Hard disks can often be the bottleneck in a PC's performance. Whereas Arbico has chosen a Raid configuration to keep data moving, Chillblast has used newer technology to help out. In addition to a 1TB Samsung hard drive, the company has installed a 30GB solid-state disk (SSD) from OCZ into its Fusion Hercules.

The jury is still out over the benefits of SSDs - sometimes they can be faster than standard hard drives, sometimes slower. A relatively small capacity of 30GB will quickly get used up, too. But, in any case, a score of 136 in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test demonstrates that the Chillblast Fusion Hercules is a very fast system.

The Intel Core i7 920 processor delivers superb performance, while the Chillblast Fusion Hercules' 6GB allocation of DDR3 RAM and 64bit OS give it plenty of room to breathe. MSI's X58 Pro motherboard provides six memory slots, three of which remain free for future upgrades. It also offers two PCI Express 16x slots, giving you the option of adding a second graphics card later on.

An ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card delivered blistering performance in our gaming tests, thanks to its dual-processor design. In our most demanding Crysis tests, the Chillblast Fusion Hercules pumped out higher framerates than all but the GTX 295-equipped Mesh.

The Chillblast Fusion Hercules' 24in Yuraku display looks rather chunky and functional, but it delivers a rich picture with saturated colours and is capable of 1,080p (full-HD) playback from the bundled Blu-ray-capable DVD drive.


Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

  1. Arbico Elite i7 RSX
  2. Chillblast Fusion Hercules
  3. Mesh Matrix 295 HD
  4. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  5. Eclipse Excalibur i792nGTX260

>> NEXT PAGE: Power deskktop PCs buying advice

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (June 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. This has all changed with the release of Intel's Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, although they require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips. The E8600 is still a very fast processor and delivers excellent value.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a Core i7 PC, it should come with a minimum 3GB of RAM. For dual-core machines, look for 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

Core i7 PCs require you to buy your chips in threes, in order to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 RAM.
A 64bit OS can take full advantage of this memory, particularly if you're running a dual-graphics setup.

Storage: Expect at least 750GB. Look for a pair of drives rather than a single larger unit; it will boost performance and prevent you losing lots of data if a drive fails. Raid setups are also an option. Consider mirroring for added security. SSDs can sometimes provide additional speed boosts, but offer limited capacity and are expensive.

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

If you want Blu-ray playback, be prepared to compromise on DVD speeds. Alternatively, buy a second DVD burner for backup.

Display: We're seeing increasing numbers of 24in displays in our PC charts. This used to be the magic size at which 1,080p (full-HD) playback became available, making these ideal partners for Blu-ray drives. However, some of the newest 22in (16:9) monitors can also display full-HD - and with a considerable saving, making them excellent value for money.

Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience, choose between nVidia's GeForce GTX 285 or GTX 295 and an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. Also look out for pre-overclocked graphics cards, which can deliver excellent value for money and are approved by chip manufacturers.

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

Power supply: The level of power you require will depend largely on the type of graphics card you expect to use. Look for a known and respected brand, and consider from 750W upwards if you have any thoughts of moving up to a dual-card solution later. Any form of overclocking will demand a powerful PSU.

Sound card and speakers: There have been improvements in onboard sound, but it's still no match for a decent sound card. You should be able to get a Creative Audigy or X-Fi card at this price.

If you only want 2.1-channel speakers, make sure they're high-quality models.

Chillblast Fusion Hercules: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 30GB SSD
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • MSI X58 Pro motherboard
  • 750W Thermaltake PSU
  • 24in Yuraku MB24W monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080 native resolution)
  • 2 x 1GB PCI Express HIS ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics cards (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 68/37fps
  • Fear = 336fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200 sound card
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit (choose XP or Vista 32bit at no extra cost)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 30GB SSD
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • MSI X58 Pro motherboard
  • 750W Thermaltake PSU
  • 24in Yuraku MB24W monitor (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,080 native resolution)
  • 2 x 1GB PCI Express HIS ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics cards (games scores: Crysis (High/Very High) = 68/37fps
  • Fear = 336fps)
  • onboard Realtek ALC888/1200 sound card
  • 5 x Trust speakers and subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • max DVD speeds: 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • Nero
  • AVG Free
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 136

OUR VERDICT

Chillblast’s Fusion Hercules is an excellent performer that employs some cutting-edge technology, but it’ll cost you £150 more than our Best Buy Arbico.

Find the best price