the Chillblast Fusion Firestorm at stock speeds, but a great deal of performance is available at no extra cost.

The Chillblast Fusion Firestorm's Samsung display is a slightly older model than that supplied by Arbico, but it’s attractive and provides good performance, including a 3,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

The black Akasa ZEN system case has a smooth, minimal design with tool-free drive bays and integrated front USB ports behind a small door. Inside, all four RAM slots are filled, providing a total memory capacity of 4GB. The Chillblast Fusion Firestorm also has a single 500GB hard drive.

Unfortunately, the Chillblast Fusion Firestorm’s hardware configuration, combined with the 32bit edition of Vista, leaves an entire gigabyte of system memory unavailable.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (June 08 issue)


  1. Mesh Elite Storm HD
  2. Arbico HD8570 X2
  3. CyberPower Gamer Infinity Crossfire GT
  4. Chillblast Fusion Firestorm
  5. PC Specialist E840GT SLI

Verdict

The Chillblast Fusion Firestorm is excellent value for money and will appeal to gamers.

See also:

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (June 08 issue)

Processor: The once all-conquering E6850 processor has been pushed out by the superior Penryn E8500 chip. In fact, the E8500 registers the same performance scores as the E6850 with just half the RAM.

The E8500 remains a more expensive option, however. There may be some bargains on E6850 machines as manufacturers look to offload old stock.

If you’ve got one eye on the future, you might also want to consider a Core 2 Quad chip. You’ll sacrifice a little speed for the money in the short term, but you could see a serious performance boost when multithreaded software applications start hitting the stores.

Memory: No sooner had the age of the 2GB PC been ushered in than PC makers started deluging us with 4GB machines. Virtually all models over £1,000 come with such a configuration. If you want a PC that’ll be able to cope easily with programs in 2008 and beyond, 4GB of RAM is the key. For the best performance, look for high-quality memory from a reputable maker such as Corsair.

Storage: It’s hard to believe, but anything less than 500GB is now considered a small amount of storage space – most manufacturers supply somewhere between 500GB and 1 terabyte (TB). Unless you pursue a particularly gigabyte-hungry pastime such as video editing, however, you’re unlikely to need more than 400GB or 500GB. Get SATA cabling for rapid transfer rates.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are a must, and make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or more. Eight-speed DVD-R DL is nice but not essential. Also, look for good eight-speed DVD+RW facilities. Other optional formats include DVD-RAM.

Display: You might think a £1,001-plus PC would be guaranteed to come with a superior flat-panel display – but this isn’t always true. Most of the PCs in our chart come with high-quality 22in displays, but there are some 24in screens to be had – and these are of less consistent quality. Some of the 24in monitors out there suffer from poor colours and fuzzy images, which can be a serious problem for those with sensitive eyes. Check the image quality is up to scratch – it may be a safer bet to go for a 22in screen.

Graphics card: At this price point, you should be able to get something rather startling. Of the single cards, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is the most prized acquisition. Its support for DirectX 10.x means Vista users can look forward to some impressive games titles in the future. The Ultra also has bags of performance and a slew of sizzling features.

Stocks of the Ultra are running low, however, and many manufacturers are supplying one or two 8800 GT or 8800 GTS 512 cards. These aren’t actually very far behind the Ultra (and the impressive 8800 GTX) on performance. A pair of 8800 GTs is an excellent choice for high-level gaming speed.

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. 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 then make sure they’re high-quality models; most firms are bundling 5.1 speakers. If you want audio excellence you’d be best off holding out for a set of 7.1 speakers, which are becoming less common.

See also:

Chillblast Fusion Firestorm: expert review

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs

Chillblast Fusion Firestorm: Specs

  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Samsung SM-223BW (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 maximum resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 7 x Creative Inspire T7900
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 112
  • 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR RAM
  • 500GB SATA
  • Asus P5K
  • 8 x USB
  • 22in Samsung SM-223BW (0.282mm pixel pitch, 1,680x1,050 maximum resolution @ 75Hz)
  • 1,024MB PCI Express Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio
  • 7 x Creative Inspire T7900
  • subwoofer
  • max DVD speeds: 20x/20x/12x/12x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Ahead Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 112

OUR VERDICT

The Chillblast Fusion Firestorm is excellent value for money and will appeal to gamers.

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