The E8600-based Chillblast Fusion Medusa is an impressive desktop PC, capable of satisfying power-hungry business users and avid gamers alike.

Very similar in configuration to the Arbico Elite 8630 Pro, this PC offers almost the same level of performance – but for £100 more.

The higher price can be explained largely by the Chillblast Fusion Medusa's 8GB of RAM rather than 4GB, and the inclusion of nVidia’s flagship graphics card, the GeForce GTX 280. However, Arbico's overclocked GTX 260 is able to keep up with it until you reach the very highest resolution and quality settings available.

The well constructed system case is finished in black with a mesh front panel and plenty of cooling, including a top-mounted fan. A high-quality 650W Corsair power supply is included, providing more than enough juice for the Chillblast Fusion Medusa's power-hungry graphics adaptor. There are no free memory slots, but you’re unlikely to need any more RAM.

Thanks to its DVI, the Chillblast Fusion Medusa's 24in Yuraku monitor delivers vivid, punchy colours. We marginally prefer rival models from the likes of LG, but this is nonetheless an impressive display for games and Blu-ray films.

The Chillblast Fusion Medusa comes with a Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio sound card and surround speakers – an important consideration if you’re going to make the most of its gaming and multimedia capabilities.

Chart ranking: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

  1. CyberPower Gamer Infinity i7 Galaxy
  2. Mesh i7 920 HD
  3. Arbico Elite 8630 Pro
  4. Chillblast Fusion Medusa
  5. Zoostorm 64-6503

>> NEXT PAGE: Power desktop PCs buying advice

The E8600-based Chillblast Fusion Medusa is an impressive desktop PC, capable of satisfying power-hungry business users and avid gamers alike.

Buying advice: Power desktop PCs (Feb 09 issue)

Processor: Until recently, Intel Core 2 Duo chips were your best bet. Today, quad-core processors such as the Q9550 have begun to match their performance on standard desktop applications. Systems running on four cores can deliver excellent performance at the same price as dual-core machines.

If you demand the ultimate in performance, go for one of Intel's new Core i7 CPUs. These offer a number of speed boosts, including the ability to run eight threads simultaneously, but require far more expensive motherboards and memory than previous-generation chips.

Memory: If you're spending more than £1,000 on a PC, it should come with at least 4GB of RAM. Any less will prevent a Vista PC reaching its full potential. To plan for the future, get 4GB in two modules to allow room for expansion.

A 64bit operating system will ensure you take full advantage of your memory, especially if you're using dual graphics cards - these sap RAM on 32bit systems. If you're going for an i7-based PC, you'll need to buy your chips in threes to take advantage of the triple-channel architecture. You'll also need to splash out on DDR3 rather than DDR2 chips.

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.

Cover backup with a multiformat DVD writer. Dual-layer capabilities (allowing you to store 8.5GB rather than 4.7GB on a disc) are useful. Make sure the drive supports DVD+R DL at eight-speed or above - some more recent drives offer twice this speed. 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. This is currently the magic size at which full 1,080p HD playback becomes available, so these make ideal partners for Blu-ray drives.

If this doesn't appeal, 22in displays are excellent value. Make sure you get a digital input for the best image quality and additional inputs if you want to attach other devices. An HDMI is useful for connecting to a games console.

Graphics card: For a thrilling gaming experience choose between an nVidia GeForce GTX 280 and 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.

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 one of the excellent X-Fi cards.

If you only want 2.1-channel sound (two speakers and a subwoofer), make sure they're high-quality models. Most firms are bundling 5.1-channel speakers.

>> NEXT PAGE: Specifications and our expert verdict

Chillblast Fusion Medusa: Specs

  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI P7N
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 24in Yuraku with DVI (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 1GB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/26
  • Fear = 246)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio 7.1
  • 5 x Trust speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 128
  • 3.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit (choose XP or 64bit Vista at no extra cost)
  • 8GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • MSI P7N
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 24in Yuraku with DVI (0.27mm pixel pitch
  • 1,920x1,200)
  • 1GB PCI Express BFG nVidia GeForce GTX 280 (games scores: Crysis [High/Very High] = 65/26
  • Fear = 246)
  • Creative X-Fi XtremeAudio 7.1
  • 5 x Trust speakers
  • subwoofer
  • 6x BD-ROM
  • 16x/16x/4x/4x/6x/6x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • OpenOffice
  • AVG Free
  • Nero
  • two-year collect-and-return warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 128

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the Chillblast Fusion Medusa is a superior machine to Arbico’s Elite 8630, but it narrowly loses out on value for money.

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